Original Date: 02/10/2003
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Wireless Network
Bender Shipbuilding and Repair Company, Inc. developed a wireless network for controlling its laser cutting system. This saved time and money by decreasing time spent loading programs to the system.
Bender Shipyard and Repair Company, Inc. previously used two separate computers connected to two controllers by serial cables for the laser cutting systems. The cables lasted one-and-a-half to two months, and the operators lost about ten minutes for each program upload. To save time and cables, Bender changed to a wireless network. No other known company has networked lasers.
The new system uses an ethernet card on each controller, ATA flash cards to increase on-board memory from 1 Mbyte to 1.2 Gbyte, wireless antennae, and FOCAS1 software. The use of ethernet cards enables the system to be tied directly to Bender’s network. The increased memory accommodates programs larger than the 1 Mbyte memory by drip-feeding the controller from the flash card. Bender occasionally has as many as 150 unique parts on a 10 x 50 foot sheet. This, when combined with Bender’s desire to do laser text marking, exceeds the capability of the memory on board the controller. The wireless capability allows access to the controller from any computer in the shop, eliminating the need for cables. The FOCAS1 software allows tracking of metrics such as start and stop times, alarms, and operator changes.
The wireless system has increased productivity by eliminating operator travel time between the computer and the controller. The increased memory allows large programs to be cut in a single program, eliminating indexing issues and allowing for laser text marking. These gains, combined with the elimination of cable wear, have resulted in improving the usage of the laser cutting system.
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