Lasering – where customisation meets mass production

Lasers have transformed how many industries work. Whether it’s electronics, manufacturing, food and drink, and even luxury goods, the impact of laser technology goes further than most of us would imagine.

Lasering is the industrial process where customisation meets mass production.

Take the FMCG drinks market for example. The accuracy and speed of laser coding and marking is not only critical to productivity – with some production lines processing 125,000 cans per hour – it’s also essential for traceability. The frequency at which a laser is firing, the wavelength at which it operates and the power density it generates all govern how quickly and accurately a laser can operate. On many levels, there’s no room for error.

At the other end of the spectrum, lasers play a key role in customisation and communicating brand, whether by engraving logos on products or cutting and marking the high-quality packaging that reinforces the values that appeal to consumers.

For example, in the cosmetics industry, lasers are used to create high precision logos on products, such as lipsticks. Here, where look and feel are an essential part of the sometimes premium price pitch to consumers, there’s no room for poor marking or sub-standard packaging.

What these very different markets share in common is the requirement to filter fume or particulate emissions at the point of ablation…and that means investing in extraction technology. BOFA systems help keep equipment free from contamination that might otherwise disrupt laser beams, harm quality, or even cause unscheduled downtime. Extraction is also a key contributor to removing airborne contaminants and maintaining a clean, healthy working environment.

In FMCG canning lines, the portable systems developed by BOFA are designed to keep pace with high speeds. The speeds involved can cause emissions to travel from the point of ablation, so BOFA engineers will take account of this momentum, along with the type and size of particulate, when designing a system, with the aim of keeping laser lenses dust-free.

This engineering assessment can be critical, as making assumptions can be the enemy of productivity in manufacturing. This includes paying close attention to both the process and the materials being worked. For example, the laser cutting of acrylic materials for a store point of sale display will emit volatile organic compounds, which need to be filtered to help maintain a clean working atmosphere.

In addition, while the adoption of fibre laser technology helps deliver high speed and accuracy, this process can sometimes also generate higher temperatures than other types of laser systems. So BOFA has developed technology that both helps maintain operating temperatures at the laser head and also helps mitigate the risk of thermal events from any increased temperature at the material surface.

Finally, how extraction is controlled can make a significant contribution to productivity in an increasingly data driven and automated environment, such as barcoding, labelling and packaging. BOFA’s iQ operating platform features a host of functions and innovations, including onboard data logs and real-time system condition visualisation so operators can monitor whole system performance and schedule filter exchanges to match production plans.

BOFA’s product range for laser applications extends to more than 25 model types, each of which is available with custom options. The units cover a range of extraction flowrates from 180 to 4000 m³/hr (106 to 2354 cubic feet a minute), enabling a matched solution for just about every type of application.

To help users optimise the value of their laser investments, BOFA’s technical support team offers regular training and support, both to OEMs and end users, via the BOFA Academy.

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