Laser Ablation Makes Automotive Interiors Shine

PREH, Saale Germany, manufactures electronic controls for some of today’s finest automobiles. Production facilities are located in Portugal, Mexico, Romania, and the USA. PREH uses laser ablation technology to manufacture the controls that operate climate and driver systems. This process is made possible when a focused laser beam is used to remove layers of coatings to form an optically transmissive area of the device. This transmissive, laser etched area forms the symbol that informs the driver of the controls function.


Kevin Kirkham, Northwest Regional Sales Manager, Ophir-Spiricon

Recently, Alfonso Guipsot, laser systems engineer from the PREH facility in Guadalupe, Nuevo León, México, contacted an Ophir-Spiricon Sales Engineer with a problem. Residue from the removed coatings was covering the laser beam delivery optics. This reduced the power of the laser beam and was causing the etching process to fail. Alfonso needed a way to let the laser operators know if the laser beam was too weak to produce satisfactory components.

According to Alfonso, “The power measurement is really important for us because the laser beam power needs to be stable in order to etch the parts so they always have the same appearance. In order to have a stable process, it is necessary to know the status of the equipment and be able to perform preventive actions. With this data it is possible to keep the power (beam) stable.”

Alfonso continued, “If we know when a laser starts decreasing the power, then we can react in order to implement corrective actions (cleaning and mirror alignment). In our Nd:YAG lasers, the (PC interface) Juno and F150A-BB-26 thermopile through StarLab measurements, we can make better reports of the status for our systems.”

Alfonso used the F150A-BB-26 150 Watt thermopile laser power sensor and JUNO, USB interface to provide instantaneous power reading to the StarLab software. StarLab permitted Alfonso to observe trends and correlate proper laser power levels to good processes and low power levels to unsatisfactory etching on products that failed their QC inspection.

A screen shot from the StarLab application shows dropping laser power levels.

Careful record keeping of laser power measurements and correlation of acceptable and unacceptable product enabled Alfonso to establish “no-go” laser power levels. Cleaning the laser optics exposed to contaminate from the ablation processes before the power level fell below the acceptable threshold allowed PREH to produce only acceptable, high quality laser etched products.

Contact Ophir-Spiricon or your local Ophir-Spiricon distributor to help you develop a laser preventative maintenance program to keep your investment in laser technology and the quality of your laser process at top performance.

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