Laser System Solutions for the Automotive Industry
Areas of Application in the Automotive Industry
The grain of interior linings that are used in the automotive industry is typically etched. However, engraving this grain or surface texture on small parts using a laser is often easier and therefore more economical. A faulty surface structure in a mold can also be repaired with the laser.
Surface structuring / texturing
The laser can be used for the defined structuring of tool surfaces. Typically, relatively small structural elements that are repeated continuously, but not necessarily visibly, are engraved in order to create a smooth – and in some cases polished – surface. These structures may be made up of geometrical elements in order to produce a certain visual impression or may consist of irregular textural units, for example as they occur in leather grains or in a brushed wooden structure. The textures must be available to the software program as a 3D data model.
Foil marking: warning signs and notice signs
The laser is the most advanced tool in modern industrial marking. Maximum flexibility in beam guiding as well as a high level of process safety and reliability allow the direct use of foil marking in manufacturing lines. Laser marking of foils is high in contrast and resolution, thus ensuring high reading reliability as well as flexibility regarding the content and geometry.
Compared to conventional systems, foil is extremely resistant to thermal, chemical and physical impact. The high-performance adhesive of the special laser foil ensures an extremely reliable bond on various subsurfaces such as paint, steel, aluminum and many plastics.
Laser plastic welding of speedometer panels
In the automotive industry, every gram of weight counts. Laser technology is used for a wide variety of applications. This example illustrates an innovative application – plastic welding of speedometer panels. This process eliminates the need for screws, clamps or glue. The new fiber laser technology works at a big focal depth. As a result, process-tolerant welding is possible even if the materials have different wall thicknesses or are not entirely square during the welding process.
The tag magazine automation on an industrial scale requires maximum efficiency and flexibility. Our laser systems for material processing / machining fulfill all of these requirements. We have developed the tag magazine technology ourselves. The tag magazine can easily be adjusted for standard and custom workpiece sizes. It accurately positions the stack content under the laser lens for precise laser marking and/or engraving. The tag PIRANHA by ACSYS works, for example, in fully automated mode. It can be fitted with several tag magazines, thereby allowing the processing of different sizes in a single process step. After having been marked, the tags are automatically placed in separate Container ENs.
Applications for lasers in mold and die production
In mold and die production, in particular, lasers offer a wide range of options and advantages where conventional systems are reaching their limits. Annealing marking on cores and mandrels in mold and die production, roughening of smooth plastic surfaces that will be used subsequently for gluing, or copper electrodes are all part of an extremely diverse range of applications that form the day-to-day task list of our laser systems.
Flexible marking dies
Marking requirements for identification purposes in the automotive industry demand flexible solutions for mold and die production. In addition to permanent marks in the mold, it is also possible to manufacture date dies, acronym dies and signet dies with frequently changing content quickly and cost-effectively with the laser.
Engraving vs. laser engraving
The contact-free removal of material from a wide range of different materials with the laser offers a number of advantages over conventional machining systems in terms of flexibility. Some places in injection molds or dies are simply impossible to reach for conventional engraving systems. By contrast, lasers with their variable focal length are capable of precise engraving processes even at a distance of 1 m or more.
Laser marking and engraving of ceramics
Technical ceramics are very important to the automotive industry because of their outstanding material properties. They are extremely resistant to thermal, chemical and physical impact. These same high requirements also apply to marking applications. For example, in order to safeguard the structural integrity of ceramic insulators in spark plugs, they must not be engraved under any circumstances. Paint would burn instantly under the high operating temperatures of an engine. Technical ceramics are also unsuitable for chemical marking. However, by selectively altering the color of the ceramic material, the laser is able to mark the insulator permanently and absolutely safely.
The night/day design in the automotive industry places high requirements on laser systems. Precision and extreme quality consistency are essential. The principle of night/day design is that the laser evaporates the paint or rubber from a part, on which the paint or rubber was previously applied. Background lighting ensures excellent legibility of the finished design.
Switches and indicators in automotive interiors
Here, the same principle is used as for mobile phone keyboards. For mass production in this area of application, ACSYS offers its OPR – Optical Part Recognition technology. The location and position of loose and non-palletized parts is detected by a precision camera system and the parts are automatically and precisely marked. Dual-camera solutions and double-head laser systems offer a wide range of possibilities for variation as well as flexibility.
Plastic marking of illuminants
Polyamide (PA) is the main material that is used in engine compartments because of its good resistance to oil, grease and lubricants. In this example PA 66 is used. It is resistant to cold down to at least -30 °C and has long-term heat resistance up to +120 °C. The marking of this plastic places high demands on the marking process. In this case, the optimum solution is foaming or carbonization because this process leaves the basic structure of the material unchanged.
Paint marking and paint removal
Paint marking can be done in two ways. The first option is to simply remove the paint from the material, a technique, which is used for example for the night/day design. The second option is to make use of the possibility of carbonizing, i.e. altering the color of the paint. The laser beam penetrates into the paint and is absorbed by color pigments. When the pigments change chemically, this causes the color of the material to change. Since the laser beam penetrates into the paint, the surface of the material remains virtually undamaged. The change in color depends on both the pigment and basic material.
Plastics marking of electronic components.
In addition to foaming and carbonization, plastic engraving represents another option for marking plastic materials. The advantage compared to conventional methods is the resistance of the marking to acids, alkaline solutions and thermal impact.