A serious challenger

In addition to the pipe processing unit MSF Pipe-AT, MicroStep provides an outstanding automation and efficient production management package.

In the realm of laser pipe and profile processing, MicroStep's MSF Pipe-AT emerges as a noteworthy challenger, seamlessly integrating technical precision with operational efficiency. At its core, the highly automated machine is engineered for versatility. Capable of processing both round and rectangular pipes, along with select open profiles like U and L, MSF Pipe-AT shows great adaptability in material handling. The standard input length ranges from 2,200 to 6,500 mm with a maximum weight of a single workpiece capped at 400 kg. As for cross-section dimensions, the positioner's chuck is capable of accommodating cross-section with outer dimensions between 20 and 200 mm.

Designed for efficiency
The MSF Pipe-AT's design philosophy prioritizes space efficiency without compromising functionality. The integration of the control system and laser source onto the machine's frame ensures a compact footprint. Installation is a quick business, facilitated by delivery in pre-assembled sections: the loading and unloading sections as well as the cutting machine enclosed within a protective cabin.

The cutting machine itself is enclosed in a protective cabin that maintains clean working zone on the inside and safe environment on the outside.

As maintenance stands as a critical facet for industrial equipment, MSF Pipe-AT strives to keep things in a top-notch shape. Easy maintenance access and automatic lubrication with two central units and more than 40 lubrication points streamline day-to-day maintenance tasks, contributing to the overall operational convenience of the system.

Furthermore, the machine's well-designed suction system helps conserving energy and creating a safe working space for operators.

Intelligent automation
An important contributor to MSF Pipe-AT's efficiency is its loading manipulator, equipped with four loading positions that serve as a buffer stock on the input. To eliminate unnecessary downtime, loading of material onto the manipulator can occur simultaneously with the cutting and unloading processes, while safety fences and a light barrier make sure that everyone has left the loading area before the machinery starts moving again. To streamline operations even more, bundle loading can be implemented to save on manpower and eliminating downtime caused by loading inefficiencies.

Both the loading and unloading sections are designed to optimize the logistical flow of material without compromising safety protocols.

Central to the machines' success are its intelligent positioner and lunette system, working in tandem to ensure precision and seamless operation. The air and power transmitter integrated in both replaces conventional cable chains. This innovation not only allows for infinite rotation, it also enables higher acceleration rates and a maximum speed of 120 rpm.

The pneumatic chuck of the positioner offers adjustable pressure and multiple sets of exchangeable jaws and configurations. This versatility enables it to always offer the best clamping for the particular workpiece, catering to a diverse range of cross-sections.

A synchronized operation
After the loading supports transfer the material to the gripping position, the positioner, guided by CNC program data, moves close to the workpiece's end and utilizes a light sensor to pinpoint its exact position as well as to check the cross-section’s dimensions to make sure the correct one is loaded. Before gripping, another verification process checks the chuck's settings against the CNC program, ensuring it is up to the task. The lunette, equipped with the same light sensor as the positioner, verifies the length of the workpiece, adding an extra layer of accuracy to the process.

The automated pipe positioner, supports and lunette work in tandem to ensure precision and seamless operation.

When the workpiece is gripped between the chuck and the lunette, the loading supports redeploy along the length for cutting support, automatically selecting the right configuration depending on the workpiece size, shape and weight (utilizing side fixators for thin pipes, bottom support for thick pipes, no support for big square beams etc.). Staggered gripping ensures that thin pipes are not bent, preventing collisions and ensuring the integrity of the workpiece. As the positioner moves towards the lunette to bring the workpiece into the cutting area, supports quickly retract from its path with coordinated movements.

The positioner's and lunette's design allows them to move very close together to bring the length of the uncuttable workpiece remnant down to mere 110 mm. Just like the chuck, lunette's rollers, doubled to provide better traction between them and the workpiece, are pneumatically controlled with adjustable pressure.

The positioner's and lunette's design allows them to minimize material waste.

Workpiece scanning for maximum accuracy
Enclosed within a safety cabin, the cutting machine is the epicenter of the pipe processing cell. The integrated tool station houses a fiber laser 3D cutting head capable of cutting bevels up 45°. It is supported by a cantilever gantry with a maximum positioning speed of 130 m/min in the X and Y axes and 50 m/min in Z, on par with MicroStep's fiber laser flagship MSF Pro. The gantry's massive structure prioritizes stiffness and minimal vibrations, ensuring optimal cutting performance.

A standout feature of the machine is a linear scanner that measures the workpiece before each part is cut, detecting any torsion or bending. This valuable addition compensates for any deviations caused by production imprecisions or manipulation damage to the workpiece. By detecting the actual rotation axis and trajectory of the workpiece's center point during rotation, the machine adapts to these deviations, ensuring it can cut perfectly aligned openings even in slightly misshaped workpieces.

Sophisticated features
To maintain high precision, an integrated calibration station is housed within the cabin. This includes a combined LU3K unit with a camera for detecting the laser beam's centricity, a metal brush for nozzle cleaning, and a calibration plate for the capacitive height sensor. Another unit – MicroStep's patented ACTG® – ensures the calibration of the cutting head's kinematics. A calibration ball for the scanner completes this comprehensive setup.

The available laser power, currently peaking at 4 kW, empowers the machine not only for 3D cutting but also for the removal of coating and rust within the work zone. This multifaceted approach adds versatility to the MSF Pipe-AT, expanding its applications beyond mere cutting. To expand those even more in the future, the system is prepared for adding tapping and countersinking of cut holes and even limited drilling options.

The multifunctional calibration station makes sure the laser cutting head and scanner operate at peak precision.

Every step optimized
The unloading supports are another noteworthy element, serving dual functions based on the length of the cut part. Short parts under 250 mm are cut unsupported, dropping directly onto a belt conveyor along with small scraps. For parts vulnerable to bending, such as long thin pipes, the unloading support takes on some of their weight during the cutting process, moving in the Z-axis as necessary to accommodate non-circular workpieces. Side fixators, similar to those on the loading supports, deploy when needed, positioning themselves automatically to avoid touching the cut openings in the finished part.

There exists a spectrum of pipes and profiles that fall between these two extremes—those not prone to bending when cut unsupported but still requiring supports to transport them into the unloading zone. Efficient process design allows significant time savings in this area: the scanning and most of the cutting process, apart from the final parting cut, does not have to wait for the supports to finish unloading the previous part and come back. With cutting and unloading happening simultaneously, the whole production process shifts into a higher gear.

After completing the parting cut, an optical sensor checks if the part is truly separated. If, for any reason, it remains connected to the rest of the workpiece, the machine halts its program, alerting the operator to intervene manually.

Cut parts not diverted to the belt conveyor under the work zone are taken by the unloading supports onto the unloading table positioned outside of the protective cabin that houses the cutting machine. The initial section, nearest to the cabin, features a rubber conveyor belt for smaller part deposition. Further away, several conveyor chains are waiting for parts exceeding the capacity of the rubber belt. The unloading table area is enclosed by a safety fence, ensuring secure handling, and the unloaded parts are transferred out of the safeguarded zone into a prepared container. This practical design optimizes the logistical flow of cut components without compromising safety protocols.

Ready for the future of manufacturing

What MicroStep offers is much more than the machine itself. In addition to the pipe processing unit MSF Pipe-AT, MicroStep provides an outstanding automation and efficient production management package. The machine utilizes the latest generation of MicroStep's control system, its flagship 3D CAM software mCAM and provides a possibility of integration with process management systems at the user's production facility via CyberFab Manager and CyberFab Connect. The product concept not only addresses the current needs of the manufacturing industry but also anticipates and prepares for future demands, taking sure steps on the ongoing journey of innovation.

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