USA: Laselec has developed a marking process specially designed for aluminium wire. Produced at the request of international aerospace group Airbus, this novel process, which has resulted in the lodging of several patents, involves pre-marking spots with laser. A high degree of precision is required in order to position the dots: this was a challenge for Laselec, which the specialist in laser wire marking managed to overcome.
In order to meet current weight-reduction constraints, aluminium wire is being used extensively and increasingly in the latest generation of aircraft. To give an idea of the significance of the issue, an A380 aircraft, manufactured by Airbus, requires over 500km of wires and cables of various kinds, and each section must be clearly identified in order to facilitate maintenance.
Further to requests from Airbus, Laselec has designed and developed a specific process for the marking of aluminium cables that is perfectly adapted to their characteristics. Laselec has a proven track record in the field, having successfully developed the first-ever system for stamping and identifying cables with the help of UV-laser technology, as early as 1989.
The latest technology developed by Laselec consists in a pre-marking of the spots by laser. The spots need to be positioned with the utmost precision in order to guarantee the safety of the crimping process. The key issue is that, on this type of aluminium cables, the contact points are totally leak-proof, without any openings that would enable the operator to check, by the end of the process, that the operation has indeed been carried out correctly.
At present, cabling companies use ‘felt-tip’ markers. As Eric Dupont, CEO of Laselec, explains: "The main disadvantage of this manual method stems from the imprecise and non-permanent nature of the resulting markings, which precludes any verification, after the event, of the crimping operation. Pre-marking the cables with laser-printed dots that are positioned with great precision solves these problems and, thus, guarantees the security of the operation.”
The novel process for the marking of aluminium wires, which has resulted in the lodging of several patents by Airbus and Laselec, has been approved, and should shortly be deployed by wiring and cabling companies across the aerospace industry.
The use of a laser system guaranteeing a permanent marking solution that does not damage the insulator represents a genuine technological breakthrough in the cable and wire marking sector. Widely used in both civilian and military programmes, this technique has proved very successful in various sectors. This is particularly true of the automotive industry, for top-of-the-range, competition and rally vehicles.
The models available in the ULYS Modena range, developed by Laselec, are upgradeable, enabling the end-user to meet all marking requirements. Designed for low-volume production sites, the basic ULYS 110 units can be adapted to achieve the unrivalled productivity levels offered by the ULYS 990, which is equipped with two lasers. The MRO 200, for its part, has been developed by Laselec to meet the specific requirements of aircraft maintenance, modification and repair centres. ULYS Modena and MRO 200 are computer-controlled and fully automated, which makes them easy to use and guarantees a high level of productivity.
Laselec has also designed a sample tester, the MT 200, in order to verify the UV markability of cable and wire types currently under development, and to carry out periodical inspections of the cables (or wires) during production. The new EN 4650 standard underlines the manufacturer’s responsibility for the composition of wires and their various characteristics, which must remain unchanged after undergoing laser marking.
More than ever before, the MT 200 is emerging as a vital tool for verifying the suitability of the contrast level under the laser irradiation conditions applied by the users. The COMET system completes this range of equipment, offering the possibility to check the contrast of the markings once they have been applied. The software integrated into the COMET system performs the real-time analysis of the data obtained from a digital camera and a dual optical-fibre sample lighting system.
Laselec’s cable and wire marking equipment is widely used by the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, including Agusta Westland, Airbus, BAE Systems, Bell Helicopters, Boeing, Bombardier Aerospace, Cessna Aircraft, Changhe Aircraft, EADS, Embraer, Eurocopter, Gulfstream Aerospace, HAL, Hawker Beechcraft, Honda Aircraft, IAI, MIG, Sikorsky Global Helicopters, Shanghai Aircraft, and Tusas Aerospace.