Clinton Township, MI—RTS Cutting Tools (www.rtscut.com) manufactures special cutting tools from high-speed steel...

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Pulsed fiber laser marks cutting tools

Clinton Township, MI—RTS Cutting Tools (www.rtscut.com) manufactures special cutting tools from high–speed steel, solid carbide, carbide tipped, and PCD and specializes in non–standard tooling made to customer specifications. Once the tools are manufactured, they are marked with a logo, a tool number, or a part number, depending on the customer requirements. Because RTS makes tools for many different customers, the tools vary in size, shape, and type of mark required.

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Traditionally, the company used a chemical etch process, which proved to be a labor–intensive and complicated process that produced inferior mark quality. This process also has limitations with regard to the type of material that could be marked and also produced several operator safety concerns.

To address the issues with the current system, Sal Garbarino, RTS production supervisor, evaluated six laser marking machines with varying size, price, and capabilities—finally choosing a CMT ProMark 2000 pulsed fiber laser marker. "I took the best qualities of each system and asked Columbia [Columbia Marking Tools; Chesterfield, MI; www.columbiamt.com] to incorporate each of those ideas into one machine," says Garbarino. The resulting system features an industrial PC with built–in 15–in touch screen controller, 50mm x 900mm worktable, power Z axis, and automatic front door tied to the cycle start/end signals.

The cutting tools manufactured by RTS range in size from 3mm to 200mm in diameter and from 50mm to 900mm in length. This extreme range of part sizes required a custom fixture solution that could accommodate standard end mill tooling, tapered shank, and large (between center) step tooling. Drop–in details using keyed slide fixtures were used in conjunction with dead center tailstock tooling and allowed straight shank, tapered shank, and between centers tooling to be used with average changeover times of around two minutes.

Laser marking polyacrylic and UID labels

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Mentor, OH—A business that produces a wide range of custom nameplates, permanent labels, and machine faceplates should invest in equipment with features that maximize productivity. One company—a supplier of metal nameplates and polyacrylic tamper–proof tags for customers that need to become compliant with the Department of Defense UID policy—was looking for an automated system that could handle a high number of small and medium run lot sizes yet interface with its existing Ethernet to input the variable data required for UID labels.

The solution it chose includes a 20W ytterbium pulsed fiber laser with a solid–state diode pump. Although polyacrylic labels can be cut with a CO2 laser, the company cites the long–term cost of ownership as a driving design factor. Ben Parker, Monode Marking Products (MMP) laser engineering, explains, "We have used this laser for similar applications in the U.S. Air Force and found the quality of marking and robust configuration has proven the fiber laser for these substrates with literally thousands and hundreds of thousands of marks without a laser problem."

The core laser system is the result of a joint venture project between MMP and Pryor Marking Technology (Sheffield, UK). The system design features a programmable digital roll feed that uses an integrated HEPA filtered fume extractor. With nearly 1000 cubic feet of flow per minute, the extractor also acts as a light vacuum to hold the roll stock flat in both the marking and verification station. The system was integrated with a Cognex AIM DPM verification camera and compliant lighting. Software options enable setup of verification frequency from 0 to 100 percent, ensuring that the end customer is provided documentation as required by Mil Std 130.

The system software features the TRIAD Markmaster setup wizard, which enables the operator to batch load labels of different sizes. The software places the label in the laser marking window to reduce label material waste and enable improved productivity. The tag size and customer–driven design can include standard barcodes, 2D barcodes, logos, and several static or dynamic text fields. Small labels, approximately 1in square, can be processed at about 500 per hour.

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