Upon hearing the word “lasers” many people think of an action-packed scene from Star Wars. The lasers used in manufacturing may not be of the lightsaber variety, but they do play an important role in production today.
While there are many applications for lasers in the fields of research, law enforcement, and medical practices to name a few, we are going to focus on manufacturing in this article. GM Nameplate (GMN) is equipped with laser machines that are used for both cutting and etching. The first process is used to cut parts from sheets or rolls of material while the second typically provides a decorative function by engraving a piece or removing ink from a part.
Laser cutting is best used for applications including prototypes, program development, low volume production, parts with small or intricate features (such as interconnected holes for two-sided circuits), and materials that cannot be cut with a tool. The lead time for laser cutting is faster compared to die cutting and changes can be made quickly with programming instead of tool modifications. In contrast, cutting time is typically longer than punching time so piece price is normally higher with laser cutting.
In addition to cutting, lasers are also used for etching. Through this technology, parts can be engraved or marked. One way etching is used is to remove paint or ink from the surface of a part to allow the material underneath to show through. For example, GMN has utilized laser etching capabilities for various automotive gear shift indicator parts by removing a top layer of paint to reveal various colors underneath. One of these programs can be seen in our case study. Laser etching can be done on a variety of materials including plastic, rubber, and metal. Laser etching is often chosen for its ability to achieve fine detail. It is an extremely accurate process and is repeatable to support high volume cycles.
GMN has decades of experience using lasers to fabricate a variety of products including overlays, nameplates, and circuits. Our understanding of laser cutting and etching along with the wide range of materials used in our production allows us to react quickly to our customers’ needs. We are able output parts using lasers with visual aesthetics and tolerances that meet or exceed other fabrication methods.
With world-class laser capabilities located at facilities around the globe, GMN is equipped with the technologies needed to meet customer needs wherever and whenever they arise.
Link to PRNDL case study