3 Cornerstones of Laser Systems for Plastic Extrusion Lines

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3 Cornerstones of Laser Systems for Plastic Extrusion Lines

Speed, accuracy, and reliability are the cornerstones for laser applications within plastic extrusion lines. At CMS Laser, we’ve developed systems for multiple industries incorporating on-the-fly laser processing for laser marking, laser cutting and laser drilling.

A high-volume manufacturing process, plastic extrusion produces items such as PVC pipe, irrigation drip tape, weather-stripping, window frames, plastic films and sheeting, and wire insulation, to name a few. The process is used across industries from medical device manufacturing to construction materials and agriculture.

Lasers are integrated into an extrusion line to perform one or more functions. Many extrusion lines require laser marking of product identification information, product sizing, compliance with government regulations and traceability identifiers. Others require lasers to cut slits or drill holes at programmed intervals.

While the final products are so different, there are certain requirements of the application that are consistent across industries. Let’s take a deeper look at how lasers can play a critical role in the plastic extrusion line.

Speed

Regardless of the application, laser marking, slitting, or drilling, speed is an essential component to a plastic extrusion line. In 1982, we pioneered on-the-fly laser systems – which essentially requires the laser to perform its function while the product is in motion – and have been working with clients to continually improve our technology.

One of the challenges of integrating a laser system into an extrusion line is matching the laser’s function with the overall manufacturing line. At CMS Laser, we recently reengineered our line of on-the-fly laser marking systems designed specifically for integration with high speed extrusion lines. Our lasers can operate within designed systems at an extrusion speed of more than 1,000 feet per minute.

Accuracy

Speed and accuracy go hand-in-hand in extrusion lines – one means nothing without the other. Whether it is laser cutting, drilling, or marking, the action has to be accurate and meet the application’s requirements. Vision and sensors are often integrated to give real-time updates to positioning and quality analysis process validation.

For example, in the manufacturing of irrigation drip tape, slits need to be created at defined intervals in order to allow adequate water to be regulated and distributed appropriately to the garden or farm. In this case, the laser cutting had to be carefully controlled as to not damage other mechanisms of the irrigation drip tape.

With laser marking, many extrusion lines require, distance markers, product identification information, product sizing, compliance with government regulations and traceability identifiers to be placed on the product. The marking must be clearly legible, permanent, and without additives, which makes laser marking the ideal solution. Control software and vision systems dynamically validate – at speed – the accuracy of the laser’s work.

Reliability

By its very nature, an extrusion line is in constant motion and often run 24/7. If a portion of the extrusion line malfunctions, or stops working, the product is compromised. This makes reliability essential for each piece of the line and designing a robust laser system that can handle the rigors of a non-stop extrusion production line is critical.

Final Thoughts

Though there are common threads for laser applications in plastic extrusion lines, there are nuances with each industry, product, and client. In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at a laser system we developed for a plastic extrusion line manufacturing irrigation drip tape.

Do you have a plastic extrusion line that requires a laser-based solution? Contact us today to discuss your needs and specifications.