Laser advances revolutionize glass and ceramics marking; Prototyping parts for Lexmark printers; Reducing back-scattering effects; MORE...

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Laser advances revolutionize glass and ceramics marking

Los Angeles, CA—For years, laser marking has been widely used in many industries to mark and identify products made from metals and plastics. But only recently has it been tested on glass and ceramic materials. Today, with the advances in marking technology, lasers are rapidly becoming the method of choice for marking and decorating products such as glassware, sanitary-ware and tiles.

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Laser technology is used for marking ceramic sanitary ware.
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The timing of the advances in laser marking technology is crucial to the glass and ceramic industries, as concerns about the toxicity of the solvents and heavy metal pigments used to produce the most vivid colors have resulted in increasing regulations in North America and Europe. Laser marking technology accomplishes in seconds what would normally require hours in a conventional oven or kiln.

TherMark Corporation, headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, has been working on the development of laser-applied coatings for marking and decorating on all hard-surface materials. These new laser-marking materials (LMMs) are available in liquid form, as a dry transfer tape product and as a dry powder for electrostatic deposition. Major manufacturers of sanitary-ware are currently using the dry transfer tape product to mark and decorate their products. In the dry transfer tape form, the LMM is coated onto a backing such as paper or a plastic film and is placed in contact with the substrate surface. When the laser energy is passed over the tape, the LMM is transferred and permanently bonded to the substrate.

Marking on porous ceramic materials is an ideal application because the dry transfer tapes keep the marking material from soaking into the pores of the ceramic surface. This results in increased contrast by keeping the surrounding area clean and the marks can be applied The LMM tape is contained in a cassette similar to a typewriter ribbon. The individual parts are brought into contact with the tape by a robotic handling system, and a message is sent to the laser marking system to write the specific product identification and production information. The robot then removes the part from the tape surface, the tape advances, and the system is ready for the next part to be presented.

Prototyping parts for Lexmark printers

Lexington, KY—At its integrated engineering and manufacturing facility, Lexmark, a leader in the computer printer market, maintains aggressive new product development. In evolving new designs, Lexmark engineers constantly seek to drive out costs while adding more performance and customer-desired features and capabilities to its line of inkjet, dot-matrix and laser printers. The company recently installed a Cincinnati Inc. CL-6 laser cutting system to strengthen prototyping capabilities.

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A Lexmark laser operator inspects parts cut from 2mm stainless steel before sending them on to product development engineering.
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Replacing an older laser cutting system in the Tool and Modeling Services Department, this laser boosts productivity several ways. Its larger 4-ft. × 8-ft. pallet size allows more parts to be processed per cycle, while eliminating the need with the older laser to cut down material to fit the smaller table. The CL-6 with dual pallets enables the operator to unload finished parts and prepare the pallet for the next job, while the other pallet is being processed. Downtime is limited to a few seconds for pallet exchange.

Lexmark's intense pace of product development requires that the laser operate on a full production schedule—in effect, providing just-in-time prototyping to support tight engineering programs. High machine up time and reliability are critical to Lexmark's product development commitments, along with smooth installation, quick start-up and continuing field service support.

Lexmark products are strong competitors across all levels of the printer market—so this laser cutting system gives Lexmark the engineering flexibility to respond to rapid market changes with innovative products. And its versatility makes it ideal for prototyping of printer components. Materials processed range from Lexan, polyurethane and rubber to mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum.

CNC laser cutting avoids the costs and time delays for tooling and dies. Laser programming is done off-line and sent to the CL-6 using Ethernet.

High-flexibility, high-volume laser processing helps Lexmark maintain technology leaderhip by creating prototype parts of "real" materials and properties, while realizing production-level efficiencies.

For more information on Cincinnati laser cutting systems, visit the company's web site www.e-ci.com, call (513) 367-7100 or e-mail info@c-ci.com.

Reducing back-scattering effects

Chicago, IL—Laser welding of highly reflective metals, depending on the power used, can produce back reflections from the metal's surface that has been shown to cause damage to laser components, especially the fibers in optical delivery systems.

Welding and drilling applications that require high laser power and, which by their nature may not be complete penetration applications, are operations that are known to generate high levels of reflected light, specifically when processing copper or aluminum.

When using Nd:YAG lasers for welding or drilling, up to 90 percent of the incident light impinging on the workpiece can be reflected back into the fiber, just before absorption energy breaks down the reflectivity coefficient. The result can be damage to the costly beam delivery component.

At IMTS last month, GSI Lumonics Inc. (Northville, MI) introduced the company's new, patented super-robust fiber-optic system, called the Luminator. This unit employs a simple but elegant solution to back reflection problems. A 90-degree beam bender surrounding the fiber directs reflected light into a detector, which, when preset energy levels are reached, shuts the laser down, thereby protecting the fiber from damage.

GSI Lumonics applications engineers also pointed out that their device could be used as a process monitoring and control device for online quality assurance.

The Luminator is designed for use with the company's newly redesigned 700 Series and the new 800 and 1000 Series CW Nd:.YAG lasers. It can also be retrofitted to exiting 700 Series units now in the field.

For additional information on the Luminator, contact GSI Lumonics at Tel. (248) 449-8989 or visit www.gsilumonics.com. —DAB

Preco acquires Laser Machining Inc.

Lenexa, KS—Another venerable name in the industrial laser marketplace disappears with the acquisition of Laser Machining Inc. (LMI; Somerset, WI) by Preco Industries. twenty-four years ago, Bill and Rita Lawson started LMI as a job shop in the basement of their home on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border. Over the succeeding years, LMI grew to be an innovative custom and standard laser systems builder, even acquiring a low-power, flowing gas CO2 laser capability. Meanwhile, the company's contract laser processing continued to grow as new opportunities arose in the utilization of laser energy in production applications.

Now Bill Lawson, a highly respected and much admired technology leader, will assume responsibilities as chief technical officer of the new company, Preco Laser Systems.

Commenting on the acquisition, Jack Pierson, Preco Industries' chairman, says, "LMI becomes a major ingredient in our growth strategy and plans for technological expansion."

Preco Industries is an international supplier of high-technology material processing equipment for roll-to-roll screen-printing; film insert forming systems for injection mold decorating; and high-speed automatic die cutting. Preco has its own line of CO2 and UV laser systems for application in markets that require high-precision processing.

So the new company will benefit from these combined technologies. Industry veteran Pat Austin, formerly of GSI Lumonics, president of the new company, says, "Together we provide the synergy that will benefit both Preco Industries and Preco Laser Systems."

An example is a new product that utilizes the laser to cut 20,000 holes/.second in a web of packaging material moving at 1000 feet/minute.

For updates on Preco Laser Systems, contact Dave Plourde, vice president of sales and marketing, at Tel.715-247-3285.

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