A very trusting and successful business relationship connects the companies Lasercomb, based in Notzingen, and the laser manufacturer ROFIN (now Coherent). For over 20 years, the Swabian company has been using CO2 lasers produced in the Hamburg facility − and for good reason: the laser’s economical operation and low maintenance costs have proven to be perfect for the machine manufacturer's systems.
In addition to mechanical cutting, milling and water jet systems, Lasercomb develops and manufactures laser-based production systems which are used in the packaging industry and in die making. The medium-sized company, which focuses on high-tech solutions, enjoys an excellent international reputation when it comes to complete solutions for demanding customers.
This was not the case in 1973, when the company was founded near Stuttgart. One of their first developments was a laser-based system for woodworking using lasers.
Subsequently, Lasercomb designed and installed a laser cutting system for die making in Yugoslavia in 1975. The system was equipped with one of the first industrially available CO2 lasers from a British company. However, the lasers soon proved to be too maintenance-intensive and prone to failure. These lasers were also troublesome during transport or cold weather. On top of this, the unfavorable exchange rate to the British pound finally made the use of these lasers uneconomical.
A series of other fast-flow CO2 lasers followed until 1995, when the starting shot was fired for a success story with systems equipped with diffusion-cooled Slab lasers. From that point on, all Lasercomb laser-based systems - from the compact, low-cost entry-level version through the cross-table laser system to the maximum automated rotation system - were equipped with CO2 Slab lasers from Coherent. These lasers utilize only a few, extremely durable components and do not require conventional gas circulation, which considerably reduces maintenance and service work. As in many other applications which processes organic materials, the CO2 laser is also considered the method of choice in die making and the packaging industry, because the 10 micrometer wavelength is strongly absorbed by these materials.
"In Coherent we have found an extremely professional supplier who provides us with efficient, reliable and low-maintenance beam sources with top service. The Slab laser guarantees mature technology, high process reliability and cost-effectiveness. Of course, our customers are also happy about this," explains Lasercomb Managing Director Ralf Penzkofer.
Today, Lasercomb concentrates primarily on development, design and sales. Component production is outsourced to partners throughout Europe, so that the company can fully concentrate on in-house solution concepts for customers' new complex tasks. However, the final assembly and test runs take place at the Notzingen plant. Here, the 40 employees work in a 2100 m2 production area, with another 800 m2 of demonstration and administration areas, in order to deliver about 15 laser-based systems every year to customers all over the world.
Penzkofer attributes the success of the Lasercomb systems to the fact that they offer the best overall technology. The systems combine the basic production processes for die making - cutting, milling and marking - in an intelligent and efficient way. The many years of experience in laser system and special machine construction, and the reliability of the lasers in these systems, ultimately enable the customer to produce efficiently and with minimal downtime.
Over the years, they provided customers with increasingly effective and easier to operate systems. For example, in laser-based systems, customers can now benefit from a scanner solution for marking that transfers specifications directly from CAD to the machine in the shortest possible time, so that the laser can produce text or logos directly on the die. Of course, new product developments in areas such as networking and remote maintenance contribute to the continuous optimization of the systems.
According to Ralf Penzkofer, the advantages and cost-effectiveness of the laser-based systems have also contributed to the fact that the company has been able to record a significant increase in business in the US in recent years. "We are now delivering a much higher volume, as the advantages over local competitors have become clearer. Due to the high local energy costs, more and more US customers are opting for our Slab laser systems. One of our US customers replaced two systems, each with a 2 kW laser of older technology, with a system having a 2.5 kW laser and an integrated scanner solution for marking. This can save 4,000 USD in electricity per month and 30,000 USD in gas costs per year."
So, there are many good reasons why an innovative Swabian and an economical laser go so well together. That's why Coherent has also supplied the 250th Slab laser to the Swabian machine manufacturer.