Leicestershire, UK-Automation Systems (www.as-uk.co.uk) was required to mark the “AIRBAG” text onto the passenger side of the instrument panel topper pad for the latest variant of the BMW Mini (see photo).
On some vehicles, the “AIRBAG” logo is molded into a portion of the instrument panel, which involves detail work within the mold tool. This also means that the location of the “AIRBAG” logo has to be determined and fixed at the mold tool production stage. The ability to laser mark the logo enables the position, size, shape, font, and contrast of the logo to be reviewed and enhanced to achieve the best overall result.
The application presented a series of challenges as the system would have to be capable of producing a laser marked image that would be clearly visible on the instrument panel when viewed from different angles both inside and outside of the vehicle. This is an essential requirement for the emergency services when dealing with a vehicle that has been involved in a collision, making them aware of the presence of airbags that may not have been deployed.
The system would also have to be capable of producing the laser marked image on left-hand drive and right-hand drive product variants automatically, by reading a barcode label on the component and correlating this information with the input from sensors on the component location fixture within the machine.
A series of laser marking trials were conducted for Automation Systems by Rofin-Baasel (www.rofin-baasel.co.uk) at its Daventry facility using a PowerLine E-10 laser. This laser marks different materials with alphanumeric content, vector graphics, gray-scale, barcodes, or matrix codes and, with its short pulse capability, provides a high-contrast mark on dark surfaces.
Several trials were conducted to determine the optimum laser power settings, number of passes, speed, and line width that would produce the required “clean” image with good contrast against the background material, and within the target cycle time of 25.0 seconds.
The requirement to be able to process left-hand drive and right-hand drive variants within the same machine was achieved by incorporating a beam switch and dual marking heads to the laser system. The combination of the laser and beam switch/dual marking head concept provided the optimum solution for Automation Systems Limited, which enabled the company to provide its customer with a machine that is easy to load and unload and simple to operate.