Today’s aerospace and defense OEMs depend on tens-of-thousands of parts that make up systems built by hundreds of diverse companies. They may be the most complex types of manufacturing, with millions of dollars in investments, and millions of lives, depending on the reliable function of their finished products.
“In aerospace and defense manufacturing, traceability is vitally important,” says Nicholas Kaczmarski, National Sales Manager – Beamer Laser Marking Systems®. “Because of that, clear and accurate marking of parts is also vitally important; and for clarity and accuracy, there’s no better system than laser marking.”
Legacy marking systems including ink, dot peen and chemical etching, that are still at work in some aerospace and defense manufacturing operations can present problems, according to Kaczmarski.
“Ink marking is vulnerable to damage from foreign substances like oil and it carries the additional cost of the ink,” he says. “Chemical etching, like ink marking, carries the additional cost of acid-based paint and template paper; and, because of the waste produced by the system, requires manufacturers to maintain wastewater treatment systems to dispose of chemical waste. Dot peen is effective in permanent marking metal but reading dot peen marking may be a problem for high-definition, high speed devices; and, because it is a mechanical process, there are concerns regarding maintenance and repair.”
All three of these legacy systems also share a common drawback, compared with laser marking systems, according to Kaczmarski – they’re time-consuming.
“Laser marking is fast, flexible, repeatable, enhances traceability, and it’s a one-button operation,” he explains. “It saves time in the manufacturing process because it relies on programable actions that reduce operator interface. Part numbers and bar codes can be created with consistency throughout production of all parts and components. This speeds up cycle time and increases productivity.”
Kaczmarski also notes that the software associated with laser marking is capable of automatically generating vital information like serial numbers, versus keying in vital information with ink and chemical etching marking. It’s a more straightforward process that enhances the traceability required by regulatory standards for both aerospace and defense manufacturing.
Regulations and Standards Govern these Industries
Stringent government regulations and industry standards control all the manufacturing processes – including parts marking – for the commercial aerospace and defense industries. Adherence to these regulations and standards is critical to any manufacturer maintaining its business sustainability.
Let’s look at the reasons for regulations and standards.
Regulatory authorities including the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) mandate that aerospace and defense components be permanently marked to ensure authenticity and traceability throughout the supply chain and into service.
Although marking itself adds no intrinsic value to a component and performs no technical functional, it is central to the smooth operation of the industry. It allows components to be correctly tracked, identified, assembled, maintained, and positioned throughout the manufacturing process.
So, where does laser marking fit in within these regulations and standards?
“In defense manufacturing, a DoD standard, often called a military standard (MIL-STD or MIL-SPEC), is used to help achieve standardization,” says Kaczmarski. “MIL-STD-130 standardizes ‘Identification Marking of U.S. Military Property’ and provides direction on how to mark parts and systems sold to the DoD. The latest version, MIL-STD-130N, specifies laser marking as an approved method. The same is true in commercial aerospace.
“The FAA adheres to AS9100C, a standard published by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) titled ‘Quality Systems-Aerospace-Model for Quality Assurance in Design, Development, Production, Installation and Servicing’,” he adds. “Laser marking is approved within this internationally recognized standard for commercial aviation as well.”
Shift to Laser Marking Technology
With increased accuracy and speed, its range of application in metals, composites and exotic materials, and its cost-effectiveness, laser marking holds a clear advantage over any other marking system in aerospace and defense manufacturing.
“OEMs in aerospace and defense are pushing suppliers to improve traceability and accuracy,” Kaczmarski says. “When combined with the additional pressures these OEMs are putting on suppliers to decrease cycle time, improve productivity and cut costs, it’s going to require a move away from legacy marking systems and embracing laser marking technology.”
And Beamer Laser Marking Systems is equipped to help those suppliers of any size.
“Beamer has a CAGE (Commercial and Government Entity) code – assigned by DoD for bidding on defense projects,” he says. “We also understand the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) standards and how they relate to MIL-SPECs. Tier 2 and 3 suppliers, and even Tier 1 suppliers don’t have to be experts in the application of regulations and standards when it comes to their parts marking, we can provide that expertise – along with the best laser marking solutions in the industry.”
About Beamer Laser Marking Systems®
Beamer Laser Marking Systems, a part of ARCH® Cutting Tools, means American-made quality in a full range of fiber laser marking machines providing an industry-leading 100,000+ working-hour span. In industries from automotive to aerospace and defense, medical and more; save production time and boost productivity with these affordable solutions.Beamer offers user-friendly off-the-shelf standalone turnkey solutions as well as custom fully automated solutions with extremely fast turnaround times. Whatever your direct part marking needs – Beamer has a solution that will enhance your product quality and give your operation a competitive edge. www.beamerlasermarking.com
Stacey Eeman, Director – Marketing & Business Development