Pryor win coveted Queen’s Award for Innovation recognising ground-breaking VIN laser marking system

Pryor win coveted Queen’s Award for Innovation recognising ground-breaking VIN laser marking system

Founded in 1849 by apprentice Edward Pryor, the company’s reputation is built on delivering cutting-edge solutions to the world’s best-known manufacturing brands. Pryor is delighted to win this award for Innovation, which recognises the success of a robotic laser Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) marking system installed on Jaguar Land Rover production lines in 2014.

The most common method of marking VIN is using a scribe engraving machine, in which a hard steel ‘pen’ operating under computer control ‘writes’ the mark into the body panel. Scribe marking remains a widely used method of engraving VIN onto a vehicle during production however, every poorly marked or illegible VIN means a car being rejected at import and returned to the manufacturer for rectification or scrapping.

For a manufacturer looking to overcome the issues associated with a slow, laborious and sometimes ineffective VIN marking method, a faster, more efficient and operator-friendly process such as laser marking, provided the answer.

Approached by Production Engineers from one of the world’s foremost automotive manufacturers in 2013, laser marking specialists Pryor were tasked with developing a new system to overcome the issues of traditional VIN marking methods.

Part of the Sheffield City Centre landscape for over 170 years, Pryor designed and manufactured a completely new method to engrave VIN on chassis, engines and gearboxes. Before Pryor developed this cutting-edge VIN marking system, lasers had not been attempted as a method for VIN marking, with an array of complications being the barrier to a successful system ever being implemented. However, for Pryor, with extensive experience of developing bespoke systems for unique applications, an in-house team of mechanical, electrical and software designers and a highly skilled on-site production team, the multiple challenges presented by laser VIN marking were overcome, resulting in a ground-breaking system now being adopted by automotive production sites across the globe.

Pryor combined several innovative elements to complete the laser VIN system and make its installation a world first.

To meet industry regulations regarding VIN mark depth, which ensure the unique vehicle number cannot easily be removed in the event of vehicle theft, Pryor combined high-powered lasers to produce a deep mark and robotics to automatically apply the mark in three locations on each vehicle.

Robotics, working in tandem with Pryor’s software deliver a fully flexible system, allowing the manufacturer to produce several vehicle models on the same line, previously a long and costly process.

To ensure operators are safe from harmful light radiation, Pryor enclosed the vehicle and marking system within a light-proof cell, which itself presented a secondary issue. Usually, operators typically locate the marking machinery on the vehicle and check mark quality to avoid illegible VIN, which to overcome, Pryor integrated a cutting-edge vision system.

The vision system automatically identifies the correct location of the mark from a video image, moves the laser to the correct position then checks the mark quality is to standard, using Optical Character Verification (OCV) technology.

This innovative feature enabled the manufacturer to quality check 100% of vehicles and document the marking without additional processes. The additional challenge presented to Pryor designers, was ensuring the system could analyse the alphanumeric code once it has been engraved, processing multiple scenarios (such as different lighting conditions and camera settings for different vehicle colours and mark configurations) and being able to return consistent results.

Finally, Pryor integrated video streams within the marking cell. This enabled operators to monitor the marking process whilst remaining safely shielded from it. Uniquely, Pryor also integrated the video streams to the data log of the marking process. In the event of an issue being found with a vehicle at any point in its lifecycle, simply searching its unique VIN returns multiple camera angles of the process alongside a full data report of parameters and systems measurements, and in the marking process data log. This saves quality engineers time in research and analysis of fault finding, and the video logging system has subsequently been implemented on other manufacturing processes unrelated to marking.

Pryor’s system delivered an unprecedented range of benefits to the manufacturer, including reduced vehicle scrappage at export, increased production line speed, greater flexibility and reduced costs.

The laser marking system enables the manufacturer to mark the VIN in three locations on the vehicle, which puts the finished vehicle in a lower insurance group, in much less time than the traditional method can engrave the VIN in one location. The massively improved the cycle time and enhanced VIN marking process has greatly improved the customers' manufacturing efficiency.

For Pryor, this project was the next step in a continuous evolution of product marking technologies stretching back to the middle of the 19th Century. “High speed, high power laser marking is a uniquely effective solution for demanding applications in fast moving production environments,” says David Ray, Technical Director at Pryor. “This technology complements our other marking solutions, allowing us to address the widest possible range of industries and application requirements.”

The laser VIN project has been a catalyst for growth, so significant has been its success, with Pryor achieving its highest ever turnover in 170 years of trading, in 2019. This growth is enabling Pryor to invest in people, with a growing R&D department and team of apprentices spearheading investment to keep Pryor at the forefront of manufacturing innovation.

  • Find out more about Pryor cutting-edge laser marking technologies here
  • Read about our latest VIN marking machine for a luxury British car brand here
  • Pryor uses fibre laser technologies in its award winning marking machines, learn about different types of laser here

Contact the Pryor team to learn more about how laser marking can optimise your factory processes for full lifecycle manufacturing traceability