The commercial vehicle production industry consists of thousands of various components, which are produced by several different suppliers across the globe. Many of these components require documentation, making traceability a vital part of the industry.

Traceability is defined as the capability to track goods throughout the supply chain, providing real-time data regarding the how, where, and by whom each part is produced and assembled. The concept of traceability provides a viable method for controlling, reducing, and/or eliminating recalls throughout the production process.

The following will discuss the key role played by laser engraving/marking in the traceability process and the benefits that closed loop laser marking adds to the manufacturing process.

Laser marking technologies are comprehensive, including annealing, layer and lacquer removal, engraving, or gray-scale marking. Automobile parts’ traceability and the record keeping of manufactured components has advanced solely from readable mechanical data like dot peen marking where micro-percussion is created using a hard needle to modern, state-of-the-art no-contact laser technology. Lasers opened the door to more complex, efficient and faster marking solutions. It has played a crucial role in the evolution of the digital tracking process.

Laser Tech Marking Benefits

The development of fiber optics and semiconductors have allowed marking and engraving systems to become smaller. Some are even desktop models. Laser marking systems are sturdy, reliable, air-cooled, can outlast low-consumption, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and they require almost no maintenance.

Laser engraving machines (See Needham Coding for a reputable retailer) are easy to use, more stable, high-performance, and extremely accurate over previous technologies. This technology has achieved very strong industry penetration across sectors, including automotive, due to the lower production costs lasers bring to the market.

Lean Manufacturing Requirements

Automotive parts manufacturers are always looking for new methods of reducing their production costs. These manufacturers are also always looking for better ways of getting the most performance from their production capabilities in smaller spaces, leaving behind smaller footprints.

Modern compact laser marking equipment must be capable of generating marks on plastics, metal alloys, and other materials with a mark contrast that will endure and exceed well past the lifecycle of the part/product.

The traceability data must fit in the tightest of spaces and meet the requirements of the OEM, or the end user respectively. Traceability content usually merges 2D symbols, human readable data, and a logo.  Data matrix codes (2D symbols) are the preferred marking option due to its ability to efficiently create readable content even under circumstances of contamination or degradation. Closed loop laser marking reconciles any issues related to 2D code standards with regard to quality and uniformity of data. This technology can compensate for situations where the part isn’t seated well and adds that extra layer of protection to prevent the wrong marking on the parts.

The primary benefits of the patented closed loop laser marking process include:

  • More efficient and faster production
  • High processing quality
  • Increased productivity
  • Better accuracy
  • Reduced waste and scrap

Traceability is a key factor in managing recalls, but more importantly for preventing them because it is used throughout the full production process. The markings must meet the standards to be consistent and reliable.