Our client is specialized in seating solutions for the automotive industry. Their seat rails—as part of critical safety components—are e-coated to prevent corrosion and maintain the seat’s structural integrity. In the fabrication of these parts, there must be no traces of e-coating near the welding joints. If they are not perfectly clean for the seat frame’s assembly, the welds can be contaminated.
To address this, they were looking for the most cost-efficient solution to keep e-coating off the welds.
Multiple Solutions Explored, Laser Technology a Clean Win
The company initially had their eyes set on laser cleaning to guarantee optimal results. But they also knew this represented a high capital investment, so they explored other options, including grinding and several masking technologies.
Here’s what they had to say about these technologies.
Lack of Control with Masking and Grinding
Masking and grinding are too complicated to control and require lots of labor and resources. The next step is the welding, so keeping a clean surface is very important. We’re in big trouble if the welding isn’t good quality. We’re talking about safety issues. With masking and grinding, you cannot control the quality.”— Principal Engineer
Laser Cleaning is the Best Way to Control the Process
A laser to clean the e-coat is the best way to control the process. It delivers a clean surface for the welding operation. In the long term, it’s the cheapest option, even if you need to invest up front. We’re talking about what we call cost avoidance. You don’t have to scrap or rework parts after the welding process. You don’t have big rejections. The cleaning quality is perfect.”— Principal Engineer
200W of Laser Power to Save Floor Space & Optimize Cycle Time
The client initially wanted a 50W laser in their machine to minimize the capital investment. After multiple rounds of discussions and tests, they opted for a more expensive 200W laser.
It’s the cycle time. The 50W laser would have taken too long, and I didn’t want to end up with 4, 5 or 6 different machines, and more operators and floor space.”— Principal Engineer
With Laserax’s guidance, the client chose a manually loaded workstation equipped with a rotary table—a solution that makes the best use of the operator’s time.
A Smooth Integration
When you integrate a new machine in a production line, there is always some challenge you need to overcome. According to our client, “there was a low amount of problems” compared to other machines they had bought in the past.
I wasn’t there because of the COVID restrictions, but the integration was pretty smooth. Everything was done within a week. I came there 2 weeks after the installation. The machine was already working, nobody talked about it.
When something is wrong, I can hear it 10 times a day because you know, everybody is calling me, asking, “what we’re gonna do?” But nobody talked about it. This was the first [laser cleaning] machine we had in the plant and I am completely happy the way it went.”— Principal Engineer
Support from the Laserax Team
Laser technology is not new at the client’s plant. They have been using it for years for welding and barcode laser etching. But laser cleaning is something they had never used before, so Laserax’s industrial expertise came in handy.
The people at Laserax were very helpful. I really appreciated Alexandra, the Project Manager, and Nicolas, the Operations Director. They helped a lot because this was the first time we used laser technology for the cleaning process. We had never done it before, so I had a lot of concerns. They helped estimate the cycle time, fix the issues. People were very helpful. The PLC programmer, Guy, was also very helpful!”— Principal Engineer
One Year Later, They Buy a Second Machine
Laser cleaning has allowed our client to perfectly control the quality of their process and avoid important non-quality costs.
After one year of running their 200W rotary workstation, they even decided to ramp up their production capacities and order an exact copy of the machine.