Case History

Long-lasting laser marking

BTicino® certainly needs no introduction, being one of the world’s best known Italian names in the home automation sector and specialized in the production and distribution of electrical systems for the civil, industrial and services sector. All home automation products and video entry systems of the Legrand® Group, dof which it has been an integral part since 1989, are developed and produced in its facility in Erba. In this centre of excellence, production processes linked to the electronics of products are developed. “Continual improvement is the unwavering focus of the facility in Erba,” stated Simone Maiocchi, in charge of Machine Development, Inspection, Applications and Industrial Software Services of BTicino® S.p.A. “All operating systems here in Erba have been designed and constructed by us. We work with specialised, qualified technological partners from whom we purchase various technologies that are then incorporated into automatic lines in order to optimize the production of a particular article in the case of a finished product, or a range of electronic boards in the case of electronic components made for the entire Legrand®Group.

In the specific case of laser marking, from the very beginning we have been working with SEI Laser, which has allowed us to overcome many environmental-technical problems linked to the methods used previously. Pad printing, in fact, not only cannot guarantee that the marking remains indelible, the handling and disposal of the inks used pose significant problems.” Compared to pad printing, in fact, laser marking is totally indelible. Pad printing is a type of printing that tends of fade over time, while laser marking creates a long-lasting colour change. This means quality, cost savings – given the absence of ink to be handled and disposed of – and, as a result, everlasting traceability. In addition, due to the very high number of product codes to be created, managing everything that revolved around the process of pad printing in terms of logistics of materials and inks proved extremely difficult.

“We have lines tailored to produce over 100,000 products a year and, on these systems, up until now, we have always installed lasers designed and manufactured by SEI Laser, which has always been able to guide us and provide the best solution”

said Carlo Benetti, production analyst who accompanied us together with Maiocchi. “Reliability and very fast response times should a problem occur are the cardinal rules that a supplier must comply with, as these are production lines that are almost always running, achieving ‘One Piece Flow’ according to the principles of Lean Manufacturing; a production stoppage would be a considerable problem to overcome.”
In particular, BTicino® installed a Laser3, which is used to make cover plates for switches made of TP 191 polycarbonate, a fire-retardant and impact-resistant material on which the laser creates a colour change on the plastic material: “By working on the power, frequency and speed, we can change the chemical-physical properties of the material,” explained Francesco Auletta. “We prefer to give material a colour change instead of making an actual engraving because if we were to cut too deeply into the material we would run the risk of “boiling” it and since we are talking about characters of half a millimetre the optical quality of the marking would be considerably lower.”

The Laser3 used was developed for ID Card applications and in the pharmaceutical, electronic, food & beverage, automotive and mechanical sectors, and more generally wherever aesthetic marking or coding and traceability on production lines are required. The Laser3, as it is commonly called, is a laser marking system with DPSS “long life” technology operating in the infrared part of the spectrum (1064nm), which is characterised not only by the unique optical laser beam generation architecture but also for having laser cavities, scan head and Full Digital control electronics integrated inside a single cube of very small dimensions. Furthermore, the possibility of marking on the fly on a moving line, the presence of complete set of digital I/O, RS 232/485 serial ports and LAN 10/100 network connection make Laser3 the ideal marking tool for incorporating in production lines and automations of any kind.

Two almost twin stations

Alongside the LASER3 there are two standalone laser marking stations with rotary tables called Scriba. The greatest difference is that one has two laser heads installed for marking both the front and side parts of the workpieces – in this way there is maximum laser coverage of workpiece – , while the other has just one laser and lasers only the upper part of the workpieces. Both are equipped with SEI Laser Icaro proprietary software and are controlled by the operator, who only has to select the code to be produced by the server on which all laser files are stored, prepare the templates for positioning on the table so that each product has its own template, and start production.

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