Page 37 - MetalForming November 2022
P. 37

 How Laser
Marking Improves Traceability in Metal Stamping
Laser marking systems provide an ideal and reliable means to meet ever-more-strict OEM traceability demands without slowing down stamping production.
In 2021, the auto industry saw a record number of recalls in the United States, according to finan- cial advisory and automotive services company Stout, with 406 recalls affect- ing 21.6 million vehicles. As the average recall can cost upward of $500 per vehi- cle, even small recalls can lead to sig- nificant costs. Aggravating recall costs: a lack of traceability in the supply chain, which makes identifying parts and liability difficult.
Automotive OEMs long have pushed implementation of complete traceabil- ity in their supply chains, and strict OEM traceability requirements increas- ingly have become standard operating procedures. More and more OEMs
Keven Tremblay is a technical sales spe- cialist—with expertise in PLC program- ming, electrical design and vision sys- tems—at Laserax, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada; 418/478-1029,
request that parts be marked at the start of production and that every part wear a unique identifier.
For part suppliers, especially metal formers, meeting these requirements proves challenging. Metal stampers typically provide high-volume auto parts at low per-unit costs. To meet complete part-to-part traceability requirements, this means marking a data matrix code—delivering a density of information and a rapid marking speed—on a part every second or even faster.
Moving Away from Batch Traceability
For years, the parts industry relied on batch traceability—especially in metal stamping. A batch number iden- tified an entire production run, with each part in a run stamped with a batch number. While this provided some level of traceability, the same batch number could show up on thousands of parts, thus a defect caused a recall of the entire batch at great expense.
Today, OEMs demand that metal stampers replace batch numbers with serial numbers containing a unique identifier for each part, which provides more accurate traceability. In case of a recall, this granular information can be a significant cost-saver, and also help identify the root cause faster and limit the number of parts included in a recall.
Identification stamps, typically used
to mark batch numbers, cannot real- istically generate a unique identifier on each part—to do so would require unique hardware and greatly slow stamping operations as ID stamps must be updated for each part.
To meet OEM traceability require- ments, metal stampers must seek another solution. That solution: laser marking systems. These systems allow manufacturers to move away from batch numbers and implement unique traceability identifiers without slowing down production lines. Unique codes can include a variety of information that provides greater traceability, such as:
• Part number
• Serial number
• Lot number
• Model number
• Production data and time
• Facility
• Source.
Upon discovery of a problem down-
stream, this marking capability enables more rapid tracing of part production back through the supply chain to iden- tify defect patterns.
To generate a unique data matrix code for each stamped part, the laser marking system communicates with a stamping press controller (such as a PLC or PC) to obtain the traceability information for marking on each part— a completely automated process with parameters updated within a few mil- liseconds.
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