Custom Etch in New Castle, Pa., specializes in high-volume texturing and engraving projects for a multitude products used worldwide, including automotive parts, housewares, aerospace, medical, beverage, lawn and garden equipment and toys. But, to increase its capabilities and capacity for texturing projects, the 35-employee shop recently installed GF Machining Solutions’ Laser 4000 5Ax machine, described as the world’s largest 5-axis laser-texturing system. It is the first shop in North America to adopt this machine, giving it the means to produce a variety of flawless textures on oversized workpieces — parts that are comparable in size to compact cars.
The Laser 4000 5Ax is one of five models in GF Machining Solutions’ laser texturing product line. It explained that laser technology is faster, quieter, and more repeatable than conventional manual and chemical etching processes. Also, the laser technology achieves 30 to 50 layers of etching capability, compared to chemical etching which produces only three to five layers, allowing for more creativity in part design for various materials, including graphite, aluminum, copper, steel, carbide, brass and ceramics.
The new Laser 4000 5Ax is the third, and largest GF Machining Solutions 5-axis laser-texturing machine at work for Custom Etch. According to Don Melonio, vice president the shop also relies on the brand’s Laser 1000 5Ax and Laser 1200 5Ax.
Melonio explained that surface texture is an especially important aspect of product design for many industries, in particular because of manufacturers’ increased emphasis on product differentiation. He said Custom Etch invested in the Laser 4000 5Ax to expand its operations and to help its customers develop more unique design opportunities for oversized workpieces.
“The laser-texturing technology from GF Machining Solutions propels forward the development, prototyping, and manufacturing of our customers’ products. It also provides a level of accuracy, detail and repeatability – especially helpful with mold repair areas – that are unachievable with conventional etching processes,” Melonio said.
The Laser 4000 5Ax will produce textures on components with maximum workpiece dimensions of 13 Wx10 Dx5 H feet. Put another way, the Laser 1200 5Ax accommodates parts with height, width, and depth dimensions up to 2 feet 4 inches.
The extra-large capacity machine operates around the workpiece, such that parts remain stationary on the shop floor as the machine’s axes move around it, imparting the desired texturing on any face or the part, as needed. These movements are possible because the machine’s fourth and fifth axes are attached to the Z-axis head. Additionally, the Laser 4000 5Ax manages 3D distortion of texture and masters texture direction related to part shape.
Because it is a fully digitized process, the Laser 4000 5Ax allows Custom Etch to develop a design, preview it as a digital prototype, and reproduce it on a workpiece. The machine includes on-board machining strategies to ensure optimal machine performance, best material removal rate, and accurate reproduction of the intended texture.