Automotive Laser Marking Case Study - Inland Die Casting

RCM Industries

To compete in today’s escalating regulatory environment, manufacturers – as well as their suppliers— must remain flexible to meet and exceed the evolving industry standards. RCM Industries is a custom aluminum die casting company serving predominantly automotive brands. When their largest customer, a tier-one automotive manufacturer, added a complete part identification requirement amid the launch of a new major program, RCM answered their call with the help of our integrated traceability expertise.

RCM Industries' laser marking station.
RCM Industries' laser marking station.
A view of the inside of the laser marking enclosure.
A view of the inside of the laser marking enclosure.
The part to be marked is positioned and properly seated using sensors.
The part to be marked is positioned and properly seated using sensors.
An HMI with customized screens ensures easy system setup, control, and error identification.
An HMI with customized screens ensures easy system setup, control, and error identification.
  • RCM Industries' laser marking station.
  • A view of the inside of the laser marking enclosure.
  • The part to be marked is positioned and properly seated using sensors.
  • An HMI with customized screens ensures easy system setup, control, and error identification.

Industry:

Materials:

Aluminum

MECCO Products Used:

  • SMARTmark Fiber Laser Marking Machine
    Fiber lasers can be used for a wide variety of applications, from industrial traceability to branding, on materials such as steel, aluminum, plastic, & ceramic.

    SMARTmark Fiber Laser Marking Machine

  • Engineered Laser Solutions
    Our vast industry experience means that whatever your needs, we can deliver a tailored laser marking solution.

    Engineered Laser Solutions

Challenges:Meeting Simultaneous Needs

The last-minute modification during their customer’s program launch was a result of regulations set by the Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG), which focuses on quality and supply chain management to “identify root causes to eliminate underlying problems.” RCM needed to act quickly to provide their automotive customer with a complete, high-quality track and trace solution that not only complied with AIAG’s standards but also integrated seamlessly with RCM’s existing die casting operations.

Regulations called for a unique identifier in the form of a human-readable data matrix. This marked code would connect to a database, which would allow for complete part traceability. Since RCM would add part marking into their die casting process at their Illinois and North Carolina facilities, the marking system would have to integrate seamlessly with their existing manufacturing processes.

RCM’s technical requirements included:

  • Enclosure durability to withstand the elements of their die casting manufacturing process
  • Fast cycle time to integrate with their existing die cast operations
  • Consistent mark quality to ensure consistent readability

According to Matt Ruh, Project Manager at RCM, “Die casting can be a rough environment, so we wanted to make sure that the marking equipment could endure the elements, including temperature difference and debris in the air. Speed was also a key factor for us because we needed to stay within our cycle time without adding additional operators."

“For our customer," Ruh continued, "the main requirement was readability and being able to meet the AIAG standards consistently. A high-quality laser and durable enclosure were critical to achieving this.”

The metric to measure the success of the traceability system was the AIAG readability scale, which graded each mark on a six-point (“A” through “F”) scale based on contrast and quality. If a mark failed the readability test (received below a “B” grade), RCM and their customer faced the risks of both costly waste and non-compliance with AIAG standards.

Solution: One-Stop Shop

Working in collaboration with their customer, RCM researched several marking equipment providers and solution options, including laser, dot peen, labels, and ink jet. Ultimately, they decided to pursue a laser marking solution because they determined that it would give them the most consistent readability of the 2D data matrix.

Next, RCM assessed installation and integration options for a laser solution. They looked at other companies that had implemented similar traceability systems.

“We were able to learn some valuable lessons from a company that was already working with laser marking technology,” Ruh adds. “They had purchased their equipment from another provider and had tried to integrate it themselves. From the negative issues they experienced, we knew that we wanted a provider that offered integration. We knew that an all-in-one solution would be more cost effective for us as well.”

MECCO provided the technological expertise, personalized service, and unique ability to engineer an innovative solution to meet RCM’s specific requirements – all with one-stop integration. Another major influence on RCM’s decision to hire MECCO was that they had the opportunity to visit other manufacturing facilities to see our products in action. Their positive experience gave them the confidence that they would receive the best solution.

Rather than a standard, off-the-shelf marking system, we developed an engineered solution to meet RCM’s unique needs. This customized solution included a durable Class I enclosure that enabled significant benefits, such as:

  • SMARTmark Fiber Laser with protective laser rail and lens cover with an internal positive pressure to keep mark quality high despite the high amount of debris, both from the mark and from the manufacturing floor.
  • system of sensors and pneumatic clamps to identify the inserted part and ensure proper seating for accurate mark placement.
  • vision system that can read and grade marks to meet AIAG standards, with automatic re-marking of failed barcodes.
  • Quality control process automation requiring a supervisor to approve a failed part before it can exit the system.
  • An Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus HMI with customized screens for easy system setup, control, and error identification.
  • An air conditioned NEMA-rated electrical enclosure and automated exhaust management system, featuring an air intake filter box and an external exhaust system to keep the enclosure free of debris and fumes in the aluminum die casting environment.
  • An automated vertical pneumatic door to improve cycle time.

Results:Successful Collaboration

After more than six months of operation, both RCM and their automotive customer are more than satisfied with performance and service.

  • Mark quality has consistently achieved AIAG standard grades for readability thanks to the innovative custom design and durable enclosure, reducing waste and satisfying their customer.
  • Cycle times have not at all been affected by the addition of a traceability system, and RCM has not had to add additional operators to their existing assembly line processes. 
  • Consistency has also been achieved across facilities. MECCO integrated multiple marking systems at RCM’s Illinois and North Carolina facilities. This gives them greater flexibility if a machine is ever out of service and allows them to make their units universal.

“Since the installation,” Ruh says, “we have made a few tweaks to the program, and MECCO’s knowledgeable team has been right there to assist us. We are 100% satisfied with our new marking process.”

Our team continually collaborates with RCM, helping them to refine their marking processes and maximize system performance. Because of this partnership, we can anticipate and resolve their challenges as they evolve in the future. 

Conclusion

Every project comes with its own set of challenges. RCM needed a traceability solution that not only met their needs for durability and cycle time, but also their key customer’s requirements for consistent, readable marks. 

Flexibility played an essential role in this project’s success: RCM took immediate action to satisfy their customer. MECCO listened to RCM’s complex needs and custom engineered a solution for them. Thanks to this nimble, collaborative, and innovative approach, RCM is able to fulfill their customer’s needs without losing time and money to unnecessary waste.

TESTIMONIAL

“Since the installation, we have made a few tweaks to the program, and MECCO’s knowledgeable team has been right there to assist us. We are 100% satisfied with our new marking process.”
- MATT RUH, Project Manager