How long has a product been in use? When was it last serviced? Answering these and other questions is essential for service and maintenance work. A good solution for bundling the relevant information on the product is to apply a readable serial number or code to the product by laser engraving. In contrast to other methods, laser engraving has the advantage that it is durable and tamper-proof without attacking the material. The IPCO company was also looking for a suitable solution to clearly mark and trace its products: The world’s leading expert in the production of steel strips needed a laser marking system for its headquarters in Fellbach that was capable of performing reliable, precise, and durable engravings on steel strips without modifying the existing production infrastructure, and finally found the right cooperation partner in Mobil-Mark GmbH.
IPCO and Mobil-Mark: Two companies with unique innovations
The first cornerstone in IPCO’s company history was laid in 1901 with the invention of the steel belt: The first steel conveyor belt went into operation in a sawmill in Sweden. More than 100 years later, the steel belts of the internationally operating company, headquartered in Sandviken / Sweden, are still used today to transport a wide variety of products in order to simplify manufacturing processes worldwide. Through years of experience and the use of highly specialized technology, the company has taken a pioneering role in the market: IPCO’s steel belts are extremely strong and have a unique flatness and surface smoothness – properties that are essential for efficient production. In addition, the belts are very easy to clean, which plays a major role in hygiene-sensitive areas. But the areas of application go far beyond pure conveying: For example, the steel belts are also used for pressing, drying or freezing a wide variety of products for a wide range of target industries. From the manufacture of cookies to the production of medicines, the applications are thus very diverse. Steel belts have a particularly long life cycle and, compared to other conveyor belts, have the advantage of lower operating costs. Regular maintenance is therefore a must at IPCO. Although Mobil-Mark GmbH is a younger company, it too relies on a globally unique innovation to increase efficiency in many production areas: Mobile laser marking systems that are mobile to the product and can mark almost any material in a tamper-proof and durable manner. The laser marking systems are used in a wide variety of industries. Usually, products first have to be laboriously driven to a laser station, which generates additional logistical effort – and thus additional costs. Thanks to the handy laser system, however, laser marking can be carried out directly on the product. From wood to ceramics, from plastic to metal, Mobil-Mark has designed its laser systems to mark virtually any material for any industry.
Abrasion-resistant, fine engravings that stand up to any production environment
IPCO’s steel belts at the Fellbach site are manufactured in particular for the pharmaceutical, chemical and food industries, as well as for the automotive industry. Depending on the customer’s production environment, the steel belts have to withstand very challenging conditions, e.g. high or low temperatures, or fast belt speeds. Furthermore, depending on the application, the service life of an IPCO steel belt can easily exceed 20 years. With this in mind, it was very important to IPCO to find a laser capable of applying a not very deep, yet durable engraving. In addition, it had to be able to withstand the sometimes extreme customer production environments. It was also important to IPCO that the special surface finish of the steel strips would not be affected by the engraving. Conventional marking methods, such as those using etching inks, were out of the question, as these would wear away over time under these conditions. Another focus was also on the flexible, local operability of a laser: Since marking always takes place at the end of the production process or at the customer’s site, a laser system that was as mobile, safe and easy to operate as possible had to be found.
Mobile, safe, durable – laser system from Mobil-Mark meets all criteria
The solution was finally found at Mobil-Mark in Ulm: The laser system convinced the customer with its easy handling and the precisely fitting engraving result. The operator can simply move the compactly designed laser to the product and engrave it there at the touch of a button – with all-round protection. No additional safety precautions are required during this process, as the laser is certified to laser protection class 1 and can therefore be put into operation immediately at the desired location. The marking result also met the customer’s requirements: A fast-to-perform, easily legible, filigree engraving that also stands up to long-term use of the steel belts and meets hygienic standards. The laser system also scored points for its flexibility in inputting changing marking layouts: Contents can be changed and engraved within a very short time. Other parameters, such as date and time, update automatically and do not have to be re-entered.
The result: Optimized service process thanks to laser use
The use of the Mobil-Mark laser has enabled IPCO to optimize customer-specific service and maintenance processes: Using a serial number, employees are now able to read out all relevant data relating to the steel strip. Delivery bills, quotations, order confirmations and inspection records can thus be viewed directly at the customer’s premises. In particular, the life cycle of a steel belt can be precisely tracked in this way, even if it has already been in use for several years. This means that nothing stands in the way of complete documentation. The engraving itself can be carried out flexibly, safely and easily in just a few steps. Since the use of the Mobil-Mark laser system has proven successful for IPCO, plans are underway to equip the site in Sweden with the laser system.