Innovative laser marking systems are able to communicate and provide even better inscription quality and greater flexibility. Laser systems are also not immune to the exciting era of Industry 4.0. That's because they now form an important integral part of networked production processes. In future machines will actually organise themselves.
This means that laser systems must be able to communicate, must be intelligent and must be able to be integrated in fully automated production. Exhibitors at LASYS 2018, for example, are working towards achieving this objective. ‘Laser production solutions within the meaning of Industry 4.0’ will be a key topic in this respect. LASYS, international trade fair for laser material processing, will be held at the Stuttgart Trade Fair Centre from 5 to 7 June 2018. The trade fair is unique, covers different industries and materials, and focuses on innovative laser systems and processes together with services for laser material processing.
Industry 4.0 needs smart laser marking systems
As a universal tool, the laser now plays an important role in manufacturing industry. Its range of applications is increasing continuously while innovative laser systems are becoming increasingly more efficient and more economical. Modern laser marking systems have now become widespread.
The LASYS exhibitor Trotec is a pioneer here in the area of Industry 4.0. ‘We are currently working on early detection of typical error symptoms of suction systems in our Speedy-flexx laser engraving machines and laser cutters,’ said Alexander Jauker, Head of Production Management at Trotec.
The objective of the fourth industrial revolution is to increase productivity through intelligent, networked production systems. For example predictive maintenance 4.0 will reduce downtimes and, thus, increase machine availability.
‘Sensors in the laser machine and suction system supply data about temperature or differential pressure. Increased wear and tear of the suction filter and short filter downtimes in the suection system can therefore be quickly identified through permanent monitoring. The necessary measures for preventing errors or rectifying faults can be automatically instigated,’ added Jauker. The data are sent to the SAP MII (Manufacturing Intelligence and Integration) module.
A maintenance order is also created and the maintenance engineer receives information simultaneously by e-mail and through a SAP app. A spare part required at short notice is also ordered automatically.
Jauker's summary: ‘Here at Trotec we want to develop laser system solutions which make our users more profitable. The main priorities here are productivity, flexibility and minimal total costs of ownership. This new method of machine communication fully supports these objectives.’
Laser marking of medical stainless steel instruments: contrast ratio and corrosion resistance improved
Laser marking systems are vital, especially in fully automated production. That's because individualised mass production is very much in vogue. This means that the modern production environment is characterised by many different product variants. It is therefore all the more important to mark components so that they can be traced. Depending on the utilised material, laser marking methods such as engraving, material removal, tempering, staining or foaming enable the components to be permanently marked. Clear traceability – place and time of manufacture – is therefore ensured, for example, in the event of damage. This is essential in some industries, e.g. the automobile industry or medical technology.
‘Implementation of unique device identification for medical products, which is subject to FDA Guidelines, poses new challenges for laser marking methods,’ said Thorsten Ferbach, Business Development Manager at Coherent-Rofin.
With effect from the middle of 2018, instruments, implants and medical consumables must be directly marked with a clear industrial code. ‘This will ensure the traceability of the medical product, create potential for optimising production processes and significantly increase patient safety,’ added Ferbach.
The laser marking solutions of the LASYS exhibitor Coherent-Rofin pay particular attention to biocompatibility and corrosion resistance of direct marking of medical stainless steels.
‘Temper marking, which is frequently used in this case, reduces the corrosion resistance of the surface. However, by using our PowerLine Rapid NX,’ said Ferbach, ‘marking takes place without any heat input in the material since we utilise ultrashort pulse technology. We also obtain a high contrast ratio irrespective of the angle.’
According to the Coherent-Rofin expert, the medical technology sector harbours great potential for the use of laser marking instead of pad printing: ‘In spite of the higher investment costs, a laser is generally more economical. The much better production quality with far fewer rejects and massively reduced personnel and consumption costs offset the initial investment after a short while. The much higher degree of flexibility is not yet included here.’
As far as medical technology is concerned, LASYS 2018 will feature an additional highlight: Spectaris, German Industry Association for Optical, Medical and Mechatronical Technologies, will stage the workshop entitled ‘Laser material processing in medical technology’ on 5 June 2018.
Laser marking systems can cope with nearly every material
The high flexibility of laser marking systems is demonstrated by various characteristics: laser marking can have any shape and any content. Identification texts, numbers, codes, symbols or images and their size can be quickly adapted and individualised with the aid of a computer. Laser light replaces ink or printing ink. With fast moving workpieces the writing process takes place ‘on the fly’.
There is practically no material which a laser cannot inscribe. Metals, plastics, ceramics, glass, organic substances such as textiles, wood, paper, leather or even fruit. Depending on the type of material, different marking methods and beam sources such as solid-state lasers and CO2 lasers are used. For example, the UV laser marking system from the LASYS exhibitor Buth Graviersysteme with a wavelength of 355 nm is highly suitable for marking plastics on account of the high repeat rate.
Andreas Buth, CEO of Buth Graviersysteme, explained: ‘The wavelength permits very small spot diameters and, thus, character heights smaller than 100 μm. Extraordinarily high processing speeds, which are required by closely synchronised, industrial production processes, are also possible.’
According to the CEO, very fine inscriptions and structures could be created on glass or ceramics with high peak power and without thermal destruction. The BG FiberMark Mini is a new addition to the product portfolio of Buth. This product is a MOPA (Master Oscillator Power Amplifier) laser system.
‘MOPA combines the advantages of the conventional Nd:YVO4 laser with those of a fibre laser: High peak performance and high beam quality with high output power and a long service life,’ said Buth.
The CEO sees the future of laser processing in the use of 3-axis scan systems: ‘In this case focus compensation is attained by adjusting the distance between the moving expander lens and the focusing lens while the scanners guide the laser beam over the processing field. With an area of up to 900 x 900 mm the processing field may be much larger than with a 2-axis scan system. We only supply laser marking systems with 3-axis scanners.’
LASYS 2018 will feature different laser applications for all industries
The application areas of laser material processing systems will not only revolve around laser marking at LASYS 2018 in Stuttgart, but will also represent the wide range of tasks such as laser-based cutting, welding, structuring, drilling, cleaning, hardening and assembling across all industries. Representatives of the mechanical engineering industry, motor vehicle construction, the electrical and electronics industry, the optical industry, plant and apparatus construction, the metal working and processing industry, medical technology, the plastics industry, tool and mould making, and the semiconductor industry will be in exactly the right place at LASYS 2018.
Not only will they have the opportunity to find solutions for their production problems or new ideas for the use of lasers, they will also be able to refresh their knowledge in the wide-ranging accompanying programme.