Our engineers love a challenge. That’s a good thing because very often a customer will come to us with a marking need, but have no idea how to achieve it. They give us the parameters and it’s up to us to determine what components – the laser, the wattage, the fixture, etc., – will work best for their requirements. Systems we’ve developed are now in the field marking components from huge to tiny and everything in between. To put this range into perspective, we’ve pulled some real-life examples from our customer files.
Drill Bits on Steroids
The bits for your DIY drill weigh what – a few ounces? Now imagine one that’s roughly 3 feet tall and three feet in diameter. These oil country big boys weigh in at 2,500 lbs! The marking has to be really deep (.020″) to survive some very rough handling, like collisions with wrenches, rocks and pipes. Believe it or not, these oversized drill bits used to be marked with hand marking dies and a few whacks with a hammer. One slip and the mark is blurred. And what if the operator mixes up the sequence of the serial number? The whole thing has to be ground down for a do-over and might not meet ISO standards.
For this application, we designed a custom enclosure with two lasers, one firing on the bottom of the part and one on the side. The oil company we developed this system for now gets an accurate mark every time with smooth internal channels and radiuses. This is vital to help avoid stress fractures. Operators can also scan a bar code and have their company’s database quickly fill in different codes and other variable information for individual bits. This new automated system took operator error out of the equation and vastly improved the legibility and quality of the mark.
Honey, I Shrunk the Parts!
The smallest parts we’ve ever marked were tiny 1/2″ diameter rings for an aerospace company. We can’t tell you what they were, what they are used for or even what they’re made of. That’s strictly on a “need to know” basis. Let’s just say we’re doing our bit for national security.
For this job, we put together a YAG laser system in the customer’s prototype department. The system itself is normal size. The challenge comes in making the small parts. The mark was made up of 0.75mm characters and, due to the tolerances of the part, could be no deeper than 0.0005″. Fine precision was definitely called for, but our engineers came through and the design worked perfectly in testing. The customers were kind of quiet after the installation. With them, that’s an indication they were very pleased.
A Need for Speed!
For a customer who does aluminum impact extrusions, we developed a fiber laser marking system for a 2D data matrix. This matrix contained a lot of information – 36 characters, a 6-digit code and company logo. And it had to mark all of this ASAP to keep up with their production line. Our engineers got it down under six seconds! Our system gave them a clean, consistent mark with very good readability by machine vision. This is much faster and much more reliable than trying to keep up with production with paper labels, which have their own set of problems besides speed.
Business As Usual
While it’s fun to look at the record book for cases of large, small and fast marking, the truth is these jobs are not all that unusual for us. Whatever challenge walks through the door, engineering a unique system that operates to the complete satisfaction of the customer is just part of the job.
If you have a marking application that you think is unusual, give us a call. We can figure it out together.