Posted on 07.25.2023 by Gerald Fry

Automate with Precision: Laser Marking System for Plastic Electrical Switches

Last Updated on Aug 2, 2023

Blog System Spotlights
Automated CO2 laser marking plastic electrical switches

This automated laser marking machine, developed by CMS Laser, serves the specific purpose of imprinting text onto plastic circuit breaker switches of varying dimensions. Integrating a precision robotic system for seamless part handling, a CO2 laser for permanent high contrast marking, and two advanced machine vision systems to optimize the overall process, this cutting-edge solution exemplifies CMS Laser’s expertise in laser automation.

The Laser Marking System

Part Transport

Automated laser system with conveyors and robot
Automated laser system with two conveyors and a robot

The introduction of plastic electrical switches into the system is facilitated through a well-engineered hopper and conveyer belt design. As the switches ascend the conveyor within the machine, they are directed into a vibrating channel, ensuring uniform distribution before advancing to the final conveyor section where the robotic system is positioned. This integration of a vibrating channel guarantees an even arrangement of switches across the conveyor belt, optimizing the subsequent stages of the process.

Machine Vision for Robot Guidance

Conveyor with machine vision system
Conveyor with machine vision system registering part orientation

The initial machine vision system is strategically positioned above the conveyor belt, preceding the robotic station. Powered by a sophisticated Cognex camera, it accurately assesses the location and orientation of the parts on the belt. Leveraging the orientation data provided by this conveyor vision system, the robot adeptly picks up each switch and precisely places it within the staging area, subsequently guiding it to the downward fixture track opening. This meticulous approach ensures optimal alignment of the switch with the robot gripper before safely depositing it into the downward fixture.

In contrast to prior methodologies employing bowl feeders and angled fixture tracks to achieve the same objective, this enhanced solution was cleverly developed by our engineers. The decision to adopt this alternative approach stemmed from the need to circumvent potential supply chain delays associated with bowl feeder procurement, further underscoring our commitment to delivering innovative and efficient solutions for our valued customers.

CO2 Laser Marking Machine

CO2 laser marking machine inside system
CO2 laser marking machine with galvanometer scan head inside system

The CO2 laser serves as the key component in delivering permanent, high-contrast markings on the plastic switches. Positioned precisely, the laser effectively imprints the ‘on’ and ‘off’ text onto the base of the switch, while marking the switch information on the end of its handle. CO2 lasers stand out as the preferred choice for marking most plastics due to their unmatched reliability and cost-effectiveness compared to other available wavelengths in the market.

At CMS Laser, we typically use either Iradion Laser’s ceramic core CO2 sources or Coherent Laser sources, both renowned for their exceptional performance. However, we recognize that certain applications may require a specific mark quality tailored to distinct plastic colors. In such cases, green or ultraviolet lasers could prove more suitable. Particularly, for medical grade plastics, a UV laser is the preferred option due to its ‘cold marking’ effect achieved through photochemical interactions just below the surface. For more insights into medical marking applications and how UV lasers excel in this field, we invite you to read our related blog post: Cold Marking with UV Lasers for Plastic Medical Device Manufacturing.

To ensure precise customization, our laser applications laboratory houses an extensive array of lasers, providing the ideal platform for testing client materials to assess process feasibility. As a standard practice, clients are welcome to our applications lab as their first point of contact for consultation. Our team of laser engineers conducts comprehensive analyses of the testing procedures, empowering our clients with insightful information about laser-material interactions, enabling informed decisions for their specific marking requirements.

Machine Vision Laser Marking Validation

Machine vision software view of laser marked parts
Machine vision software view of laser marked parts

At the lower section of the machine, two distinct bins are situated: the blue bin on the right is designated for accepting satisfactory parts, whereas flawed parts are precisely directed into the red bin on the left. Facilitating this sorting process is an integrated machine vision system positioned just below the marking field.

Each marking undergoes meticulous scrutiny by the vision camera to ensure accuracy before permitting the parts to proceed downward into their designated bins. In the event that any markings fail to meet the vision validation criteria, an actuator swiftly adjusts the exit chute funnel, directing the defective parts to the reject bin on the left.

In our unwavering commitment to delivering excellence, CMS Laser proudly holds the status of a certified Cognex integrator, having gained extensive expertise through years of collaboration with these cutting-edge camera systems.

Laser Marking Automation Creates Efficiencies

Main laser marking area in automated system
Main laser marking area in automated system

The processing of small parts and components often presents a significant challenge for manufacturers. Leveraging decades of experience in developing turnkey solutions, CMS Laser has successfully catered to manufacturers worldwide. Our expertise spans from automating tablet drilling processes to marking extruded tubing upon exiting an extrusion machine, establishing CMS Laser as a leading force in the realm of laser automation capabilities. Continuously pushing the boundaries of innovation, we persistently explore novel avenues for processing various materials.

A key differentiator that sets us apart is our in-house CNC machine shop, which plays a crucial role in our capabilities. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, it allows us to produce fixtures with exceptional precision, ensuring seamless integration within our laser automation systems. But that’s not all – our engineers also harness the power of 3D printing for rapid prototyping and testing of new fixture designs, further enhancing our in-house capabilities. To learn more about what we can achieve, visit “Our Capabilities” page for a comprehensive insight into our expertise.

Laser automation is experiencing a remarkable surge in adoption, enabling business owners to optimize efficiency and productivity by bringing a plethora of processes in-house. CMS Laser stands steadfast as a reliable partner, empowering manufacturers to unlock the full potential of laser automation for enhanced operational excellence.

Contact Us for Advanced Laser Automation Solutions

Automated CO2 laser marking system for plastics
Automated CO2 laser marking system for plastics

In conclusion, the laser marking machine developed by CMS Laser offers engineers a cutting-edge solution for efficiently marking text on plastic circuit breaker switches. With its precise robotic part handling, CO2 laser technology for permanent marking, advanced machine vision systems for accurate guidance, and seamless integration of automated processes, this solution represents the forefront of laser automation capabilities. CMS Laser’s dedication to innovation, extensive experience, and commitment to client satisfaction makes us the ideal partner for your laser automation needs.

Our Advanced Automated Laser Systems

To learn more about our solutions and discuss how we can enhance your manufacturing processes, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. If you are on social media, follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram for the latest photo and video content!

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