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Unlike chemical etching, laser etching works across various mold tool materials without affecting the patterning or quality of the texturing.


that happens across an entire platform—a vehicle with many plastic parts for instance—and you’re producing 300,000 vehicles, the savings add up quickly.” Additionally, the ability to mix tool materials without


creating witness marks and other telltale signs of mismatch on the product is especially important for automotive interior components. In these applications, color, gloss, fit and finish of multiple parts must all match precisely. Te Laser 4000 5Ax applies to more than just large parts at


Custom Etch. One example is smaller tooling for molds that generate headlights and other lenses. Automotive engineers continue to design such components with increasingly com- plex details to refract more light and improve safety. Accord- ing to Melonio, the laser can create these precise features such as diamonds, squares and lines in molds for headlights and lenses without dulling the other surfaces of the mold tool.


No Sandblasting “Laser technology produces lots of little details while main-


taining a high polish on the areas between the features of the lens tooling,” said Melonio. “Tat’s not possible using chemical etching because those areas would have to be sandblasted to clean them aſter the process. So, laser texturing is a big deal for the lens manufacturers. It offers them another option be- sides electrical discharge machining when it comes to creating a lot of features in lens molds while maintaining a high polish between those features.” Yet another key attribute of laser texturing for automotive


customers is the ability to reproduce textures while globally sourcing parts. Te technology’s accuracy and repeatabil- ity means that, once a texture pattern is developed for laser processing, tools for the component can be sourced in the location that is most convenient for production. A company that is sourcing tools to Asia, Europe and the


US, for example, can send the same texture pattern informa- tion to all its suppliers. Te texture of all the tooling will match no matter where it’s produced, stated Melonio.


“One of the biggest issues with conventional texturing,” he


said, “is that automotive engineers believe all the tools—such as for the interior components—for a single model car, need to go to one supplier. Te concern is that tools textured by dif- ferent suppliers will vary and lack consistency.”


“Harmony Rooms” As a result, shops that perform texturing have what are


known as “harmony rooms” for checking gloss, texture, and other attributes of finished components, said Melonio. Tools may be sourced in one country then shipped halfway around the world to be textured. “But if you generate that pattern on a laser machine any-


where in the world, it will be spot-on in terms of texture, gloss and other characteristics. And as a manufacturer you can then source tools anywhere in the world and be confident they will match perfectly,” he said. Melonio believes Custom Etch caught the leading edge of


an automotive laser-texturing wave that is just starting to go global. In fact, the company is prepared to add as many large laser-texturing systems as its climate-controlled facility will hold. But he also knows that competitors across the globe are adding the capability as well. And while much of the work on the large laser-texturing


system is automotive-related, Custom Etch’s philosophy is to maintain a diverse customer base, which means the machine also processes components for a number of other applications. Tese include large molds for recreational vehicles, building trades, aerospace and medical components. “Our philosophy has always been diversification. We will


continue to service all markets and remain committed to growth in all fields. We see a tremendous potential in auto- motive and have made large investments in laser technology and will continue to do so going forward,” said Melonio.


Edited by Yearbook Editor James D. Sawyer from information provided by GF Machining Solutions.


Motorized Vehicle Manufacturing 73


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