The world’s largest laser marker

Nov. 23, 2020
This article describes a high-production laser marking system that features a cabinet with three marking axes, 16 magazines (eight per side), and 208 loading pallets.

What is thought to be the world’s largest laser marker (50 sq. meters) has been delivered to printing facility Plato Group (Helmond, Netherlands), which has over 100 printing machines in use serving European markets for promotional products. In 2018, the record-setting machine had its genesis at SGIA, the Specialty Graphic Imaging Association Expo (held in Las Vegas, NV), where two employees stopped by the exhibit of LASIT, which develops customized laser marking solutions for the automotive, medical, home appliance, electronics, hydraulics, and military industries.

For its first event in the United States, LASIT (Torre Annunziata, Italy) showcased its Pen Feeder and TowerMark X laser markers that feature two lasers, allowing users to work on components with different materials using the same machine. Plato engineers were attending the show to find and buy multiple laser markers that could satisfy the million components with different shapes and materials of their customers.

Out of a multitude of ongoing conversations between the companies came the concept of a high-production system featuring a cabinet with three marking axes, 16 magazines (eight per side), and 208 loading pallets. This system is integrated into a robot that moves in y and z, ensuring autonomy during operations, such as loading, pallet recognition, positioning, marking, and unloading.

The cabinet contains a 50 W master oscillator power amplifier (MOPA) fiber laser and 30 W CO2 laser, making the marker extremely versatile. In one year of continuously personalized implementations, the managers of the Fly Gantry MAG project developed a laser marker that allowed LASIT to break a new record. The LASIT Mechanical Design Team conceived the Fly Gantry MAG, which is revolutionizing the world of gadget marking.

Customized software regulates the three operating modes for the Fly Gantry MAG. In the Automatic mode, the operator loads the components on the magazines and starts the cycle. The YZ Robot selects the pallet and takes it to the marking cabinet. While the first pallet is marked, the robot moves to the second pallet.

In the Assisted mode, the operator selects an empty pallet and loads the components on it when the Robot takes this pallet to the marking cabinet. While the cycle is in progress, the operator can request and load another pallet. In the Manual mode, the YZ Robot is deactivated, and the operator loads the pallets from the marker’s front door. This cycle takes longer, but allows for loading larger and heavier components.

Given the presence of two different lasers and the various layouts or codes to mark, how can the marker know what to mark on which component? A lateral vision system installed inside the marking cabin reads the DataMatrix code on each pallet and the software identifies and loads the layout/code for a specific component, and the laser starts marking it. Fly Gantry MAG’s software can manage the mechanical part, making this laser marker autonomous.

Independent magazines are equipped with a CNC system that can run independently from the marking unit. This means that after giving the unloading command to a magazine, the laser can start marking a new pallet. At the same time, the marked one is taken to its station. This procedure also applies to the loading process. During the marking stage, the machine can request the load of a new pallet. If a magazine is stopped when the pallets are loaded or unloaded or for maintenance purposes, the laser marker keeps running with the pallets of another magazine.

The magazines are equipped with a double pallet whereas the YZ Robot is equipped with a sensor system to prevent empty pallets from being loaded or unprocessed pallets from being unloaded. One pallet serves as the base, and the other as the tray where the components are loaded. Upon start-up, the algorithm can identify the pallets containing the component through its weight. This way, even if only three pallets out of 122 are loaded, we are sure that these three are taken to the cabinet to be marked.

In one year, LASIT implemented the machine characteristics both on a hardware and software level to maximize its performance and create a versatile product, exactly as Plato requested. The Fly Gantry MAG has undergone various tests for one month to check its performance, automatic and continuous functioning, and the ease of use and adaptability of the software.

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