A Bright Future for Automotive Laser Texturing

If one recent application is any indication, this technology could become more popular for texturing cosmetic interior molds on this side of the pond.

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In an example of the possibilities unlocked by laser texturing, a close look at this airbag cover mold reveals three different grains that morph together seamlessly. The tool was textured in Europe on lasers from GF Machining Solutions, which supplied this image.

Greater throughput. Less labor. Repeatable results. Exacting precision, and the new design possibilities that come with it. Broadly speaking, these are the advantages sought by manufacturing operations in all segments of industry. These are the goals engineers set out to achieve when they developed Computer Numeric Control, 3D modeling, robotics, and various other major innovations in modern manufacturing technology.

Yet, the nature of business—indeed, the nature of people—often leads to significant delay between initial development and widespread adoption. Whether by choice or through no fault of their own, manufacturers are left to make the most of outdated methods in the meantime. For one particular application common to the automotive industry, the wait could be shorter than some might think. Laser texturing, already an accepted method for imparting leather grains and other patterns on molds in Europe, was recently employed for an automotive interior application on this side of the pond.

I don’t mean to suggest that this technology is as Earth-shattering as some of the examples cited above. It’s just an analogy. However, I do think it’s an apt one, because all the cited benefits apply. Unlike traditional, manual methods, laser texturing machines can reproduce the same texture on multiple molds, even if the work is done at different places. Operators can program the machines and walk away. Those machines are also precise enough to unlock new texture possibilities. These benefits and more promise to streamline operations not just at texture houses, but also for OEMs, molders, and even toolmakers. 

Read this March issue feature article to learn more. Also, if you'll be attending the NPE show next week, look out for Custom Etch, the texture house covered in the article, and GF Machining Solutions, which supplied its laser machines. The companies will be showing off the technology at booths S13170 and S13168. 

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