The Cutting Edge of Technology

FAROBlu Laser Line Probe helps Laser Specialists Inc. live up to its name

Ryan E. Day

January 23, 2018

When your public motto is “staying on the cutting edge of technology,” you’ve set a bar for yourself. Thomas Paquin set that bar when he founded Laser Specialists Inc. (LSI) in 1986. Paquin’s untimely death in 1993 left the company with questionable leadership and direction. In 2004, Nick and Jon Paquin were able to metaphorically step into their father’s boots as president and vice president of LSI. The Paquin brothers were also determined to carry on their father’s legacy of being on the cutting edge of technology.

Laser Specialists is widely regarded for precision sheet and stamped-sheet metal fabrication and cutting. Based in Fraser, Michigan (near Detroit), the company serves myriad industries, including automotive, aerospace, defense, construction, energy, and appliance.

“We took control of Laser Specialist in 2004,” says Nick Paquin, president of LSI. “Along with my brothers Jon and Tom, we all stepped in really with no experience and just tried to make something of it. Working with our employees, we saw the need for investment in the company to really get it on the cutting edge of technology. So, we did everything we could to invest in new equipment and try to make a name for ourselves. A lot of that was adding capability with fiber-based, three-dimensional, six-axis Prima laser systems.”

Raising the bar

Hungry to improve LSI’s reputation and profitability, the LSI team leveraged customer feedback for insight.

“We’re constantly asking our customers, ‘How can we better serve your needs? What else can we provide that would be beneficial to your experience with us?’” says Jon Paquin, vice president, LSI.

“Inspection came up quite a bit,” he adds. “Historically, our process would entail a customer sending us math data and a stamping. We cut the stamping to their math data, and then we send it back to our customer. The customer then inspects the part and marks it up for cutting edits. We would take it back, make the edits, upload the program, cut a new sample, and send that sample to the customer. We go back and forth several times until eventually, we have the approval of run.”

This was a process that could take weeks.

“We’re talking about one part that could, potentially, go back and forth 20 times before it’s bought off,” reveals Nick. “Typically, we’re looking at five to 15 back-and-forth trips to get an inspection performed, and laser time is very valuable. If you have that fixture sitting on the cutting table while waiting for approval, you aren’t cutting parts. The whole time you’re not cutting parts, you’re not making money. And at the same time, we’re tying up the customer’s inspection department.”

The Paquins decided to look for a better way to satisfy their inspection needs.

Cutting-edge inspection

“I actually saw some of the laser scanning products out at some customer shops as well as some OEMs,” says Jon. “They were liking the real-time feedback with the color mapping on form and profiles. Inspection was one of the biggest holdups associated with laser cutting, and Nick and I knew we wanted to raise our quality standards. We needed a way of inspecting parts that would increase throughput, and offer our customers a value-add that most laser-cutting job shops around don’t. We were attracted to the FARO ScanArm based on the updated blue laser scanning capabilities, which we understood provided higher accuracy and dealt with shiny surfaces better [than red light lasers].”

The FAROBlu™ Laser Line Probe HD high-definition camera uses the most advanced complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology to deliver fast frame rate (the number of times per second that the camera gathers new data on the part being scanned) of up to 300 frames per second. This equates to approximately three times faster scanning than currently available with red laser technology.

FAROBlu laser line probe HD

Because blue laser has a shorter wavelength than red, a blue laser can deliver improved scanning results due to its intrinsic higher resolution, with a 50-percent reduction in speckle noise.

“The FAROBlu Laser Line Probe is part of the technology we invested in to improve our processes and products,” says Jon. “With in-house laser scanning and inspection, we’re now able to do our own internal checks and get the part to a level where there’s very minimal edits that might need to be made.”

FARO Blu-blue light laser scanner

laser scanner screenshot

“I haven’t really run into any problems scanning reflective materials,” says Nick. “Even quick passes bring in quite a bit of data; it’s really amazing.”

“Another reason we like the FARO laser scanner is we’re not only inspecting the profile of the part, but the laser scanning is giving us real-time information relative to the form for the part as well,” says Jon. “So, with the color mapping and all of the information that we generate through the laser scanner, we’re also able to identify if the sample part and form that a customer sends us matches their own math data.”

With abundant data from the FARO scanner, LSI is also equipped to help clients improve their processes as well.

“It kind of helps bring everybody to the table,” says Nick. “It allows us to give them some feedback relative to the parts that we’re receiving and whether they’re actually matching up to CAD properly,” says Nick. “Then we can figure out how to move forward and fix a problem rather than devolve into finger-pointing.”

Shop-floor portability

Portable inspection equipment helps the LSI operators keep the ball rolling.

“Portability is big, being able to go out on the floor,” says Nick. “Sometimes we have parts that are just really large, and we have to scan them in three passes and then marry that data up together. And we have to do that on the shop floor because we don’t have a quality room big enough to deal with really large parts.

FARO Blu-Blue light laser scanner

“If we’re dealing with a large part, we’ll take the ScanArm out on the floor and set up out there,” says Nick. “We have the vacuum cup mount and the magnetic mount, so we can put it virtually anywhere out on our floor and use it. If it’s a smaller part, we set that up in our quality lab.

“The FAROBluTM also has temperature compensation for those hot summer days,” he adds. “As you let it acclimate properly, you’re not affecting your scan data because it has that technology built in.”


Click above to watch a short video of the new FARO QuantumS ScanArm, featuring the FAROBlu™ Laser Line Probe HD.

Return on investment

“If we can eliminate one or two trips to the customer for that buyout process, we may save days on getting that project bought off,” explains Nick. “Then we can get to cutting those parts sooner. It really, really increases our productivity in getting these jobs through. It’s more of a savings in time than anything else.”

And time is money.

 “We’re taking a lot of the inspection process out of our customers’ facilities and doing it in-house,” says Nick. “This expedites the process and gets those parts shipped out to our customers much quicker.”

laser scanning for automotive

“I would say there’s even a little bit of a scrap savings because now we have the ability for the laser operator to directly communicate with the inspector,” says Jon. “Controlling that in-house definitely gives us a better opportunity at going through fewer iterations to get to the final accepted product. The faster we get the first articles approved, the faster we can go into production, and the faster we generate revenue.”

Looking to the future

Although LSI is a successful job shop, contract manufacturer, tier 2-supplier playing in the prototype and low-, mid-, and high-volume niche, its leadership is always looking to improve and grow.

“We are on track to become ISO 9001-certified, hopefully by the end of this year or first quarter of next,” reveals Jon. “Not only is certification a great way to control your processes for internal purposes, it also tends to attract higher-profile jobs. It started with us adding a quality department, which went hand in hand with buying a FARO ScanArm.

“We also have some customers right now that we’re not even laser-cutting parts for that want us to perform inspections on some of their formed stampings. They love the real-time feedback that they’re getting with the full-color map reports. So, it is opening up an inspection category that’s going to generate revenue outside of laser cutting.”

Conclusion

“We’ve been very fortunate with some of the connections we’ve made with companies over the years,” explains Jon. “We just focus on providing more for our customers. The main thing is this: We’ve made an effort to modernize not only the look and feel of our facility here, but also the technology that’s on the floor being used on a day-to-day basis. We have no interest in being the dingy shop down the street that nobody wants to work for. We’re creating an atmosphere of modern technology, top people, and talent. That’s really how we see we can grow our market share.”

Click here​ to schedule a 15-minute personalized live web demo of​ the FARO ScanArm with FAROBlu™ LLP HD or call FARO at 800–736–0234.

About The Author

Ryan E. Day’s picture

Ryan E. Day

Ryan E. Day is a Quality Digest contributing editor and principal administrator of the company’s content marketing program, which brings together readers and solution providers. With a varied career from mechanic to artist to inventor holding a U.S. patent, but a journalist at heart, he’s produced freelance feature articles, op-ed pieces, ad copy, and display communications.