Laser Engraving in the Automotive Industry
Automotive Laser Marking of parts and components
In the past decade, the automotive industry has undergone a period of growth and evolution, unlike anything it has experienced before. The battle was no longer played in terms of horsepower or acceleration. Instead, customers wanted cars that had better fuel efficiency, required less maintenance, and were smarter. There is one aspect, though, that has remained a constant area of improvement – safety. Tracking and traceability of parts is an essential aspect in the automotive manufacturing industry, and this is where the technology of automotive laser marking parts and automotive laser etching has played a critical role.
Get A Quote
Challenges for automotive manufacturers when using traditional methods of engraving
A lot of our customers from within the automotive sector are faced with a set of common challenges when using traditional methods of marking such as Dot Peen or Mechanical Engraving. Here are the most common problems we encounter:
- Lacking in speed: Mechanical and contact marking methods are cumbersome and slow. Manufacturers are simply unable to meet the demand or maximise their output capacity.
- Breaking parts: Whether it is the machine doing the marking or the part being marked, mechanical engraving puts a great deal of stress onto the surface being engraved, and this, in turn, results in carbide pins and milling heads wearing down very quickly. This results in replacement/repair costs and longer downtime. Furthermore, these methods of marking require parts to be clamped down, which in turn causes damage to the parts being marked and can prove costly to all parties.
- Limited applications: Many of our customers have developed an interest in marking a more fragile material, such as thin metals, glass or even leather, but are limited by their mechanical engraving methods - technologies that are only suitable for sturdy materials and heavy metals.
- Barcodes are a no go: Traditional methods of marking parts are unable to produce data marks such as barcodes or QR codes - such marks are becoming the industry standard for engraving identification and traceability information. So, if their customers are demanding these marks, they are cutting themselves out of a large chunk of the market.
- Marks hard to read: Many customers are frustrated with feedback from their own customers that marks are hard to read or are inaccurate. Such feedback causes reputational damage and, again, limits their share of the market where their competitors are able to deliver these marks quickly and accurately.
Stainless steel Laser engraving and the automotive industry
There are various advantages to automotive laser etching that has made it the technology of choice for automotive manufacturers. It is a well developed technology with various turnkey solutions which can be easily integrated into any production line. Our laser marking system commonly comes bundled with its own software package which has been designed to be user-friendly and with a small learning curve.
The system can work with dynamic data to make progressive marks with minimal user intervention. Being almost entirely automated, laser marking systems are not labour intensive and will free up technical operators to concentrate on the more involved steps of the manufacturing process. The low level of user intervention also means that laser engraving technology is highly accurate, consistent, and reliable. Since laser marking systems have very few moving parts, its maintenance needs are also lower compared to other similar technologies.
Benefits of Laser Engraving Machines
The automotive industry is another industry that benefits from the use of laser engraving technology to comply with traceability standards. Every vehicle – whether it’s a car, bus, motorcycle, farm machinery, or construction equipment – needs to be marked with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) once it leaves the manufacturing facility. The VIN is a 17-character serial number that is commonly marked at various components of the vehicle such as the chassis and the engines. Moreover, automotive manufacturers regularly make their own marks on their parts, whether to serve their own tracking system or simply to provide branding.
Laser machines have been used for years by automotive manufacturers for their ability to produce tamper-proof and easily identifiable marks. It’s also a fast procedure that will fit right into any manufacturing process without slowing it down – a 17-character VIN can be laser marked in only about 4 seconds. Being a non-contact method, automotive parts do not need to be clamped down before marking, avoiding secondary damage. Compared to a more traditional method such as dot-peen marking, the part to be marked using lasers do not undergo any unnecessary stress. Without the need to use fixtures or clamps, laser etching stainless steel also has unequalled flexibility in terms of marking newly designed and modified automotive parts.
Integrated Lasers in the Automotive Industries
In such a large-scale level of production such as those found in the automotive industry and the manufacture of engineering parts, the reliability of the machines is invaluable. As an almost entirely automated process, stainless steel produces accurate results with a consistent quality all the time. Since the marking of parts is commonly a step done towards the end of the manufacturing process, an error in this step that results in a part being scrapped will be exceptionally costly and disruptive.
Integration of a laser solution into the existing manufacturing process is made particularly easy with out-of-the-box turnkey solutions. Modern laser etching equipment has been designed to be easy to learn and use.
Designs need not be made on any proprietary software, as most laser marking applications can import files created from the most common design software. Marking with dynamic data, such as part numbers and batch numbers, is well within the standard capabilities of most laser applications.