Case Study: Jacobs Vehicle Systems Laser Marking Creates Traceability for Truck Parts (English), Überblick


Jacobs Vehicle Systems moves to 100% part validation
on engine brakes by installing FOBA laser marking
stations with integrated vision inspection.

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Jacobs Vehicle Systems moves to 100% part validation

on engine brakes by installing FOBA laser marking

stations with integrated vision inspection.

The broad range of solutions FOBA marking lasers provide for

automotive part traceability goes far beyond the pure laser

marking of an identification code. Particularly important, what

sets the FOBA solution apart from its competition, is its unique

three stage closed-loop marking process HELP (Holistic Enhanced

Laser Process) that covers part verification prior to marking, laser

marking, and then validation of traceability codes directly after

marking with just one marking laser station.

The rocker arm for a Jacobs Vehicle Systems engine brake is
marked with a traceability code applied by a FOBA laser marking
system. Afterwards, the code is validated directly in the laser
workstation using the built-in inspection system.

Case Study: Jacobs Vehicle Systems

Laser Marking Creates Traceability for Truck Parts

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Case Study: Jacobs Vehicle Systems

Traceability is key –

in commercial truck productions

In commercial truck productions – where vehicles are manufactured with

thousands of components produced by several suppliers from different

countries around the world – most components require record keeping,

and traceability is key.

Traceability, the capability of tracking goods along the supply
chain, provides real-time information on where, how, and by
whom parts are produced and integrated. Such an approach
provides means of reducing, controlling, or eliminating recalls
during production processes.

An example of a traceability challenge is Jacobs Vehicle Sys-
tems Inc. in Bloomfield, Connecticut, a manufacturer of diesel
and natural gas engine retarding systems and valve actuation
mechanisms. To support a request from one of their largest
customers for improved traceability, Jacobs was faced with the
requirement to add scannable, laser-marked traceability
content to the brake rocker arm during manufacturing and

On previous processes of rocker arms, products had been
marked and validated in a two-step process. First, the operator
loaded the part in the laser marker and got it marked which
usually took 10 seconds; then the part was taken to a nearby
located vision grading station in order to verify the 2D code
grade which took another 45 seconds. This additional, time-
consuming step impacted productivity. That's why Jacobs has
not been verifying 100 % of the parts but only some 20 per day
and only during breaks. Moving to a fully automated solution
improved cycle time, guaranteeing 100% validation. This
option was very attractive for Jacobs.

Brent Mayerson, manufacturing process
control engineer at Jacobs Vehicle Systems
works with the FOBA Vario S20F laser
marking workstation for code
marking and validation.

Process and quality requirements:
1) Laser marking (2D code and other information)
2) Validation of 2D code immediately after marking for all parts
3) Keep cycle time within 25 seconds

Jacobs' requirement for improved traceability:

Code marking and 100% validation in one go

Just before final assembly, the rocker arm is tagged with a data matrix code – a 2D

code including basic components and manufacturing information – and a human

readable content. One key requirement was that the code had to be validated on 100%

of the parts and pass a C or higher grade for it to be acceptable. Additionally, the cycle time

had to be held within 25 seconds. The 2D code grading process guarantees traceability of

the applied mark throughout the assembly process and the lifetime of the product.

Automated validation saves 45 seconds per part

Brent Mayerson, manufacturing process control engineer at
Jacobs, comments,

→   On the new line, the complete grading process added less

than one second to the full 20-second process, a significant
improvement compared to the other line’s two-step oper-
ation, and a time saving of 45 seconds per part.

→   The production throughput could be increased by 50% while

achieving the goal of 100% part inspection which is crucial as
recalls can have dire consequences.

→   With FOBA's IMP technology Jacobs could reduce the labor

cost per part by 33%. This in turn represented a significantly
faster, 30% to 50%, return on investment.

The recorded information, which include date, time, production
information, and passing code, is available for storage on a net-
work drive or the cloud and can be used to manage customer

After the evaluation of possible technologies to improve performance and cycle time,

Jacobs opted for the laser marking capabilities of Foba because of its Intelligent Mark

Positioning (IMP) vision alignment technology. Foba lasers provided some clear

advantages to the manufacturing requirement of the commercial truck industry.

→   Marking with immediate validation

directly in the marking laser station saves
45 seconds production time per part and
ensures 100% part inspection!

“The fact that Foba could do 100% in-system validation
eliminated the need for a separate machine. Saving space
and operator time were key benefits.”

The ability to validate the 2D code right after the part has been
marked, without the need for an operator to handle the part,
eliminates extra handling that directly affects cycle time. The
validation process consists not only in grading the 2D code, but
also in validating its unique content, something that would
not have been possible on a remote station without
adding a tracking process and networked devices.

Compression release brakes, also referred to as Jake brakes,
are engine brakes for large vehicles such as diesel trucks. When
activated, the Jake brake opens the exhaust valves near the top
of the compression stroke, releasing the highly compressed air
through the exhaust system. Little energy is returned to the
piston, and as the cycle repeats, the energy of the trucks for-
ward motion is dissipated, causing the truck to slow down.

More than 5 decades ago, Jacobs Vehicle Systems revolutionized
the engine braking industry in the United States. Since then, the
company has evolved into a global partner trusted by the
world's best-known engine manufacturing brands.

Jacobs Vehicle Systems

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The marked content, such as the lot number, serial numbers,
and a 2D code have to be readable by machines and humans.
Sizing down the content is not always desirable, particularly
with data matrix codes that require a minimum size as they
need to be read by most commercial readers.

Challenging: precise mark alignment
With limited space, the alignment of the mark can be a chal-
lenge as some of it may not fully land on the part. These slip-
ups can look innocuous but could have a direct negative im-
pact on the product’s workmanship.

Laser-integrated vision ensures high-quality marking
To address these challenges, Foba’s patented IMP (Intelligent
Mark Positioning) vision technology – basis of the HELP pro-
cess (Holistic Enhanced Laser Process) – offers laser-integra-
ted validation tools: Tools that validate the part identity and
automatically align the traceability content to the part. Of-
ten, parts from the same family, that can only be differentia-
ted by a hole size or a part length, are easily confused by ope-
rators. Validating the part identity adds a layer of safety that
prevents the wrong part from being laser marked. The mark
alignment feature, on the other hand, compensates for those
situations where the part is not properly seated in its fixture
and aligns the mark to the part.

Case Study: Jacobs Vehicle Systems

The latest laser marking technology:

Solves many challenges and reduces production costs

With the evolution of lean manufacturing, suppliers are continuously challenged

to find solutions that minimize manufacturing risks, improve yield and throughput

while tracking processes in real-time. The latest marking laser developments provide

significant benefits.

Parts traceability and record keeping of manufactured components have evolved from the human readable mecha-
nical recording such as dot peen (micro-percussion created by a hard needle) to state of the art non-contact techno-
logy such as lasers. Lasers have opened the doors to faster and more complex marking solutions, like gray scale
marking, annealing, engraving, or layer and lacquer removal. With today’s technology, digital tracking of production
processes has evolved and made many tasks easier.

Benefits of marking lasers
The use of semiconductors and fiber optics in lasers has enabled marking/engraving systems to come in smaller
packages that now can sit on the user’s desktop. They are rugged, air-cooled, run on standard power outlets, require
close to zero maintenance, and will outlast compact fluorescent, low consumption kitchen light bulbs. Today’s
lasers are easier to use, and come with improved mark accuracy, stability, and performance. Combined with their
lower costs of production, lasers have achieved a strong market penetration.

Answering lean manufacturing requirements
Motor vehicle part manufacturers are continuously pushing for further ways of reducing costs of production.
Manufacturing space comes at a premium, and manufacturers are always looking at ways of packing more perfor-
mance and production capabilities within a smaller footprint. Ever-smaller laser markers have to be able to produce
marks on a variety of materials from metal alloys to plastics with a higher mark contrast that lasts beyond the life
of the product. Traceability content has to fit in tight spaces and needs to meet their customers’ requirements.
Traceability content typically combines a 2D symbol such as a data matrix code, human readable content, and a
logo. Data matrix codes are preferred for their ability to efficiently pack information and are readable even when
faced with degradation or contamination.

Solving 2D code marking challenges
Many manufacturers require 2D codes to meet certain standards such as the Association for Automatic Identifica-
tion/Direct Part Marking (AIM/DPM) standard. The AIM/DPM standard focuses on methods to grade the quality of
a data matrix code using characteristics such as the contrast and the uniformity of the mark.

The rocker arm (after marking) for a Jacobs Vehicle Systems en-
gine brake rests in the FOBA laser marking workstation. Once
laser marked, Jacobs Vehicle Systems' parts have complex code
data that computers can track to manage the subtle differences
between similar-looking parts.

A 2D Code with up to 31 characters will end up with a
matrix of 20x20 cells. To be read from a distance of 150 mm
(6") by most readers, it will require an area of 13 mm² (0.5in²).

Laser benefits at a glance

compact size saves production space

mechanically rugged, air-cooled technology ensures high uptime

almost no consumables and little maintenance for low running costs

easy operation for efficient production

high mark accuracy, high contrasts and permanent marks for high quality,
counterfeit-safe marking results

safe traceability

flexible technology for various applications including metal, plastics and
other challenging materials

addressing major industry standards

low production costs

Marking parts for traceability:

Marks have to fit tight within limited product space

Finding room on a product to place traceability content is often a

challenge. Manufacturers and designers tend to use every available

space on the part to squeeze all tracking information required.

IMP vision at a glance

IMP detects the positioning of areas/components, and
adjusts the engraving/marking precisely as required.

Optical part detection and automatic mark alignment

Perfect for accurate automated inline processes

Quality control: optical validation of marking contents

(graphics, 2D codes) and their contrast and placement

Added values

Consistent high processing quality

Faster and more efficient production

Improved accuracy

Increased productivity

Drastically reduced product scrap

HELP: Laser-integrated vision ensures process reliability before,
during and after laser marking:

1: Validation prior to laser marking

2: Laser marking

3: Validation after laser marking

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Validation of marked contents:

Laser-integrated validation versus

stand-alone validation

Another benefit of using marking laser systems with built-in

traceability capabilities is their ability to be reprogrammed

on the fly.

The positive code verification results from a data matrix
code read-out that validates the mark content.

The code reading option comes with a validation tool
that provides means of passing or failing codes based on
factors such as the read content or the mark contrast.

Case Study: Jacobs Vehicle Systems

Stand-alone, dedicated, industrial vision-based validation systems are not always cost effec-
tive. A stand-alone code validation station requires mechanical support structures, electrical
wiring, lighting, vision programming, software communication, hardware interface, and data
logging. The cost of integrating such a system can easily exceed the cost of a laser built-in tool
without the flexibility and turnkey solution of a fully integrated system.

Stand-alone systems are typically dedicated to a single product and work well as long as a
new or a variation of the product is not introduced. In situations where changes are needed,
production is faced with a fixed transition schedule, forced downtime, and strict
implementation schedules.

The implementation of the proper traceability process is a win-win situation for all –
designers, suppliers, manufacturers, and consumers. The reality is that the commercial truck
industry is in constant evolution. With manufacturers managing parts coming from different
suppliers around the world, in case of a recall, tracking without a traceability system would
be a horrendous if not impossible job.

Laser-integrated vision offers HELP in three stages:

Laser marking with pre- and post-mark validation

eliminates potential marking errors

Apart from the marking of the traceability content itself, HELP offers part verification

prior to marking and extensive inspections immediately after marking in the laser with-

out having to move the marked part to an external scanner. For Jacobs, this saved at least

45 seconds of cycle time per part in the process.

1: Pre-mark verification

2: Laser marking (product identification) 3: Post-mark verification

Part validation: Validates correct part
and prevents marking of wrong parts.

Mark verification: Validates that marks
have been placed correctly (positioning,
alignment, size).

Pre-mark verification: Confirms that
only unmarked parts are being pro-

Optical Character Verification (OCV):
Validates that every character marked
by the laser matches the expected

Mark alignment: Aligns the mark rela-
tive to the position of the to-be-marked

2D code validation and code reading:
Reads the contents of 1D/2D codes
(data matrix, e.g. ECC 200, GS1; QR) and
compares the results to the expected
content. A classification of the code
into quality classes is possible.




In order to eliminate possible marking errors and defects, and to ensure code marking and pro-
per validation for all parts, FOBA offered Jacobs extensive vision-based verification stages to
both the part and the mark. The vision process HELP (Holistic Enhanced Laser Marking)  and the
camera system IMP, that accompany the laser marking, are directly integrated in the FOBA laser
systems. Additional third party hardware or a separate inspection process for the verification
and reliability of the marking process is thus not needed. Traceability marks are applied and
verified with one system both efficiently and reliably.

Next generation fiber laser markers.

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Gem./According to

DIN EN 60825-1:2014

FOBA Laser Marking + Engraving

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Specifications subject to change without notice. CS-Auto-JVS_EN_05.16

Marking laser built-in traceability

pays off early

Traceability plays a key role not only in managing recalls efficiently but most importantly

in preventing them as it is used during the entire production process. For traceability to

work, marking contents, like done by a FOBA laser for Jacobs, has to be properly


FOBA offers a complete spectrum of system and machine solutions for laser
marking and engraving as well as sophisticated vision systems for the direct,
permanent and process reliable identification and validation of automotive parts
and components.

FOBA’s extensive validation approach addresses and prevents most of the five major components
of marking errors and defects that cause costly waste: First, users benefit from less scrap, second,
users take advantage of a better product and marking quality, third, a robust accurate marking pro-
cess pays off, fourth, users can rely on a cost reducing automated process and fifth, they benefit
from an increase in production efficiency.  Not only suppliers to the Automotive industry but also
Automobile manufacturers benefit with a sophisticated, holistic process solution rather than a sys-
tem solution for product identification only.

FOBA’s laser marking technologies are fast and cost effective. With its built-in through-the-lens
(TTL) vision, the technology provides a real-time validation and tracking system that helps reduce
cycle times, improve quality, and optimize the supply chain by providing information about com-
ponent movements. Traceability is a key competitive advantage that resonates with higher qua-
lity standards and corporate responsibility.

FOBA Laser Marking + Engraving technologies are used in a wide variety of
automotive marking applications including sensors, switches, fittings, dashboard
electronics, lighting components, day and night design elements or motor and
brake components. A variety of materials and parts are identified with text,
numerical information, graphics and logos or bar codes and data matrix codes.

Benefit from:
1  less scrap
2  improved product and

marking quality

3  stable and economic

marking process

4   automated marking

process that reduces cost

5   increased production