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Igus solves laser alignment problem in woodworking industry
When Global Laser was asked to provide a mount for its laser alignment system on a sawmill, limited working height meant that the standard static mount would not cast a long enough beam length. The proposed solution involved using a DryLin rail guidance system from linear technology expert Igus.
Global Laser specialises in a wide range of OEM, high performance, high reliability laser diode module products for use within many niche applications including machine vision, alignment, medical, measurement, scientific and military. A wide range of standard wavelengths is available, covering red, green, blue and infrared, with powers up to 200mW. Optical outputs include lines, crosses, circular and elliptical spots.
Based in Abertillery, South Wales, Global Laser has supplied laser beam alignment solutions to the woodworking industry around the world for a number of years. The company's Guideline solution is a user-adjustable, laser alignment system suitable for a wide range of wood cutting applications. Here a highly visible alignment laser beam is used, usually red or green, to project a line onto the rough surface of the wood. Ideal for indoor sawmill setups, this laser beam pinpoints the precise location where the blade will hit the wood along its entire length, reducing cut-offs and increasing yield.
Usually the laser is mounted statically above the machine able to project a line along the entire length of the wood. The length of guideline depends on the working distance overhead - for a working height of around 4m; the length of the line is about 6-7m, which is often long enough when sawing wood.
When Global Laser received an enquiry to mount a laser alignment system in an application where the working height was restricted to just one metre above the blade, it presented a great problem as the overall projected line from the conventional static mount system would not have been long enough - an alternative linear mount was required. By installing a guide rail system overhead, the laser guideline can be effectively elongated along the required length of the wood.
In the woodworking environment, excessive amounts of wood dust and shavings, especially in areas where the lubrication of moving parts in the machinery is required, can clog up and cause damage to the equipment. "Our engineers did look into using ball bearings or lubricated steel-on-steel guides," explained Jonathan White, Sales and Marketing Manager at Global Laser. "However, these solutions were quickly ruled out as they would not have been suitable in the high dust environment. Therefore, we approached Igus to explore how we could implement an alternative solution."
At the initial project consultation with Global Laser, Igus engineers proposed using DryLin linear bearings, guides, slides and slide tables. Unlike older bearing technology, DryLin systems are engineered to run dry, which means they self-lubricate and are extremely dirt-repellent and rugged. In addition, without the need for lubricants or maintenance, expensive and cumbersome grease lines are eliminated from the design entirely.
The resulting laser alignment guide rail design integrates the DryLin W with clamp, DryLin SLW leadscrew system and DryLin ZLW belt drive system. The Iglidur J material used for the linear guide ensures excellent coefficients of friction for smooth and precise movements over design lifetime.
"The DryLin linear guide solution from Igus comes pre-assembled and provides a great blend of value and precise performance even in harsh environments," said Global Laser's Jonathan White. "What's more, because Igus assigns one part number for the complete assembly, we need only process one purchase order. This frees up engineering, purchasing and assembly times significantly and eliminates the hidden processing costs often associated when dealing with multiple vendors."
Following the successful completion of a number of laser alignment installations in the woodworking industry, Global Laser is currently demonstrating the solution to other industries. Since dirt, dust and other abrasives cannot be drawn into the bearing surface, DryLin is ideal for aggressive environments, as well as for high moisture, wash-down and even underwater applications. It is for these very reasons that Global Laser is confident the DryLin linear guide solution for its laser alignment systems can also be employed in other hostile environments such as those found in the food processing and paper converting industries.
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