7 July 2006

FOBA Laser Marking + Engraving Laser: The innovative key technology with the great potential for development


As a tool used for materials processing, the laser is still a long way from achieving its full development potential. New applications are constantly being added, and the laser sector expects double-digit growth until 2010. Lasers have been used in materials processing for 25 years, and for the last 15 years this is the field in which FOBA Technology + Services, based in Lüdenscheid, has been involved in development, production and sales.

Company history

The company, founded in 1969 for the purpose of mould-making and engraving, started its involvement with laser technology in 1991. The parent company at that time, Hasco in Lüdenscheid, was looking for efficient methods of manufacturing date stamps for injection-moulding tools. The first functioning laser was produced after a short period of development. Since then, two-dimensional deep engravings have been carried out on metal. The first laser was sold just one year after the company´s start in laser technology, and was used for engraving metal. Although at the start, only a few systems were sold each year, since1998 FOBA has regularly sold hundreds of systems annually. Starting in 1996, in addition to Germany, marketing activities have also taken place in the USA and Asia, and since 2001 FOBA has concentrated 100% on the development, production and sales of laser systems and special solutions for our customers´ needs.

Today, Virtek of Canada is FOBA´s majority owner, and this has resulted in a tremendous expansion of worldwide services. FOBA´s employees are proud of having delivered the 2000th laser system last year.

Concentration on core activities

Thanks to its superior systems, consistent concentration on a few very sophisticated fields of application has enabled FOBA to position itself at the technical peak of its field. All the applications take place in the laser marking or laser engraving sectors. Using increasingly powerful computers and deflector units, today´s laser systems write at speeds which would have been almost unthinkable just a short time ago. Nowadays, marking lasers are used for applications from model designation to graphic design, from production data to traceability to the production of scales and characters. In many cases they have replaced conventional procedures such as printers, inkjets or engraving processes. In the field of 3D depth engraving, machine tool processes such as erosion and HSC milling are supplemented or, in some cases, replaced.

Wherever permanent, forgery-proof information needs to be transferred quickly, and with varying contents, to a component or object , the laser normally has no competition. Plastic parts, identification cards, tool inserts, day and night parts inside an automobile, or semi-conductor chips there is virtually no end to the list of opportunities for laser marking. Despite this, FOBA specialises in the following sectors:

Day and night design.

This refers to the removal of lacquer from lacquered plastic parts, most of which are found in automobile interiors as switches, air conditioning panels or radios. However, recently many other branches have also become aware of the possibilities, for example the manufacturers of white goods as well as the manufacturers of switches used in electrical installation.

3D deep engraving:

Convincing a toolmaker that instead of using a milling machine to remove steel, he should be using light, takes a lot of impressive arguments and dealing with prejudices. On the other hand, this also means constant striving for improvements in order to establish laser engraving as the third discipline next to milling and eroding in tool manufacture. Already in standard use in the 2D sector for marking tools, in the next few years the laser will also become increasingly popular in the manufacture of mould nests and surface texturing. With the entry level G5 machine, the Lüdenscheid laser specialists have created a best seller. This machine is currently responsible for almost 20% of the company´s turnover, but in the coming years it will represent one third, even against a background of impressively rising turnover.

ID cards

So what do personal ID cards in Thailand have in common with FOBA? That´s easy eight lasers from Lüdenscheid are in operation in a large personalisation unit. Because of the need to prevent forgeries, and the low number of operating hours, grid images also need to be generated by laser, not just text. Next year, the new health insurance card, incorporating an image, will be introduced into Germany. As regards technology, real revolutions have taken place in the last two years. Only two years ago it was possible to produce a 200 dpi image in 10 seconds, but now we can create a 400 dpi image in under 2 seconds, with considerably improved system stability and operating life.

Lasers for standard uses also benefit from all these developments.

Development and innovation

All this means that the systems on offer today no longer require water cooling, and, thanks to the guaranteed operating life of the pump diodes which generate the laser light they are virtually maintenance-free. This summer, FOBA will be presenting two new 10 and 20 watt fiber lasers. These units are especially suitable for integration in production lines because they are very compact, and their excellent beam quality deals well with almost all materials to be marked. A complete system has also been developed for use as a table-top model, and at a total price less than a single laser used to cost.

In addition, the new entry level G5 for 3D deep engraving was introduced in May of this year. Customers´ needs have been consistently incorporated in the new machine. As well as the enlarged operating area and the improved ease of operability, the innovative benefits are also reflected in the excellent value-for-money factor.

Worldwide presence

Just visit FOBA´s internet home page for a good overview of the wide range of servicing and marketing channels. More than ever, today it is also important for German customers to get the same level of service for the lasers they use in their foreign subsidiaries in Eastern Europe, the USA, South America and Asia as they have come to expect in Germany.

Furthermore, laser technology has become one of the leading lights of German medium-sized industries, and this is also known and appreciated by many customers abroad. In Asia, especially, where there are many local manufacturers, FOBA products stand out even against the best competition. This can only be achieved with constant innovation and with the best possible service for durable products, and by concentrating on belonging to the technological elite worldwide in just a few carefully-chosen sectors.

Contact: Clive Morrison

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