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Four Columbia roll marking machines and a special CNC peen marking system provide the capability for marking twenty different hand gun barrel profiles and five different frames, yokes and side plates.

When Larry Flatly, chief manufacturing engineer at Smith & Wesson, contacted Columbia Marking Tools about upgrading their marking process for their revolver production, he presented a number of specific challenges.

  1. Smith & Wesson wanted to improve the cosmetic look of their revolvers with higher quality crisp marks, with consistent marking depth.
  2. Provide a marking process that eliminates the possibility of any marring of part surfaces.
  3. Provide a system of marking that utilizes quick-change fixturing that can accommodate the wide variety of part families and be loaded/unloaded away from the machine.

Fig. 1 Roll Marking the Marcas Registradas

Flatly, explained, “The marks that our revolver line require are: the Smith & Wesson insignia logo, the four lines of the “Marcas Registradas”, the Smith & Wesson brand name and caliber and specific serial numbers and matching component numbers.”

Matt Fournier, Columbia Marking Tools, chief application engineer for the Smith & Wesson program, says, “The marking challenges that Smith & Wesson presented could easily be accommodated with two different types of marking processes. However, the key was designing the type of flexible fixturing and the necessary automation that would provide protection of the part surfaces for the diverse family of parts, while meeting the production requirements.”

Fournier adds, “We ultimately settled on using five machines to provide the marking requirements. This included (2) Columbia Model 410 heavy-duty hydraulic roll marking machines for marking the four lines of  ¾-inch long 1/16-inch text registration information and Smith & Wesson logos on the frames, Fig.1.  (2) Columbia Model 860 hydraulic roll marking machines for marking the Smith & Wesson brand name and caliber of the revolver Fig. 2,  and (1) special Columbia DPS 150 dot peen/scribe CNC dial index machine for marking the serial numbers and the component match numbers on the revolver yokes, side plates and frames, Fig. 3.”


Flatly, points out, “Our revolver line includes twenty different barrel profiles, in seven different diameter sizes from .22 caliber to .50 caliber, with five different frame families. The revolver barrel materials are hand polished when they are presented for marking and vary from a range of special heat treated alloys to exotic stainless steels with up to 45RC  hardness.”

Fournier describes the basic design of the marking equipment. “The Model 410 roll marking machines, Fig. 4, are a Columbia standard heavy-duty design that apply 9 tons of marking pressure . However the key aspect of this roll marking operation is the fact that we designed and built 12 different ergonomic fixtures for each of the frame styles. The objective was to provide a quality mark through all frame styles without having to adjust the machine. Each fixture used a locking rail-guided slide chase to provide consistent load and stop locations for each part/fixture. Details in the fixturing use non-marring UHMW type materials. Cycle time is 4 seconds. The Model 860 hydraulic roll marking machines, Fig. 5, are also a Columbia standard design with a marking pressure of up to 4 tons. The machine accommodates all the barrel profile styles and barrel lengths with fixturing that is adjustable in 1/64 increments from 0 to 5-inches for a multiplicity of start of mark criteria.”

“The dial index machine, Fig. 6, is a special Columbia-designed system,” Fournier explains, “ that uses a DPS 150 Dot-Peen-Scribe programmable marking unit combined with an indexing table and two separate fixtures for marking the revolver yokes, side plates and gun frames. The system is designed to load parts on one side while parts are being marked on the opposite side. Fig. 7. There are two fixtures for each frame set and there are five different frame families. The fixtures are manually placed on the index table and the index table is automatically indexed into position. A pneumatic swing clamp engages he fixture prior to marking. The machine uses a Columbia PCS 2000 control for the DPS 150 marking unit that places the four unique marks on the parts in a 35 second cycle time.

Tim Ryder, Columbia’s technical service manager points out, “This machine application is an excellent example of why we developed the PCS2000 control for users of marking machines. The PC2000 is our standard control developed for all dot-peen, laser and scribe marking machines and stand-alone systems. It answers today’s needs by providing control that has on-screen video programming that actually shows the operator how to input or change marking information. It’s like having your own personal training class available at any time you need it. The software shows the operator how to enter logos, text and serial numbers, change the text location or the orientation of the mark and numerous other useful features. The control utilizes an Intel® Celeron 2.0 gigahertz processor with 256 megabytes of PC2700 DDR Ram and 30 gigabytes of available storage. The 15-inch LCD monitor has 1024 x 768 pixel resolution and a touch-screen keyboard eliminating the need for a conventional plug-in keyboard. The monitor and processor are mounted in a standard NEMA 12 enclosure with a cooling system that is designed to work in typical high-temperature shop environments, with real-time system monitoring software.”

The Columbia DPS marking unit is a three axis CNC stepper motor driven system equipped with a high frequency carbide marking stylus. The system utilizes preprogrammed marking layouts which contain the marking positions and data for each of the five part families; all are accessible through the PCS 2000 touch screen interface.

“One other notable aspect of this marking machine project,” Fournier says, “was the fact that we ultimately replaced all of EDM roll marking dies Smith & Wesson had been using on the Model 410 hydraulic roll markers with higher quality engraved roll die designs that last longer and produce a clearer mark at uniform depth. Columbia roll dies are produced with three pass (rough, fine and polish) engraving process using a proprietary high-speed-steel roll die material that can produce a life expectancy that is 300 to 700% greater than EDM manufactured dies. ”

Columbia Marking Tools is a leading designer and manufacturer of metal and plastic marking equipment including stamps, roll marking dies, roll marking and impact marking machines, fully programmable pulsed fiber diode laser, peen/scribe marking and UID/2D Square ◙ Dot® machines, numbering heads and special marking machines.

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