After 2020’s trade show cancellations, manufacturers were long overdue to attend the International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS), which was last hosted in Chicago in 2018. After waiting four years for the event and with more than 1,200 exhibitors on-site, there was a lot to digest. From machining technologies and finishing solutions to cutting equipment, automation and more, Chicago’s McCormick Place was bursting at the seams. For the team at Shop Floor Lasers, the north hall was a popular spot as it featured laser technologies, including cutting and marking.
Like most other exhibitors at IMTS, laser marking companies were delivering technologies to address the ever-present challenge of labor. Therefore, easy-to-use controls and intuitive software were a major focus. Large touchscreens and the ability to manage equipment remotely via tablets and smartphones were expected but appreciated developments. Ergonomic machines were also on display to protect workers from injury and fatigue.
Laser marking technologies on display also served to address manufacturers’ requests for higher quality marks and larger part and complex-shape marking. Additional technologies addressed the need for flexibility when integrating laser marking into robotic cells and mass production lines.
Dave Noonan, vice president of Datamark North America LLC, previously known as Dapra Marking Solutions, says that the technologies on display at IMTS are a direct reflection of the growing adoption for laser marking equipment.
“More people are bringing their marking needs in-house because prices have come down significantly in recent years,” he says. “This means that smaller shops can now afford these systems. For these guys, simplicity is key – hence the trends that focus on flexibility and ease of use.”
Datamark North America LLC
In line with the industry’s laser marking trends, Datamark featured its FL Series laser markers at the show. Easy to integrate and operate, the company’s industrial-grade fiber laser marking is controlled with an icon-based interface developed to meet the industry’s challenging marking requirements.
Flexibility was also a focus for Datamark with the end goal of fitting into any manufacturing environment, be it as a standalone workstation or integrated into a production line or robotic cell.
Higher quality marks are also possible the FL Series markers, further addressing users’ needs. According to a Datamark press release, the markers are “available with Q-switched and MOPA-fiber laser sources from 20 to 50 watts” to deliver “everything from high-contrast annealed heat marks with no surface disruption to the crisp engraving of both basic text and complex patterns at depths exceeding 0.004 in.”
Additional technologies from Datamark include new entry-level user software, software developed to help with the transition from dot peen to laser marking, and round part and rotary marking capabilities. Datamark customers can also discover the ability to nest a series of marks for lights-out operations.
The German-based FOBA had its Titus Y.0X00-xs fiber laser marker front and center during the IMTS exhibition, touting its laser head as the smallest in the world. Developed for today’s laser marking needs, the Titus is also described as the “most lightweight and easiest-to-install, easiest-to-integrate and easiest-to-operate laser marking head in the world.” When space is at a premium, FOBA highly recommends it.
Also on display was FOBA’s M-Series laser marking workstation. Available in three sizes, the M1000, M2000 and M3000, each workstation addresses different needs and user requirements – from their footprint and part size for marking to the ability to mark single parts or batches of parts. FOBA exhibited its M2000, which includes an integrated vision inspection system that saves manufacturers the time it takes to transfer those parts to a different area for quality control purposes.
To prove its ease of use, a FOBA representative walked Shop Floor Laser’s staff through the process of marking a metal part on the M2000. With controls that almost mirror a Microsoft application, it was highly intuitive and quick to get the hang of. Furthermore, there was no need for part fixturing; simply lay the part within the workstation and the machine detects it and does the rest.
Andrew Wellons, industrial sales manager, Trotec Laser, added some comments on trends in laser marking today, sent via email.
“As data management becomes more of a priority, businesses are concentrating on new ways to fully integrate marking and engraving systems into their overall production processes, including associated machinery and databases like ERP and SAP,” he says. “Information communicated between them may include machining data, material batch data and other product data used for process control, and, ultimately, full-life traceability as manufacturers are increasingly looking for a complete solution in that regard.
“Customers need a seamless route from planning to production of items,” he adds. “With this increase in fully integrated systems, customizable marking programs will become more efficient – from simple and direct input to fully automated marking,”
At Trotec, the company’s SpeedMarker laser marking machines are checking the boxes for what customers need today. Not only can they mark individual components but large batches. Unsurprisingly, full traceability, brand communication and functional markings are all possible. Furthermore, these machines support various automation processes.
SpeedMark laser software centrally controls the laser process via a user-friendly interface and features infinite scripting possibilities that guarantee consistent quality. Knowing that today’s users need the highest quality markings on their products, the legibility of the laser marking is guaranteed by high-quality optics and components.
With large processing areas, SpeedMarker models 1300 to 1600 can process large components as well as a large number of small components. Special parts can also be adequately marked despite time pressure in line production.
he LaserGear BOQX fiber laser marking system combines simplicity with power. Featuring a 20-W MOPA fiber laser, it delivers strength and speed to accomplish a variety of applications. A front-sliding vertical door and power focal height adjustment with built-in focus finder tool allow for simple front loading and part setup. The user simply connects a laptop or desktop PC via USB and begins programming in Minilase Pro SE software. The front operator control panel makes for easy operation.
BOQX is a compact Class 1 laser enclosure, providing safe operator use without the need for protective eyewear. The focus finder tool means easy focus by aligning the two red laser dots on the surface of the material using the standard power focal height adjustment. An optional touchscreen control pendant is available for handheld control of BOQX.