Columbia Marking Tools Designs an Integrated Pulsed Fiber Diode Laser Marker for Longtime Partner US Manufacturing

Since 1994, Columbia Marking Tools and US Manufacturing have worked together on many projects, establishing a consistent, ongoing relationship. When US Manufacturing's end customer planned to expand production and needed a marking tool to fit specific needs, Purchasing Agent Bill Bauer went out for bid and contacted Columbia immediately.

The application required a complete turn-key laser marking machine to mark an 8 digit serial number, 5 digit Julian date code, 1 digit shift code, 4 digit serial number and a 16 x 16 2D/UID code on cast iron differential cases. The challenging part of the project was to provide one machine to mark 5 different styles of cases. In addition, the marking system had to include a camera for mark verification, function both in Michigan and in the heat of Mexico, and able to be operated both manually and robotically loaded.

Columbia Marking Tools has provided many different types of marking systems to US Manufacturing over the years depending on the application requirements. These have included simple hand tools, automated impact markers, and dot-peen programmable systems. In this new application, the end customer requested a laser system.

Andy Habedank, Engineering Manager of Columbia Marking Tools, says, "The laser has merely added another method of marking technology to the list of processes available to manufacturers today. As marking experts, we pride ourselves in having the best marking technologies available to our customers. These methods include hand stamping, impact marking, roll marking, peen or scribe marking and now pulsed fiber diode laser marking."

Pulsed fiber lasers have become the preferred laser technology for identification and traceability marks for metals and plastics when their application has been determined to be either the most cost-effective, produce marks that are the most readable or integrated most easily with production operations.

Habedank explains, "The key to providing the best marking solution is ultimately determined by a variety of factors. One type of marking process is not the answer for every application. For example, what type of mark is required? How big does the mark need to be? How deep does it need to be imprinted? What kind of material is being marked? Has it been heat treated? Is the marking process part of the manufacturing process, or is it performed off line? In some instances, laser marking may be the best method, and Columbia has a unique new laser marking system to do that."

The new Columbia 10 and 20 watt laser marking systems utilize pulsed laser technology that develops the same 1064mm wavelength as Nd:YAG and Nd:YVO4 but are very compact in design, Fig. 1, and completely air-cooled, so costly water cooling systems are not required. The airflow is segregated from any electronic components, so no filters require changing and component life is maximized. Because the pulsed fiber laser uses a doped fiber technology, sensitive optical components are eliminated which makes them ideal for industrial integration. The pulsed laser offers 90% useable power range compared to approximately 30% usable power range associated with YAG and YVO4 systems.

Columbia laser markers use proprietary software that enables the laser system to be tailored to the customer's requirements with specific application for UID/2D marks. The software applies a standard Windows® user interface that reduces the learning curve for the technician. All standard marking functions include alpha numeric (linear & elliptical), bar codes, data matrix, UID (Unique Identification) and graphics, Fig. 2. Also, all laser parameters are saved with each marking object with numerous objects possible per mark. Part changeover is as easy as clicking on the next job to be marked.

The basic Columbia CMT laser marking system includes; a CMT laser marking head with a 163mm F-Thets focusing lens for a 100mm x100mm marking area, a CMT laser marking head controller box with a diode-pumped power source that is fiber coupled to the marking head; CMT proprietary software package. The base price of the package is $49,800.

Brad Byrne, the Regional Sales Manager adds, "Providing laser marking integration services including system design and manufacture is what sets Columbia Marking Tools apart from other laser marking machine manufacturers. Columbia Marking Tools was granted this bid over the competition due to our strong relationship with US Manufacturing, and our ability to meet with the customer and make changes in a timely manner. "

Columbia was able to design and engineer the laser marker to fit US Manufacturing's specific needs. This included the integration of UID/2D marking with a vision verification system. The final design also had a heavy duty steel frame and industrially built machine control panel for a robot environment, part present cycle sensor, pneumatic enclosure lift for robotic loading and unloading.

The craftsmanship of this machine, along with the design and layout for specific customer requirements makes this a great example of how Columbia Marking Tools can meet any integration challenge.

Columbia Marking Tools is a leading designer and manufacturer of metal and plastic marking equipment including stamps, roll marking dies, roll marking and impact marking machines, fully programmable pulsed fiber diode laser, peen/scribe marking and UID/2D Square Dot® machines, numbering heads and special marking machines.

Send inquiries to:
Sales and Marketing Department
Columbia Marking Tools, Inc.
27430 Luckino Drive, Chesterfield Twp. MI 48047
Telephone: 800-469-MARK, Fax: 586-591-5941

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