By marking castings with permanent identifiers directly in the casting plant—and as close as possible to the casting machine—you (and all actors in your supply chain) will be able to gather precise production data for each step of your manufacturing process.
This level of data allows you to comply with traceability requirements required by automotive OEMs (and other industries), including legal requirements like REACH in the EU. You can also identify individual castings that are out of specification when there is a product recall. In addition, your quality control team can improve and optimize your production processes.
To move the marking operation near the casting machine, you probably need to change or upgrade your marking system.
Why is that?
Most marking systems aren’t made to operate in casting plants. These environments are full of challenges that can compromise the efficiency of conventional marking systems and hence of your entire production line. They can also compromise the readability of your markings and the production data quality.
At Laserax, we help automotive (and other) parts manufacturers meet the latest traceability requirements. We do it by implementing laser marking solutions as soon as parts are out of the mold. Keep reading to learn about the challenges and important considerations to mark directly in the casting plant.
Challenges of Marking During...
The casting plant is a rough environment with challenging conditions for the marking system, including high heat, strong vibrations, water vapor, oil/lubricant particles in the air, dust, and more.
Surface treatments can also compromise the readability of your codes. Most marking solutions can’t address this issue.
Other potential issues include slowing down your production line or worse, stopping it. This happens when the marking system is slow, unreliable, unable to quickly adjust, or high in maintenance.
Implementing the marking operation during or after machining is relatively easy. Not only because parts are fixed and precisely positioned, but also because identifiers usually don’t need to withstand surface treatments.
However, some issues can arise during machining. The marking system’s maintenance and its downtime can diminish the production output. Regarding production data, marking during or after machining means nothing can be logged for the first stages of production, including the alloy, melting, and casting processes (and even more). This limits your capacity to minimize recalls and optimize production.
Very little integration know-how is needed to implement marking during quality control. Because parts are fixed, marking is very easy. No need to worry about downtime, short cycle times, surface treatments and abrasion.
But if marking during quality control is trouble-free, it’s also the least valuable option. It is very late in the process, and no traceability information is logged for the whole production process. Your team will have a hard time pinpointing sources of problems. Recalls will also be larger and, as a result, more expensive.
What Do You Need to Mark in the Casting Plant?
Short Cycle Time
No need to slow down existing operations and reduce production capacity just because you’re adding a step in your production line.
To integrate the marking process efficiently, its marking speed and automated operations must be fast enough to keep up with short cycle times.
Whenever the marking operation stops for maintenance, production must also stop. So how can you keep downtime to a minimum?
The answer is a reliable, low-maintenance marking machine that can operate in harsh conditions, such as dust, high heat, oil particles in the air, and other difficult conditions that are typical of casting plants.
High-Quality & Robust Marks
To meet the requirements of automotive OEMs (and of other industries), you need to validate the marking’s readability and quality as soon as parts are marked. Any parts with a bad mark will have to be discarded.
If your manufacturing process includes surface treatments, you also need to make sure that codes are readable after those treatments.
The production line will be stopped for a short time during integration and while you ramp up your operations again. You’ll need to keep those downtimes to a minimum.
To ease integration and implementation, you should rely on standard and proven machines that are tried, tested, and ready to be integrated into your production line, yet that are still adjusted exactly to your needs.
Regulations & Work Safety
You can avoid integration and safety issues if your equipment complies with the right standards and regulations.
If you buy a laser, the integrated solution must comply with class-1 laser safety standards (based on IEC 60825-1) to ensure your work environment is 100% laser safe.
If products don’t have electrical certifications, you may not be allowed to install them. You will need the “UL” certification in the United States, the “CE” in Europe, and the “CSA” in Canada.
Gather and store production data. It will allow you to track parts, reduce batch sizes for recalls, optimize production processes, and improve quality control to reduce the number of scrapped parts.
To gather all the required production data, you need to implement barcode reading at several key points during your production process.
Download How to Move the Marking Operation in the Casting Plant Guide