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Lasers winning more punch press jobs.

Lasers continue to find new applications in areas that traditionally have been reserved for punch presses and more inroads are sure to follow. That's the opinion of Daniel D DeChamps, recently named president of Trumpf Inc, US subsidiary of the German punch press manufacturer, headquartered in Farmington, CT.

Named to his new position in June, the 33-year-old executive previously managed the Trumpf Industrial Laser operation. He hastens to add that lasers will not outdate punch presses. "There is still no cheaper way to put a standard-shaped hole into a piece of sheet metal than with punching," he tells T&P, but "laser expertise will be much more in demand in the punching arena."

He claims that the traditional punching business has been flat for the past two or three years, but growth of laser cutting machines has continued both for Trumpf and for the industry. He admits the spurt may be temporary as small shops acquire their initial laser cutting capability as an alternative. "But I know a majority of the people getting their first machine are seriously thinking about getting a second laser instead of another punching machine."

At the same time, Mr DeChamps doesn't see a big future for the combined (punching plus laser cutting capability) machine in the US. "A lot of the punched holes can now be done with a laser; maybe not as fast but you can get a finished part off the machine with a single setup and off of a machine that represents half the investment of a combined unit," he says. In some critical forming-laser cutting operations, the combination machine is the only way to go, he adds, but for the standard part, the combination machine will be less relevant because the laser will get faster and faster.

When it comes to the punching press, however, he sees that advances in the hydraulics systems will be most significant. "The hydraulics enable you to use your ram as a third CNC axis on the machine to do forming, something the laser will never be able to do," he says.

He also sees more acceptance in the US market of the systems approach which includes automatic material handling (loading/unloading) incorporated in the punch press. In Europe about 40% of the units Trumpf sells include such extras, whereas in the US, Mr DeChamps says, only 5% of the sales include these systems.

Trumpf manufactures about 100 C02 lasers in its Wilmington, MA, facility and another 200 in Europe. It sells lasers for other applications, but Mr DeChamps sees the metalcutting area continuing to be the strongest. He sees a US market for laser-cutting machines of 200 to 220 units annually, growing at 10% to 15%. It has about 15% of the US market and 50% of the European laser-only cutting machine market.

Although cutting will remain the strongest laser application, the young executive feels laser welding in the automobile industry has the strongest growth potential. The firm already has developed two systems which Mercedes-Benz has working on its assembly lines without backup. "That demonstrates the confidence some people already have developed in laser welding," Mr DeChamps feels. He's convinced laser welding will find its way onto the US auto assembly line in time. He also sees laser robots being used to cut openings in auto bodies as they travel down the assembly line.

The company also has laser cutting and welding systems in development projects in the aerospace industry. It is also doing some experimenting with waterjet cutting. "In general, we are looking at any high-energy beam because it is a viable substitute for the punching process. With a waterjet you can do some things you can't do with a laser," Mr DeChamps says.

Mr DeChamps has been with Trumpf for six years and was transferred to the US laser facility in 1988. Educated as a mechanical engineer, he joined Trumpf after graduating from college. What is the greatest challenge the engineer-turned-president faces? "Communications that you can establish between headquarters (in Germany) and here. I don't mean politically, but rather, technically. This company lives off of its technology, and technology transfer is one of the most difficult things to manage."
COPYRIGHT 1992 Nelson Publishing
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Title Annotation:Management Update; Trumph's DeChamps
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Feb 1, 1992
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