Laser texturing possibilities

03 Jan 2021

Engineering capacity news posted by Andy Sandford

A new laser machine tool is opening up application opportunities for Fimark, a specialist subcontractor focused on laser etching, engraving, cutting and texturing.

The AgieCharmilles LASER P 400U has strengthened the company’s existing capabilities and enabled it to develop new application opportunities in the laser 3D market.

Charles Dean, Fimark’s managing director, says: “Laser texturing is a fully-digitalised surface engineering process that has huge potential.

The technology enables precise 2D and 3D textures to be machined accurately and directly onto complex parts and its application is being used by across a diverse range of industry sectors. These include automotive, aerospace, medical devices, watch making and jewelry.

Fimark was established in 1997 and in its early days was primarily focused on providing high-quality laser engraving and marking services to customers.

By late 2019 an increase in demand for high-quality laser machining services was putting pressure on the company’s existing laser resources.

Charles Dean says: “It was clear that we needed to increase our laser machining capacity and capabilities.

The new LASER P 400U is a compact and versatile 5-axis machine that can accommodate workpieces up to 600mm x 400mm x 250mm.

The machine features a dual laser head that can incorporate both an ytterbium pulsed (nanosecond) fibre laser and an ultra-short femtosecond pulsed laser.

This allows different laser operations to be undertaken on a single machine and significantly increases the range of materials that can be processed.

The machine, with its 30µm laser beam width, is ideal for machining small components with delicate and intricate shapes, features and textures- with 3D functional textures a potentially significant growth area.

Specific textures can be created, for example, to enhance the tribological properties of surfaces to improve their load bearing capacities or to reduce friction and wear.

In addition to ‘functional’ textures, surface texturing can also be used for aesthetic effect. Typical examples of this include special editions and customised versions of luxury goods with laser texturing technology providing a cost-effective alternative to more traditional methods such as engraving and chemical etching.

Charles Dean says: “In many aesthetic and functional applications laser texturing has a number of undoubted advantages over more conventional surface etching processes. For example it is less harmful to the environment; less labour intensive; and a more reliable and repeatable process.

“This is where the future of laser machining lies and, with our latest investment, we are making sure that we are positioned at the forefront of these developments.”