There are lots of reasons why you might need a new industrial laser. Maybe your current laser system uses outdated technology or you’re opening up a new facility. Maybe you have a new product that requires laser marking, cutting, drilling or another application.
Whatever the reason, there are certain questions you should ask yourself during the evaluation process. Industrial lasers are a significant investment, and you need to make sure your laser will solve your manufacturing challenges.
Start With the Laser
These first few questions will help you determine the right laser for your application.
1. Can the laser perform the required task?
This question might seem obvious, but it does need to be asked. Technology changes fast, and the range of laser options has increased substantially in the last few years. To figure out your best laser solution, consider the type, range and power. This question is a good starting point and will help you narrow down your choices.
2. Can the process meet the required quality?
No matter the application—marking, etching, drilling or welding—your industrial laser needs to meet the quality standards set by your company.
3. Can the process meet the required cycle time?
You’ll likely have to integrate the laser into a larger system, so it’s important to determine the acceptable speed at which it must perform its function. You may need to consider different options.
Validate Laser Performance
After narrowing down your laser choices, you’ll need to verify the laser will be able to complete the required task consistently and within your time constraints.
4. How can you guarantee an industrial laser’s performance?
This question is about quality control. You should review all aspects of the laser’s performance as it relates to the specific product and material to be processed. It’s also important to validate the following areas for quality:
- Machine vision—register the part location prior to processing
- Post-production—measure the quality, readability and location after part processing
The validation process often requires a well-equipped laser applications lab with vision systems, IR detection and other validation equipment, such as high-powered microscopes and imaging systems.
In addition, it’s helpful to be able to experiment with wavelengths—a process that requires access to different optics and accessories to ensure you’re getting the best results for your application.
Integrate the Laser
5. How will the laser integrate with your production?
An industrial laser rarely works on its own and is part of a larger manufacturing process that often involves automation, material handling, operators and robotics. Considering the greater scope—and how the laser will work best in that system—is essential.
Bear in mind, you may need to do some experimentation to find the right combination of automated elements to meet your business’s needs.
6. Will the system exceed your production needs?
By making such a significant purchase, you’re investing in the future. While growth is not certain, it is the goal. You want to be sure your capital investment will not only handle current production needs, but also support future production goals.
At the end of the day, you need to know your investment is going to fulfill your manufacturing requirements and integrate well into your existing systems. Not all laser manufacturers offer these assurances—leaving you to use your best judgement and analysis.
As a laser integrator, we’ll work with you to develop customized laser solutions that are built and designed according to your application and integration requirements. We call this process Laser-Focused Engineering, which combines best-of-class lasers, application knowledge, cutting-edge machine vision technologies and automated part-handling capabilities.
Find out more about our Laser-Focused Engineering, including how it can help you choose the right laser for your operation. And check out our additional Industrial Laser Buying Guide resource, which examines five key differences when selecting a laser integrator versus a laser manufacturer.