NORTH CANTON, Ohio—A new organic laser engraver unit has been saving time normally lost to processes like date-coding parts for Seco Machine, a division of A. Stucki Co. in North Canton, according to a product manager.
A. Stucki, a developer of rail car industry products since its beginning as a family business in 1911, acquired Seco in 2010. Also located in North Canton, Seco is a machined product and mold manufacturer that previously had supplied A. Stucki, said Jon Kaufman, product manager, urethanes and polymers, for A. Stucki.
Originally, when Seco began producing elastomer products for the rail industry, workers used rotary-dial tools to date-code parts. At first, it wasn't too time-consuming, but as more jobs began to stack up with more molds, it meant taking more time for the date-codes, Kaufman said.
"Each cavity would have to have its date code changed at the beginning of every week," he said. "Now we have about 300 molds, times four to six cavities. We were wasting almost a whole day on Mondays switching date codes and not pouring urethane."
After seeing a demonstration at a trade show, Seco added a carbon dioxide-based organic laser engraver to its equipment for about $30,000 in the summer of 2013, Kaufman said. With the engraver, instead of switching through rotary dials, the company can track the lot of parts by date of manufacturing, then mark them with a date-code in quick succession.
"It's just four digits. We can mark it in about a second, maybe a second and a half," Kaufman said. "So really, you're just tying up the labor of one person in a shift compared to an entire production staff for that day."
In terms of time saved, the engraver saved about 20 percent of production time for staff, Kaufman said. It allows for quick reproduction of the same text for a set of parts, but can also do logos or other images, which require more skill to manage contrast and resolution of the finished image.
"You'll have different intensities that are needed for, say, leather, wood or urethane, or even the different durometers and families of urethane," Kaufman said.
Though those types of materials are more common, the engraver can handle more unconventional organic materials as well. Kaufman has worked on cell phone cases, a set of antlers and, in one case, a tomato, he said.
"It actually burned away the top skin, and you could see the second layer of it, and it was detailed," he said. "It was awesome."
Another point where the engraver can save time and labor is by bypassing surface preparation, Kaufman said. For parts that require mold release, the laser can make its mark without cleaning the surface.
"The laser doesn't care about the surface preparation," Kaufman said. "That's one thing that makes it a lot easier on the handling and labor for us."
Since the laser runs off of compressed tanks of CO2, the lifespan before maintenance will be about 30,000 hours, Kaufman said.