Custom contact-free laser engraving – A case study with Borbet GmbH
As one of the world‘s leading manufacturers of lightweight alloy wheels, BORBET GmbH is continuously advancing its production technologies. BORBET examined a number of processes in its search for options in the high precision surface design of aluminum wheels which meet the standards of commitment to quality. The decision was made in favor of the customizable BARRACUDA® laser processing system by ACSYS Lasertechnik GmbH. Commissioned at the end of 2012, the system today represents the successful manufacturing technology for the patented laser-paint etching process “ExaPeel” by BORBET.
“We keep surprising our customers with new technologies and individual wheel designs again and again, including some 2,000 different lightweight alloy variants”, emphasizes Dipl.-Ing. Peter W. Borbet junior. A number of different methods presented themselves for the customizing of lightweight alloy wheels. Initial tests using the brush technology did not prove expedient as “brushing” was only possible externally – a solution which would not have fitted in with the quality manufacturer‘s production planning. Pad printing was also considered, but did not deliver the desired bonding. “Finally, we conducted tests at various suppliers of industrial laser equipment. Our objective: to realize partial, micro-precise paint etching with the result of meeting the high esthetic demands we make on our wheel designs and collections”, adds Peter W. Borbet jun.
Contact-free laser engraving
After presenting the test results from the ACSYS application laboratory, both the precision of contact-free laser engraving as well as the flexibility of the systems proved convincing. The reason being that, compared with other methods, laser engraving is entirely contact-free. The material is melted exclusively with laser light and evaporates. This allows micro-engravings to the micrometer range. In addition, fixation of the workpiece is not necessary. An integrated rotary table enables rotary processing of the entire wheel rim. Individual lettering, logos, ornaments and patterns can be designed in the style of a host, of car makers and target groups.
Another important criterion for BORBET was the customized adaptation of the laser processing system, which was carried out in close cooperation with the specialists from ACSYS. “The technical challenges were enormous. After all, BORBET had entered into new territories with the paint etching technology for wheels. In addition, the system needs to comply with the high specifications of the European automobile industry”, is how Sven Karpf, specialist for CNC technology at BORBET, explains the requirements for the laser processing unit. BORBET chose the BARRACUDA Multi model with the dimensions 2000x2250x2300 mm. The unit is equipped with maintenance-free fiber laser technology. Initially, the manufacturer used a 40 Watt fiber laser, and in the year 2014, production changed to a 70 Watt fiber laser of the latest generation in agreement with ACSYS. Additionally, the unit is equipped with the camera-supported Live Adjust System LAS, which allows accurate positioning of the work pieces on the monitor via zoom function. The galvo head is swiveled electrically with infinite adjustment and also processes complex surface designs in a single work step. The 3-D assistant integrated in the software is used by BORBET employees to save the CAD data of wheels in the laser system.
ExaPeel: interest among industry and retail trade
After commissioning of the laser processing system, BORBET manufactured two series for the retail trade to check response from customers. “Interest was high right from the start, even among female customers”, explains Alexandra Marowsky, Marketing Manager at BORBET. Since then, the brand name “ExaPeel” stands for high-class design of BORBET lightweight alloy wheels using laser-paint etching. The process has received high accolades since it was presented to the automobile industry in 2013. “We realized our first project for the industry on behalf of PSA Peugeot Citroën: a special edition of 2,000 pieces for a specific type of wheel rim. The rim was laser engraved directly into the aluminum and was then coated with a clear varnish”, reports Dipl.-Ing. Borbet.
Follow-up projects with ACSYS
As the BARRACUDA laser processing system can be equipped for a variety of projects, BORBET recently applied laser engraving in their role as sponsor of the Bob and Skeleton World Championship in Winterberg in the Sauerland. To this purpose, the company‘s tooling shop produced blank trophies from a solid block of aluminum for the championship winners by applying state-of-the-art CNC technology. After a complex finishing process, the trophies were designed using the innovative ExaPeel process and were then given a glossy finish with clear varnish. “The high flexibility of the BARRACUDA laser system shows us new options every day. We will continue to cooperate closely with ACSYS in the future to achieve optimal results and find new areas of application. New projects are already in the planning stage”, so the interim summary of Dipl.-Ing. Peter W. Borbet junior.
At a glance: BARRACUDA Multi BORBET
- Maintenance-free fiber laser technology
- Dimensions (WHD) mm: 2000x2250x2300
- Interchangeable lenses f=160 and f=254
- LAS – Live Adjust System
- AC Laser Software Suite with 3-D assistant
- Extended Y and Z axis
- Traverse paths (XYZ) mm: 690x550x360
- Motor-driven swiveling of galvo head
- Automatic door function
- Dividing head, integrated vertically at table level
- Extraction with activated carbon filter module
ACSYS Lasertechnik US Inc.
8224 Nieman Road
Lenexa, KS 66214 · USA
Phone: 816 299 1782
Fax: 847 844 0519
ACSYS Lasertechnik GmbH
Tel: +49 (0) 7154 808 75 0
Fax: +49 (0) 7154 808 75 19
Tel.: +49 (0) 29 84 30 10
Fax: +49 (0) 29 84 30 11 10