Machine tool builders have any number of objectives when designing new CNC machines, aiming to drive their new developments from specific market requirements to broader acceptance by manufacturers with multiple changing production needs. But, to supply machine shops that specialize in mold and tool production, precision is always atop the list of objectives.

United Grinding extended its Walter EWAG line for cutting tool production to include a new five-axis machining center, the Laser Line Ultra, incorporating ultra-short pulse laser technology. The explanation: with this capability tool makers can meet increasing demands for high-precision CVD-diamond tooling needed to cut today’s challenging materials, such as lightweight carbon fiber (CFRP) and special aluminum alloys.  And they can accomplish this with the efficiency that is standard for high-volume machining operations – even for specialty products and applications.

“Cutting hard diamond tooling materials places limits on present-day grinding and eroding technologies,” explained Ted Neckel, director of corporate marketing for United Grinding North America. “EWAG placed a high priority on application flexibility, quality and productivity in tool machining when developing the Laser Line Ultra. The addition of laser technology to our portfolio gives customers a multitude of new application options.”

The Laser Line Ultra production center uses a novel kinematic concept that combines a five-axis machine system (X/Y/Z/B/C) with superimposed three-axis laser beam guidance (U/V/W). This design allows toolmakers to laser machine a tool’s cutting edges as well as laser ablate its complex step chipbreakers, both in a single machine clamping. The ultra-short pulse laser technology directly vaporizes materials without significant heat input and without comprising their integrity.

The machine accomplishes X/Y/Z travel of 15.74 x 7.09 x 5.91 in. (400 x 180 x 150 mm) and features a high-precision tool holding fixture (C-axis) that can be equipped with mechanical or vacuum clamping systems for plate-shaped tools.

The C-axis is also available with a fully automatic HSK63 interface for processing rotary tools with maximum cutting diameters up to 5.91 in. (150 mm).

EWAG envelopes and protects the Laser Line Ultra’s fully integrated, 50W high-power picosecond laser beam path to protect it from external influences.

The laser source and relevant optical elements are integrated into the system’s water-cooling circuit, ensuring high process stability.

An integrated extraction unit extracts laser vapors and flue gases into and through a filter system.

Also integrated to the design is a six-axis, articulated-arm robot with a triple gripper head that automatically loads the Laser Line Ultra for autonomous production. The machine's robot cell is outfitted with two pallets as standard.

The entire Laser Line Ultra system occupies just 16.4 sq.ft. (5 sq.m.) of floor space, allowing United Grinding to declare it “the most compact high-end laser production center available for processing super hard diamond cutting tools.”