In the following article, Anja Weich and Viola Kirk, experts at FOBA Laser Marking + Engraving explain how the use of laser marking for the identification of plastic parts is more important than ever in the automotive industry after a spate of recalls.
2014 was a record year of recalls in the automotive industry, which cost the carmakers dear: almost 64 million vehicles have been recalled for safety problems solely in the USA and more than 1.9 million vehicles in Germany. This trend is observable in many other countries as well and has not stopped this year. For example, in August 2015, a luxury carmaker recalled almost 20,000 cars in China because of problems with the brake hoses. This is where innovative, laser-based parts marking solutions can come into play. They ensure more product safety and reliable traceability.
Product marking requirements in the automotive industry
The permanent marking of safety-relevant parts – such as the mentioned brake hoses – is extremely important in the automotive industry. It helps to meet the high standards of product safety, process reliability, traceability and quality assurance. In order to be resistant to external influences during manufacture and use, the markings on automotive parts have to be especially indelible and also resistant to temperature, light and lubricants. A high marking quality ensures optimum legibility and secure traceability. It is of further importance that the right markings are applied on the right position, to the correct and non-defective part. Such a marking process, where all marks are executed precisely and with repeat accuracy, ensures that waste is drastically reduced and productivity as well as efficiency is increased significantly. In times of increasing recall risks, followed by increasing demands on quality management combined with high cost pressure, this can be a crucial competitive factor.
Laser-based process solutions
Laser technology is ideally suited for the challenges of the product marking in the automotive industry. Innovative marking solutions contribute to easy, reliable traceability and, with that, a higher level of product safety. At FOBA, we offer a closed-loop imaging and marking process, which we believe offers process reliability, both before and after marking. The key to this process is a highly precise laser marking system with an integrated patented vision system, known as IMP (Intelligent Mark Positioning). IMP supports a reliable product marking by means of a pre- and post-mark optical validation as part of a three-stage closed-loop marking process. This firstly involves part validation, pre-mark verification and automatic mark alignment prior to marking. Secondly, the laser marking itself, before the third and final step, the post marking process that involves mark-verification, Optical Character Verification (OCV) and 2D code validation/code reading.
This three stage marking process, combined with the patented vision system ensures process reliability, as well as zero-defect markings. This makes a crucial contribution to quality assurance. The code reading option is especially important for the basic documentation of product cycles and for the reliable and quick identification of products, which is decisive in the case of product recalls.
With laser marking solutions, carmakers and automotive suppliers benefit from a higher product quality, more efficiency and a reliable traceability. These factors are more important than ever when considering the globally competitive market, cost savings and safety.
Automotive part with traceable laser marked code