ABB Ltd is an international company with a presence in over 100 countries. With 1800 employees across 15 locations in the UK and Ireland, ABB is focused on achieving a more productive and sustainable future. A long track record of innovation in industry across a wide portfolio of products including automation, robotics and motion has made ABB Ltd a market leader in its field.
Annually, ABB supply around £0.5 billion worth of products to customers UK wide across a number of industries.
Prior to the launch of a new product range, ABB lacked a practical process for part-marking as serial numbers and other important information were often marked using a permanent marker pen. The introduction of the new product range and the requirement to mark regulatory information onto products, meant a more durable method of marking was needed.
The search for a new method of marking parts coincided with the desire of two teams, the Electrodes Department and the Gas Analyser Department, to have more internal processing capabilities. Product development was a costly process as due to the lack of an internal solution, outsourcing was the only way they could realistically prototype ideas. Aside from added cost, this led to long lead times which slowed production down. During discussions, laser technology was mentioned as a possible solution to the requirements of both teams. ABB’s manufacturing engineer, David Hoskins, was keen to investigate the viability of the technology and contacted Trotec to find out more.
During consultation with Trotec, David discovered the Speedy flexx dual source laser option. This technology combines both a CO2 and fiber laser into one engraving system and it appealed to David because it would allow for processing a greater range of materials including plastics and metals.
The Flexx option, alongside Trotec’s quality of hardware and the level of support that became apparent during discussions, made David confident that Trotec was the right solution for both departments. Following a demonstration at the local Trotec showroom, David purchased a Speedy 300 flexx laser which was installed at ABB Ltd. in 2016.
The quality of Trotec machines coupled with their support network made us fully confident in our purchase. With the two machines we now have greater scope for production and prototyping, saving us both time and money in outsourcing.
The introduction of laser engraving technology to ABB’s production process has brought a new level of professionalism and productivity to the product development process. The Speedy laser is bringing a significant return on investment thanks to its versatility and several time and cost saving benefits.
First and foremost, the developmental work of both departments is no longer reliant on outsourcing, so prototypes can now be created and developed with reduced lead times and costs which are especially noticeable when several design iterations are required.
The dual source flexx system provides maximum flexibility for marking different products. The fiber laser source enables direct marking onto blank metals, while the use of a marking spray alongside the CO2 laser source creates a vivid black mark on aluminium parts.
Alongside the original application of part-marking, the Speedy laser engraving machine has brought additional capabilities, such as the ability to efficiently process acrylics, plastics, rubbers and wood for prototyping. The rotary attachment which was purchased with the Speedy laser makes it easy to mark probes and other cylindrical components.
Three years after their initial foray into using laser technology, the departments doubled up production capabilities with the investment in a second Speedy 300 flexx laser system, allowing each department access to their own laser cutter. The addition of the second laser has doubled ABB’s productivity when it comes to both prototyping and product marking, with both departments utilising the lasers for production work, while one machine is also used for development work when extra production capacity is not required.
David Hoskins has explained the importance of ensuring ABB chose laser cutters that would be both productive and reliable in a production environment.
From the delivery of the machine being scheduled to meet ABB's specific requirements, to the additional training provided on installation, David has praised the continuing support that he has received from Trotec. Trotec's area manager has been supportive from initial enquiry and beyond, while the dedicated consumables team continue to supply ABB with high quality materials for their work. Across all communication with Trotec staff, David says he has felt reassured in his purchase.
Looking to the future, David sees further scope for laser use, with the technology’s flexibility being key to expanding ABB’s production capabilities.
Trotec materials are excellent quality and the finished processing results are outstanding. To achieve a strong contrast on our aluminium Production Tooling for easy identification purposes, we also use the Cermark spray. Marking aluminium with a fiber laser source produces a white contrast which isn't particularly strong, but marking using this product and our CO2 laser allows us to create a more vivid black mark and a striking contrast.