(Video shows Concept Laser Mlab cusing system used in a jewellery setting)
With the miniaturisation of components continuing as an ongoing trend, innovation and competitive edge in manufacturing is being increasingly enabled by micro-manufacturing technologies. More than 100 exhibitors at MM Live 2012 will present everything from laser micro-machining, marking and stamping, through to inspection and measurement equipment. Combined with a range of free educational seminars, over 2,000 visitors are expected through the doors.
Making small and often intricate parts means additive manufacturing technologies are enjoying growing uptake for the production of micro-components. At the show, Concept Laser's Mlab cusing machine will feature on the stand of ES Technology (01327 701120). With a footprint of just 710 by 1,000 mm, visitors will see first-hand how easy it is to build metal parts directly from 3D CAD models (www.machinery.co.uk/39812).
In a variety of configurations, laser technology will feature heavily at MM Live: in fact, Laser Lines (01295 672500) will use the show to introduce the Pulstar P100, the first in a new series of pulsed CO2 lasers from Synrad. Featuring 100 W of power, the P100 is suitable for applications including high speed drilling and perforating.
Trumpf (0844 482 0188) says it was the first to introduce industrial diode-end-pumped marking lasers to the market. At MM Live, the company will demonstrate examples from both its TruMark OEM and stand-alone workstation ranges.
Compact and versatile, the TruMark 3020 OEM system is suitable for all marking tasks in the infrared range, while the TruMark Station 1000 is an entry-level machine that Trumpf says produces high quality marks quickly, easily and inexpensively. The compact system can be used as a static work table or for mobile use.
Image: The TruMark 3020 OEM system is suitable for all marking tasks in the infrared range
Also on show at this year's event will be the EasyMark laser marking system from Rofin-Baasel UK (01327 701100). Operating from a regular single-phase power socket, the system does not require any external cooling and has the same safety rating as a domestic CD player, thanks to the fully enclosed, laser safe, marking enclosure. The self-contained and compact desktop configuration of the system means that the unit is easily portable.
Retaining the laser marking theme, forgery-proof, laser-holographic product identification will be the focus on the stand of 3D-Micromac (+49 371 400 4326), particularly with growing emphasis on traceability across many manufacturing sectors. According to 3D-Micromac, components marked by conventional laser systems or percussion stamping can be copied easily, using suitable equipment.
The laser marking technology, resulting from the 'Perfekt' project, offers a new way to mark high-end products with metal or silicon surfaces that cannot be replicated. This new process uses an ultra-short-pulse laser system and different diffractive optical elements (DOEs) to shape the laser beam. Tests were carried out by integrating the optical system in 3D-Micromac's microSTRUCTTM laser micromachining system. When the laser beam passes the DOEs, a characteristic interference pattern is created and transferred to the surface of the component. By rotation and movement of the DOEs, the interference pattern changes and individual, unique patterns can be created, which are decipherable with a mobile reading device.
In contrast to conventional laser markings, the depths generated with this new technology amount to only 100-200 nm. This way, it is guaranteed that the basic material is absolutely not influenced by the laser. Laser-holographic marking also resists reverse engineering techniques, which means that it is not possible to determine the kind of DOEs used or their position to each other by reading the pattern.
Another specialist in this technology area, TLM Laser (0845 260 2220) will use MM Live as a platform to raise awareness of its new facility at Bromsgrove. Purchased in May 2012, the building marks a new direction for TLM as it provides a showcase for the latest laser products and equipment from FOBA or Alpha, for example. The facility is presently being fitted out with demonstration equipment for laser marking and welding.
The exhibition will also provide a platform for many subcontractors offering laser-based manufacturing services. Among, their number will be Laser Micromachining (01745 535937), based in St Asaph, north Wales, which has been delivering precision laser manufactured goods to industry since 2005. The company's services range from one-off, proof-of-concept parts through to high volume manufacturing.
Image: Laser Micromachining - delivering precision laser manufactured goods to industry since 2005
Again keen to present its prowess in this area will be Harwell, Oxfordshire-based Micronanics (01235 764067). The company has invested heavily in its laser machining capability over recent months, adding diode-pumped solid state lasers from Rofin-Baasel and SPI Lasers (01489 779696), and an Excimer laser from Coherent (01353 658800). The company has also installed a new Q-switch pulsed Rofin YAG laser, allowing Micronanics to extend its capability further into the field of marking, engraving and micro-machining of metals, ceramics and silicon.
Another subcontractor, this time specialising in precision pressing and stamping, is celebrating its 150th anniversary by targeting new customers in the micro-engineering sector. Birmingham-based Brandauer (0121 359 2822) has built a reputation for converting seemingly impossible concepts into miniaturised, stamped solutions for use in the medical, renewable energy and automotive micro-electronics industries.
A recent £750,000 investment in two high speed presses from Bruderer (01582 560300 – also exhibiting at MM Live – has boosted manufacturing capabilities, which already include 3D modelling, 3D CADCAM, rapid prototyping, zero-residue ultrasonic cleaning and micro-EDM wire machines.
Of course, no manufacturing process is complete without the associated metrology to ensure specification conformance. As a result, Vision Engineering (01483 248300) will be showcasing its Swift video measuring system at MM Live. Proving a great success with customers who need to replace ageing shadowgraphs, Swift is designed for 2-axis video measuring, and offers advanced technology and calibrated measurement in a compact and user-friendly machine, complete with touch-screen PC.
Another specialist in this area, Optimax Imaging Inspection & Measurement (01604 741122), is issuing an open invitation for visitors to bring along micro-components or drawings for a full assessment of best practice metrology solutions. Amongst the exhibits on the company's stand will be the recently introduced Vision Swift Duo system featuring 'touch-to-measure' technology. It is the first video measuring system to incorporate an ergonomic measuring microscope so that difficult-to-view samples can be tackled on the same system, in the same routine, by the same operator.
Also being displayed by Optimax will be the Starrett Galileo AV230 measurement system, which is equipped with high magnification optics to bring CNC measurement to micro level.
Immerse in the diverse
Casting a wider eye over the show, a diverse range of manufacturing services will be on display at MM Live. For instance, Advanced Chemical Etching (ACE – 01952 416666) specialises in the manufacturing of precision photo-etched metal components for customers involved in aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical devices, fuel cells and telecommunications, while Elektroform (+49 40 3259 2030) provides nickel-electroplated coatings and electroformed nickel moulds, with a range in thickness from 0.05 to 10 mm.
Elsewhere at the event, Compugraphics International (01592 776202) says it is one of the most highly regarded and longest established photo-mask suppliers in Europe and the USA. The company specialises in quartz and SL photolithography masks and copies for MEMS and nano-technology, opto-electronic and semiconductor applications.
First published in Machinery, August 2012