Lasers aren't new for marking medical tools. In fact, about 80 percent of medical-device manufacturers already use them. But a new laser device that integrates a digital camera into the marking system has the potential to save manufacturers substantial production time because printing changeover time is less than a minute compared with anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours in other products.
The product also can reduce waste because of built-in software that prevents parts from being marked incorrectly.
Medical-product manufacturers mark parts for brand-name identification and traceability.
``We have developed a system in which the camera is an integral part of the laser marking and engraving system,'' said Linda McIntosh, product marketing manager at Foba Technology and Services GmbH. The company showcased the Foba G5 laser engraving device with its patented intelligent mark positioning for the first time at the Medical Design and Manufacturing East show, held June 6-8 in New York. The company also exhibited at NPE 2006, held June 19-23 in Chicago (Booth N8318).
The company said its laser engraver is the first for medical products with a camera incorporated into the laser. There is only one Foba G5-IMP currently in use.
Foba, based in Ludenschneid, Germany, is a part of Virtek Vision International Inc. of Waterloo, Ontario.
``The camera sees exactly what the laser sees,'' which increases part marking efficiency compared with systems with cameras mounted on the side - where parts are marked and shuttled back and forth - or systems with angled cameras - where image distortion can cause improperly marked products, said McIntosh, who is based in Waterloo.
She added that the Foba G5 with IMP also eliminates the need for companies to maintain an extensive inventory of fixtures that can cost anywhere from $500 to thousands of dollars.
The system - which includes the enclosure, software and mounting table for the laser engraving product - can cost upward of $180,000. McIntosh said the G5 would be particularly helpful in marking smaller parts, under 0.5 millimeter.