Milling, Drilling and Serial Number Engraving On One CNC Machine


It’s amazing how technology has changed our lives in the past decade. From accessing endless amounts of information on our portable devices to checking out at the grocery store. The ability to code and scan has become such a part of lives now that our needs and demands are ever increasing of this technology. This is particularly true in the manufacturing world. The invention of bar code scanning happened over 50 years ago but today we are reinventing our applications due to new technologies, increased Internet speeds and more advanced networks. DATRON has developed some very unique and revolutionary solutions for machining and marking or identifying components.

A simple bar code, QR code or serial number can be created in many different ways. Anywhere from a sticker to screen printing. In the case of directly marking into a metal part; often laser, roll marking or dot peen technologies are used. Having a secondary manufacturing process to create the marking does open up challenges. For instance in the Firearm Industry, the ATF have strict guidelines that any misidentified gun components or missed serial numbers can incur substantial fines. It often discredits the manufacturer that could even lead to the loss of their license. Whenever a part is relocated from one manufacturing process to another, it opens up itself to incorrectly marking a component. What would be the impact on your business be if you were able to mill, drill, engrave and serialize all in one process?

Serial number engraving on firearms according to ATF mandates requires .005" depth of engraving as well as proper documentation of parts produced.
Serial number engraving on firearms is strictly governed by the ATF and proper coding is critical.

There are many advantages to having one machine perform multiple machining operations including serialization. Having just one piece of equipment on the floor saves valuable and costly production space. The maintenance, training and support for one piece of equipment can be far less costly than two or more machines. Whenever secondary operations are performed and a part or component is relocated introduces lag time and more chances for alignment or tolerance issues. In the critical example of components under ATF guidelines, potential missed or incorrect coding in weapons could shut your business down.

Serial number engraving of name plates and identification tags that are batch machined from sheet material and metal photo on the same machining center .
Serial number engraving of a nameplate that was batch machined moments before on the same milling machine.

DATRON with their high speed spindles offer the ability to machine or engrave very fine detail work effectively in a wide variety of materials from aluminum to hardened steel, as used in the Firearm industry. Detail work such as serial numbers, 2D and 3D bar codes can be done very efficiently. Additionally, serialization of firearms have regulated depths which often is difficult for laser systems to achieve efficiently. DATRON machining systems can drill QR codes or engrave serial numbers in one pass, very quickly, with excellent quality compared to many laser systems. The Windows based PC control allow for a very easy interface of standard bar coding systems right at the machine. You can even have a program automatically or sequentially engrave a series of numbers, including alpha characters. The ability to easily connect the standard PC control to Ethernet based networks is also a huge advantage. The real kicker though is DATRON offers a DLL interface that allows you to customize and extract data from almost any form of interface. It could be as simple as extracting data from an Excel or ASCII based file to even extracting the code from the name of a file dropped into a folder on your desktop. There has not been an interface presented to date we have not been able to connect or communicate.

Serial number engraving using the same CNC milling machine that is then used to machine the parts with through holes and other features.
Serial number engraving of parts that are then milled on the same machining center.

Imagine how powerful it would be to place a part into a machine, bar code scan a work order and have the CNC system automatically machine the part to that work order specifications, including marking the part with a serial number or bar code. No chance for misalignment, wrong serial numbers or down time from moving parts from machine to machine. Your operator does not even have to touch or interface with a keyboard. Alternatively, imagine a camera mounted next to the spindle that identifies a temporary code on a part, extracts data from a network and perform machining operations on the part including engraving a permanent code or serial number. DATRON has performed numerous turnkey installations like this that have streamlined operations, reduced production times and most important, introduced nearly 100% error free marking of identification codes or serial numbers. From the Automotive to Defense Industries, DATRON has provided stream-lined cell manufacturing systems that have substantially reduced production costs and improved part quality.

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About the Author

Bill King is the President of DATRON Dynamics and oversees all aspects of company operations. He founded the company in 1996 and has been in the manufacturing sector for over three decades. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Design from Humber College in Toronto, Canada.