Although robotic cutting methods are becoming increasingly popular, the most commonly used automated cutting method is still the X-Y cutting table. Together with a Computer Numeric Control (CNC), these tables are typically used in industrial settings to cut material like steel plate, foam, or flat stone.
An automated cutting system includes several components. Here’s a look the major components of a basic cutting system:
Power supply, cutting tool, and consumables — As the name implies, the power supply — whether plasma, laser, or waterjet — is what actually powers your cutting system. It provides the energy and wattage needed to move your cutting tool, whether that tool is a torch or a cutting head. Your torch or cutting head is your systems’ arm and hand. It is what actually does the cutting. Finally, your consumables are the items inside your cutting tool that wear out with use such as the copper nozzle in a plasma torch or the diamond orifice in a waterjet cutting head.
CNC – The CNC is the main communication interface between the operator and the machine. It tells the other components—and possibly even the operator—what to do.
- Converts the part program into command signals to precisely control the direction, speed and cutting processes of the machine
- Sends and receives signals to control the cutting process, machine functions such as motion, height control movement, and safety components
- May be used for online part programming or may utilize a part program from offline CAD/CAM software
Cables and wiring – All cutting tables have wires and cables that connect the CNC to the power supply and other system components.
Drive motors and gear rack – Moving the cutting tool up, down, and around the table requires the use of drive amplifiers, motors, and a gear rack that translate commands from the CNC into physical motion.
Table frame and slats – The table frame and slats physically support the movement of the cutting tools.
Height control (THC) – The height control (or, more commonly, Torch Height Control) ensures that the cutting tool doesn’t get too close or far from the work piece.
- Performs Initial Height Sensing (IHS) by starting at the last retract height, lowering to the plate to establish the plate position, and retracting to the pierce height
- Regulates the height of the cutting tool throughout the cutting process to achieve the required cut quality
- Extends consumable life by positioning the torch away from molten metal during the pierce and collision detection to stop the cut process