Neal O’Connor on the Evolution of Marking Technology
Marking technology constantly evolves, and few people have witnessed the process like Neal O’Connor, GT SCHMIDT President. He is here to give a guided tour through marking’s past, present and future.
In the beginning: traditional marking
GT SCHMIDT got its start in 1895 with basic hand stamps. We then graduated to steel type that could mark multiple characters at the same time. By the 1930s, hydraulic and pneumatic marking machines were the norm. That technology was greatly influenced by World War II. Making and marking munitions and firearms was a constant need. Numbering heads often marked 5 individual parts of a gun with the same serial number.
Today, traditional marking still accounts for a fair amount of GT SCHMIDT business. It’s still a great solution for those who have applications requiring a quick, clean and deep mark or in applications that require high speed and high production. For example, on a GT SCHMIDT roll marker equipped with a bowl feed, we can mark anywhere from 1,200 to 3,600 parts per hour.
To this day, many industries still rely on traditional marking for applications such as aircraft nuts and fasteners, dental alloys, sockets, welding tips, bearing races, railroad wheels, firearms, gas cylinders and more. The technology doesn’t account for most of the GT SCHMIDT pie like it once did, but it will always be application-necessary.
The customizable capability of pin marking
When pin marking technology first emerged in the 1980s, GT SCHMIDT didn’t have much interest in it because at that time it did not produce a quality mark. That changed in 1992, when we got a mailer from a French company who was looking to break into the U.S. with its pin marking capability. We liked what we saw, so we agreed to sell their products in the U.S.
The partnership concluded a couple years later, but we saw the benefit of pin marking and stuck with it. We utilized our in-house design team to improve the technology and the look of the mark. Thanks to the enhanced hardware and software, the result was a higher quality marking system.
In traditional marking, you’re restricted to one character size. Pin marking, on the other hand, is fully computerized and welcomes custom characters, font styles, and bar codes of various sizes. It’s used heavily in the oil industry, as well as in automotive, heavy equipment, name plates—pretty much any industry that requires a permanent marking solution.
The high-tech future of laser marking
GT SCHMIDT actually developed our laser capability in the mid 1980s, before pin marking. Our first laser machine could be wheeled on a gurney to the part that needed marking. Then, in 1989, our laser capabilities took a giant leap. That year, we did a large automated laser project for GM, resulting in our pick-and-place laser systems being integrated throughout their North American assembly plants.
The late 90s was when GT SCHMIDT truly became a player in the laser marking space. With diode technology, we had a more efficient laser that was air-cooled rather than water-cooled. And in 2008, fiber lasers gave us a smaller machine footprint, lower maintenance, and a more economical solution for our customers. We now build complete laser systems offering a variety of laser sources, wattages, lens sizes, custom enclosures, and any additional part fixturing needed for an application.
The benefits of laser marking go far beyond pin and traditional. It’s capable of marking on almost any material, including metals, plastics and organics. Not only can a laser produce a high quality aesthetic mark, with virtually unlimited character and logo options, but it can mark very deep or not penetrate a material’s surface at all. Its non-contact form of engraving eliminates any stress or potential damage to parts, making it an ideal solution for sensitive applications such as medical devices, surgical instruments, orthopedic implants, electronics, and more.
What does tomorrow look like?
Traditional marking machines will be around for the foreseeable future simply because of their speed and marking depth benefits. As for pin marking and laser, I expect them to enjoy a healthy growth in the coming years.
At GT SCHMIDT, we are getting more and more involved in the automation side of things. We’re not just doing the marking, but also the design and manufacturing of handling systems. Collaboration with automation houses will be a big part of our future, and we’re focused on being a total turnkey system for our customers.
Our philosophy has always been to address specific needs rather than to force a solution. Because of our complete product offerings, we’re able to do that.
GT SCHMIDT also employs a direct sales force because we believe having a personal relationship with our customers is important. When you get down to it, making customers happy is why we’ve been around for so long.
Want to know more about GT SCHMIDT’s complete product offering? Talk to us today.