FlexCNC: An Affordable Alternative to Tube Lasers

Tube lasers are incredible pieces of machinery. They’re fast, precise, and can handle a wide range of materials, including round, square or rectangular tubes, flat stock, I-beam, angle iron, extrusions, and more. However, these machines can be costly and unjustifiable if you don’t have the volume to keep it running all day. Those looking for a cost-effective machine that can process tubes and other long materials should look to the FlexCNC (Long bed vertical machining center), an affordable tube laser alternative. 

Tube Laser Benefits

First, let’s discuss the benefits of a CNC tube laser.

Versatile – Tube lasers can be used for more than simple vertical cuts. These machines can handle several processes such as angle cutting, slotting, marking, notching, beveling, and hole cutting. 
Speed – Tube lasers are incredibly fast. There is no other machine that can match the processing rate of a laser. 
Ability to Cut Any Contour – Tube lasers can quickly cut any contour regardless of how intricate it is. 
No Tool Changes – Tube lasers require no additional tools, saving time and money. 
Limited Material Handling – A tube laser system has an automatic tube loader that receives a bundle of raw material, separates individual tubes, and delivers them to the rotary chuck. 

While a laser tube cutting machine provides the user with many benefits, it still has drawbacks, including price, versatility, material restrictions, and dimensional restrictions. The FlexCNC, on the other hand, is an affordable alternative that can do just about anything a tube laser can do with greater versatility. 

The Tube Laser Alternative Solution

What makes the FlexCNC a viable option when looking for an affordable tube laser alternative?

Price – Tube laser cutting systems are costly and only make sense for businesses that need high-volume production. The FlexCNC is much more affordable and can be up to 10 times less expensive. With a starting price of $194,995, the FlexCNC comes in at a much lower cost than some of the more popular tube laser brands. 
Maximum Diameter Limitations – Tube lasers have a maximum diameter allowance. Some models have a maximum diameter of only 6″ while other models can handle over 20″, but as the maximum diameter goes up, so does the price. FlexCNC handles diameters larger than what’s currently available on the market. Additionally, the machine is customizable to fit the required diameter needed for the job.  
Material Thickness Limitations – Tube lasers are limited in the thickness of material it can cut through. The majority of machines on the market can only cut through a maximum thickness of under a half-inch. Tube lasers with higher-powered kW lasers can handle more, but those are more costly. Because the FlexCNC is a CNC machine, tooling is the only limitation when it comes to material thickness. 
Restricted Versatility – CNC tube lasers are versatile for long and lean profiles, but that’s just about it. The FlexCNC, however, can process the same profiles and more. If you need to machine plates, weldments, or large diameter pipes, the FlexCNC can handle it. 

What Can the FlexCNC Do?

The FlexCNC can do just about everything a tube laser can do and more. It can drill, mill, tap, and bevel all in one setup. The optional 4th-axis reduces material handling time by indexing the material to reach every side of the pipe or tube. The FlexCNC is also more versatile. Let’s say a company machines square tube, but they also machine large plates. They could utilize the same machine to process both parts simultaneously using Pendulum Mode. Pendulum

The FlexCNC can handle a number of different setups on the bed.

Mode is beneficial because it allows the spindle to run continuously, resulting in higher productivity.The square tube could be set up at one end of the bed, and the large plate could be set up at the other end of the bed. While the machine is processing the square tube, an operator can fixture up the next piece of sheet and vice versa. Read more about Pendulum Mode here. Additionally, the FlexCNC offers extended bed sizes to meet the needs of the customer. The machine beds start at 10ft. but are customizable to reach 80ft. in length.

The FlexCNC can do just about everything a tube laser can do and more. It can drill, mill, tap, and bevel all in one setup. The optional 4th-axis reduces material handling time by indexing the material to reach every side of the pipe or tube. The FlexCNC is also more versatile. Let’s say a company machines square tube, but they also machine large plates. They could utilize the same machine to process both parts simultaneously using Pendulum Mode. Pendulum Mode is beneficial because it allows the spindle to run continuously. The square tube could be set up at one end of the bed, and the large plate could be set up at the other end of the bed. While the machine is processing the square tube, and an operator can fixture up the next piece of sheet and vice versa. Read more about Pendulum Mode here. Additionally, the FlexCNC offers extended bed sizes to meet the needs of the customer. The machine beds start at 10ft. but are customizable to reach 80ft. in length.

Large CNC for Cutting Pipe and Tube
The FlexCNC can handle a number of different setups on the bed.

Customer Success Story

Flex Machine Tools is there to provide a cost-effective solution for processing pipes and tubes when a tube laser is out of the question. Felker Bros. Corp out of Marshfield, Wisconsin, turned to FlexCNC when they were looking for a faster solution to process stainless steel pipes. While a tube laser would have fit their needs, it was far too costly for their workload, and a plasma machine didn’t provide the needed quality. The FlexCNC allowed Felker Bros. to eliminate manual processing, saving time, increasing their productivity and accuracy while staying on budget. Read the whole story here.

In Conclusion

Is FlexCNC the fastest option? Maybe not, but when it comes to price and versatility, you can’t beat what the FlexCNC offers. If you’re looking for a tube or pipe processing machine that won’t break the bank, contact us or give us a call at 800-837-2503 for more information on the FlexCNC. 

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Standard Features

  • Hand Pendant
  • 22″ Touch Screen Monitor
  • Omron FlexCNC Controller
  • Mobile Control Panel
  • Through Spindle Coolant 
  • Auto Tool Changer 
  • Flood Coolant
HP
Max RPM
FT/LBS
Series

18

4000

92

C-20-02 / C-10-02

18

6000

61

C-20-02 / C-10-02

33

12000

61

CM-20-02

Auto Stand-Off – This is currently defined to be surface stand-off and not to be confused with vector stand-off in 5-axis mode. The current auto stand-off is based on a changing surface and will adjust vertically based on the angle of the “A” Axis, so there is five (5) axis taken into account during the calculations, but this is not the same as the tool vector stand-off. There is the ability to do the vector stand-off change while the machine is running manually with buttons on the screen.

Z-Reader Probe – The Z-Reader is a device for mapping the location of the surface. It can be controlled manually & programmatically. The option is NOT active while cutting & is retracted out of harm’s way. It can be triggered to verify the surface at every pierce before the cutting process starts, or it could be used to drive surface mapping of the whole part before cutting starts. It begins with initialization or zeroing of the device to the surface at the beginning of a program and then accumulates or tracks the difference from that zeroing effort.

Automatic Edge Finder – The edge finder is or can be utilized manually (Jogging Method & Screen Buttons), programmatically (M & G codes), or fully automatic routine (dedicated program). This option sets offsets & program rotation to match the orientation & location on the cutting table.

AC Unit Installed on Electrical Cabinet – The unit is mounted on the cabinet’s High Power (480v) side. It is close to the location where the drives are mounted. This option keeps the cabinet temperature stable and allows heat dissipation faster. The servo drives for all axes are the most significant contributors to heat inside the electrical cabinet.

5-Axis Renishaw CalibrationThe calibration unit is a Renishaw model APCA45 with a modified spherical stylus. The device has a retractable cover and air purge to clear debris & dust during the activation process. It mounts to a swing arm controlled by a pneumatic rotary, so it is out of the way during regular operation and swings into the calibration position for calibration only. 

HP
Max RPM
FT/LBS
Series

18

4000

92

G-20-06 / G-10-06

18

6000

61

G-20-06 / -10-06

40

4000

217

GM-20-06 / G-20-06 / G-10-06

40

6000

145

G-20-06 / G-20-06 / G-10-06