King's Marking Service (South El Monte, California), which gets 40 percent of its business from marking serial numbers on specialty tools created for automobile assembly, was using an electric hand engraver and hydraulic- and pneumatic-powered press and roll markers to permanently mark parts. For delicate parts or products requiring radial marking, the company was using an electric hand engraver. This tool, held like a pencil, required the operator to write the serial number on the part. But, because King's is a specialty shop, customers were expecting high-quality marks completed in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Owner Bill King realized that these marking machines and tools were inadequate to deliver the quality marking requirements of his customers. Press and roll markers occasionally damaged parts during the marking process or required expensive custom numbering heads or dies to mark small parts. The electric hand engraver was uncomfortable, extremely time consuming and did not produce a high-quality mark. Mr. King decided it was time to invest in a new marking machine.
He looked into purchasing a laser marker to help meet his additional marking needs. While lasers create a high-quality mark and can handle large quantities of parts, they are expensive and require a clean and cool operating environment.
During his investigation of lasers, one of King's customers submitted a job and specified stylus marking as the method to be used. As Mr. King researched stylus markers for this application, he discovered they could handle large production volumes and create high-quality marks at a fraction of the cost of a laser marker. He contacted a number of manufacturers and eventually purchased a Styliner Mark Series stylus marker from Geo. T. Schmidt, Inc. (Niles, Illinois).
Computer-controlled stylus markers can mark serial numbers, company logos and date codes that meet ISO traceability requirements on everything from wing nuts to aircraft wing components. They can be outfitted to operate in production environments not conducive to lasers and can be configured in one of three ways: as a table-top or stand-alone system; as a fully integrated part of a production line; or as a portable, hand-held system.
The computer control of a stylus marker also offers added flexibility. Operators simply create or select a mark to be produced and program its position with respect to length, width, and, with Z-axis capability, height on an object. The mark can be checked on a monitor for accuracy before it is made—reducing operating error and the risk of incorrectly marked parts that must be scrapped. Most stylus marking software can translate logos and graphics by importing CAD images or other HPGL graphics—eliminating the need to purchase special dies. Data also can be accepted from interfaces including data files, serial ports, search tables, vision reading systems, and bar code inputs.
Today, the electric hand engraver previously used for delicate parts and radial marking virtually has been replaced by the stylus marker. "A job that required us to mark 12,000 parts would have taken three workers one week to complete using the electric hand engraver," Mr. King said. "With the stylus marker, one employee can finish the job in half the time and produce higher quality marks."
The stylus marker has also been used by Mr. King to complete jobs not entirely suitable for press or roll markers.
While King's Marking Service currently uses the 4 by 4 stylus marker for marking serial numbers, the company anticipates using it to mark date codes and create logos. "Since we installed it, the stylus marker has cut down on marking time, saved us money on purchasing numbering heads and dies, and increased our ability to get new business," Mr. King said. He even expects to add another stylus marker to his shop in the near future.