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Fiber is the Star

Driven by R&D and customer service, LaserStar Technologies has turned its Florida facility into a manufacturing operation

Quality service is required to be competitive in the laser market for marking, cutting and welding. For LaserStar Technologies, “the key is always understanding and working closely with the customer to define their expectations in the beginning so there are no surprises in the end,” says James Gervais, president and COO.

A manufacturer of laser sources and systems, LaserStar serves the automotive, aerospace, medical device and dental, electronics, firearms, tool and die, and jewelry industries with its laser marking and engraving, laser cutting, manual laser welding systems and larger welding systems for industrial applications.

The company was founded in 1957 in Rhode Island. James Gervais and his father Donald acquired the business in 1988, began producing manual laser welding systems and renamed it LaserStar Technologies. In 2001, the California training and sales facility opened and is now located in Arcadia, Calif.

The Orlando, Fla., facility opened in 2005, and in 2014, LaserStar expanded it to a 12,000-sq.-ft. full-scale production facility. The Orlando site now manufacturers all FiberStar laser marking and engraving systems and laser cutting systems, and the iWeld manual laser welding systems. The Orlando and the Rhode Island facilities will produce over 600 laser systems, an increase of more than 100 units from last year.

 

See the FiberStar Tower marking system here.

“LaserStar experienced significant growth over the past five years and had reached capacity at the R.I. facility,” Gervais says. “We chose to move to where we felt the hub of the U.S. laser industry is located. The Central Florida corridor is the center of the laser industry, or the photonics industry, as they say.”

NASA is a strong technology driver in the area. The University of Central Florida, Orlando has an excellent photonics program. The Laser Institute of America is headquartered in Orlando. And a handful of large aerospace manufacturers and about a dozen other laser houses are located in the area, as well.

“LaserStar is highly driven by R&D and product development,” Gervais says. “The Orlando area has the manpower with the laser fundamentals knowledge we need. It made good business sense to build our team here and by networking, we found a key individual who had been in the laser industry more than 25 years to take a leadership role. We had 10 employees in Orlando and now have 26. It is a fully staffed service, engineering and design department. We will continue to grow with the business.”

 

The FiberStar rotary dial laser marking system is a high-volume production workstation that allows an operator to rapidly load/unload components and “quick release” load/unload preloaded fixtures.

The star line-up

The FiberStar line has been available for about five years. Per the name, the laser source is a fiber engine. Flash-based products are referred to as LaserStar. The fiber laser source (10 to 450 W) is maintenance-free. The sealed resonator engine is air-cooled; there is no need for consumable parts such as water filters and lamps. It operates using diodes that provide 80,000 hours of operational use.

Laser platforms vary in terms of work area size and laser power. “We pull from our supermarket of parts to build the system to fit the customer budget and production requirements,” Gervais says. “The FiberStar Tower is an industrial workstation available in two body sizes: the T24 for parts 20 in. long and the T36 for parts up to 32 in. LaserStar also offers custom FiberStar workstation designs and benchtop models.”

The standard 3805 Series FiberStar industrial laser marking workstation offers non-contact, abrasion-resistant, permanent laser marking, engraving or cutting on almost all metals, including steel-based metals, aluminum, titanium, gold, silver and platinum.

“We are experts in doing flat surface marking and 2-D and 3-D contour engraving of part information, readable alphanumerics, serial numbers, corporate logos, bar codes, 2-D matrix bar codes and a host of other identifying marks to any part,” Gervais says.

Also, advanced integrated motion for step-and-repeat marking and coordinated rotary motion for marking around a circumference are possible.

The 3806 Series FiberStar rotary dial laser marking system is a high-volume production workstation that allows an operator to rapidly load and unload components and “quick release” load and unload preloaded fixtures.

 

The FiberStar Tower is an industrial workstation available in two body sizes: the T24 for parts 20 in. long and T36 for parts up to 32 in.

Software support

A laser marking system is typically made up of a fiber laser engine; a scan head assembly incorporating a galvo system with two mirrors that steer or control the beam with a motor; and control software. LaserStar’s operating software provides complete coordination of all integrated systems, allowing the marking to be done efficiently and with the speed that can take advantage of the laser marker’s capabilities.

“Our entire marking code is written in-house,” Gervais says. “We have a powerful platform. We aren’t just buying pieces and putting them together. If someone has something outside the normal scope of capabilities, we can analyze it and then add it to the software.”

LaserStar’s software is a strong tool for high-volume production. Users can retrieve marking data from a remotely located database.

Watch a video of the FiberStar laser cutting system.

“We can write a software routine where the machine can go out and remotely grab the data file, import it into the system, collate it based on the sequence of data that is provided, and have the system feed it into the machine as each part is going though,” he explains. “These features allow high-volume users the ability to rapidly produce finished parts with quality, traceable marks.”

LaserStar can also write software that allows its customers’ customers to enter data, online for example, and then the software can take that order and all the operator has to do is press go. It’s called remote database interface software.

Gervais adds that the “real value in any laser marking system is the software’s ability to bring the image the customer requires to life. We have done some very impressive deep engraving applications. We can also colorize metal, create color tones and reverse engrave. This is the power of the software allowing the user to make cool stuff.”

LaserStar offers power levels from 10 to 100 W for marking and engraving. An entry-level power level system, say 10 or 20 W, is typically just for marking the surface or doing a light engraving. It only does a nominal amount of ablation.

But a mid-range power level system, such as the 30 and 50 W, provides more flexibility to do engraving and marking. For the highest speed and widest range of capabilities, including deep 2-mm (0.079-in.) engraving, people usually buy the 100-W system.

 Watch the FiberStar rotary dial laser marking system in action.

Powerful cutting

FiberStar industrial laser cutting workstations are available from 150, 300, 450 and 600 W for cutting up to 2-mm (0.079-in.) thick metal. For cutting, the systems also need the continuous wave mode or quasi CW mode versus the pulsing mode for marking.

“With continuous wave, you can get much more peak power levels out of the same wattage levels, which penetrates the material for cutting,” Gervais says. “The beam is on all the time, and the software controls the head to blank out the shape or pattern.”

The 3900 Series FiberStar laser cutter produces high-quality, dimensionally accurate cuts for a range of applications. The system offers a programmable 4-axis (X, Y, Z and optional rotary) CNC system controller and comes with LaserStar machining software and G-code conversion software.

Laser cutting is commonly used by manufacturers transitioning from a stamping or blanking operation to create a part. The part can be optimized for the laser cutting process during the CAD design and toolpath creation process.

“With laser cutting, the part is production-ready as soon as it is cut,” Gervais says. “The edges are clean, no deburring or secondary cleanup is required unlike stamping, punching and blanking operations. Also, blanks or patterns can be painted and then laser cut because it does not do any damage to the paint. With blanking or punching, parts can’t be painted in advance.”

Laser cutting is also good for short production runs because the user just makes the file and loads it into the machine. With stamping or punching, investment in a die is required, which only benefits high-volume runs.

Working together

It is important for LaserStar to understand what the customer is going to be cutting before making any sales. “If you are cutting stainless now, we want to know what other materials you want to do in the future,” Gervais says. “Or, if you are buying a machine for reflective metals, we might have to optimize the lenses or position the cutting head differently or you may need more power.” The company offers full application proof of concept testing or feasibility testing before accepting an order.

As a turnkey solution provider, LaserStar evaluates the customer’s laser marking, engraving or cutting requirements, defines the application goals and objectives, specifies the correct laser platform, and defines a complete laser marking system to accomplish the final results.

LaserStar Technologies