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Bringing Laser Technology In-House: 6 Simple Steps to Success!

Once the commercial justification for bringing laser technology in house is complete, new to laser manufacturers may still have some technical concerns. We’ve recently worked on several very successful collaborations with first-time to laser manufacturers to turn their mountains into mole hills. Now each system is on the floor in production and everyone is wondering what all the fuss was about.

Here’s a step by step process for making sure bringing a laser in house is pain-free.

Step 1: Process – Picking the right laser for the job is essential, so make sure that the integrator has the necessary application knowledge. Ideally the integrator would run the application in house to fully understand the system’s integration requirements.

Step 2: Systems definition and specification – Laser technology, like any process, has its particular process requirements that need to be addressed by the system, so it makes sense to work with an experienced integrator. To make this a seamless process, it is best if the integrator has undertaken the application before (ideal case) or at the very least thoroughly understands the process. All the process requirements will need to be designed in, with no downstream surprises.

Step 3: Dedicated system engineers – A single point of contact at the integrator who is dedicated to your project provides a vital link for information exchange and continuity throughout the entire system build, from system definition to buy off agreements. Along the way, if changes are needed, they are on the spot to ensure changes are completed quickly and with little fuss.

Step 4: Laser safety – Laser systems are offered in two flavors, Class 1 and Class 4. Class 1 means that the system can operate anywhere in the factory with no concerns – the system is contained within a laser-safe enclosure that is light tight, with interlocks that prevent the laser firing when the system is in load/unload mode and the door is open. Class 4 systems are open and require personnel within the area to wear laser safety glasses. These Class 4 open system are either housed in a dedicated room or light curtains are placed around the system. Within the room or the curtains, when the laser is firing safety glasses must be worn. Many integrators will have Laser Safety Officers to help with the necessary safety measures needed. In addition it’s important to verify that the integrator files CDRH compliant report for the system.

Step 5: Training – As with any system, sufficient training on both the system and the application are important to enable self sufficient operation, process development and troubleshooting. When ordering the system ensure there is enough time budgeted for training of engineers and operators to ensure “knowledge” coverage. In many cases getting off site training at the integrator is more beneficial as all the necessary support staff will be present.

Step 6: Installation and support – The machine needs to be physically connected and brought up to working order by a laser field service engineer. Depending upon the complexity of the application, an application engineer will also be present to embed the process in and provide any additional training that may be needed. This can be for the specific process as well as generic laser 101 training.

One example is an innovative in-house laser welding process that replaced standard furnace braze and electron beam welding processes. The development process was carried out by a team of application engineers and laser system design experts working in the Miyachi Unitek application laboratory.

The team developed a process that would meet the company’s requirements for an operator friendly, high quality welding system that could be successfully integrated into its existing production line. The partnership also worked particularly well in helping successfully navigate the many steps necessary to bring this new technology into the manufacturing process.

After bringing the process in-house, the company reduced a process that used to take eleven days down to 70 seconds. This, combined with a substantial reduction in inventory requirements, translated to a large cost savings.