How to Evaluate Laser Marking Software

Given the wide use of laser marking systems special care is always given to evaluating the hardware, system specifications and performance. What is often overlooked is the software that runs them.

If the hardware is the heart and the limbs of the system, the software is the brain. Simply put “If the brain doesn’t work, the body doesn’t perform”. There is a myriad of laser software features to consider. In this article I’ll try to zero in on some of the most important aspects to consider as well as why one item may be more attractive to you, based on your individual needs or wants.

Firstly, there are two basic kinds of software that drive laser marking systems. One is a print driver/post processor type that functions very similarly to the driver you have on your printer. The other is commonly referred to a “scripting” type where the marking program is developed within the software and launched directly to the marker. There are 3rd party scripting packages such as ProLase and SCAPS but also many laser manufacturers like Kevron and Control Laser develop their own proprietary software which functions with their equipment only. In evaluating software, I like to break it down into three elements; Machine control, user interface and image manipulation.

Machine control is defined as the flexibility to easily adjust lasing parameters such as wattage, speed and frequency, interface with external I/O, interface with programmable axis drivers and the ability to communicate with databases and host networks. Machine control is all about power and productivity.

User interface refers to the GUI (Graphical User Interface) or more clearly the look and feel of the software. This entails the visual interaction between the operator and operating system. The tools included relate specifically to the efficiency of setting up programs and initiating the marking cycle.

Image manipulation is the access to the image to be lased and how that image can be adjusted for optimum output. This can include things like font selection, font sizes, editing barcodes and fine tuning graphics to be run. Image manipulation is the most important part of the final marking quality result.

As we compare the print driver type with the scripting type of packages, the first question that should be asked is “what do you yourself, deem to be the most important features of the software”. In other words what is the key feature that you absolutely, must have? Consider your application. Is the most critical thing the final appearance of the marking or is speed the biggest issue? Do you have a lot of graphics to apply or do the parts in question need to be lased with a great deal of variable information?

Generally speaking the benefits of the print driver type are that often these packages have extensive graphical editing tools embedded. This means you can quickly and easily adjust the image settings for logos, photos and other objects. The editing tools could be similar to those you see in a traditional graphics package like CorelDraw or Adobe and the screen display provides a true depiction of what the actual part will look like. When you are satisfied with the result the final job is sent to the print driver which then communicates with the laser control unit. This compiling and demand on the PC itself does not lend itself as well to high production processes in that the program is working hard to develop the marking file and then force feed it through the print driver. Print driver packages are best suited for high part changeover job shops and marking where the aesthetics are the most important criteria.

The opposite is the scripting type. These usually have the communication attributes in place that make them the better choice for high volume applications. Integrators prefer scripting type packages because of the vast number of tools included that allows them to interface with automation, PLCs and networks. It is very common, for instance, to have the actual data to be marked automatically downloaded from a host computer directly into the laser controller and automatic initiation of the marking sequence to be triggered by a command from a PLC. In some cases there is not even a PC at the machine. The tools for automatic serialization, date coding and barcode development are usually better constructed within scripting type packages. Scripting software can certainly be operated in a standalone fashion however the image manipulation tools are usually not as sophisticated as the print driver packages.

So all this being said laser suppliers are recognizing that their software must be user friendly, flexible and powerful. Consequently there is a crossover happening between the two types. The print drivers are becoming leaner and meaner and the scripting packages are adding more graphics manipulation tools. Where does this leave the potential buyer in his purchasing decision?

The very best advice I can offer is to get a real time demo of the software where the salesperson shows you some “canned” programs but then lets you have some hands on time also. If a salesperson is reluctant to demonstrate the software this should throw up a red flag. Some important questions to ask during the demo include;

• Is the software developed by the laser supplier or a 3rd party and who provides the support?
• How good is the documentation for the software package?
• Can programs be generated offline at a remote location?
• Can portions of the program be password protected at different levels?
• If programmable axis control is required, how many axes can be programmed and is it limited to certain motors or motor types?
• What kind of graphic file formats can be imported?
• What barcodes are supports and can they be edited and manipulated?
• Are proprietary fonts required or can the software accept standard True Type fonts?
• What programs does the post processor recognize if a print driver?
• Does the program require a dongle or software key?
• Demonstrate program development in “ring mode”?
• Does the software allow the lasing parameters to be saved with the job?
• What operating systems does the software run within?

There are certainly other factors to consider in your decision, but don’t discount the importance of the software. The goal should always be to get the most out of the laser system and the software and user interface are keys to meeting that all important goal.

A Nutrition Plan That Works

Why most nutrition plans fail

95% of all programs fail because people don’t know what they are and how they work. A nutrition plan is more or less a plan of action. What action is that? Well nutrition plans are created to lose weight, gain muscle mass, lower cholesterol, all sorts of reasons. Whatever the reason you have for needing a plan you have to keep one thing in mind. Nutrition plans are useless without exercise. This one simple fact is the reason most plans fail. People seem to think that if they change their diet that’s all they need and that is just not the truth. So let’s take the most popular plan, weight loss, and let me show you how to make it work for you.

Nutrition plans for losing weight

The first key to a weight loss plan is what to eat? There are many weight loss plans out there so I am going to give you some key ingredients to look for so you know you’re getting a good plan. When you’re looking for a good weight loss program you want the food you eat to taste good. I know this goes without saying but I’ve come across some programs where the food you ate really did taste horrible. For a nutrition plan go work, a plan you can stick with, you want to be able to enjoy the food your making. Anything less is a recipe for failure.

The second key to a weight loss nutrition plan is you do not want to be cooking any different than you normally cook. What I mean by that is you don’t want to spend any more time on your plan than you usually do making your meals. If you have to spend any more time on a nutrition plan than you usually do you will definitely fail. Making this as unnoticeable as possible to your regular routine is another key factor to success when it comes to changing your diet.

The third and final key to a weight loss nutrition plan is exercise. Like I mentioned above, exercise is the single most important factor to nutrition. Now I know when it comes to exercise you’re like me, who wants to spend all day every day in the gym. No one, I guarantee you. The trick to exercise is to make it as enjoyable as possible. One of the few things that I integrate into my exercise program is music. This is a must. This helps to take my mind away from the rigors that are going on in my body. Now that we have our mind fooled into thinking that exercise is fun, it’s time to get to the actual exercise techniques that work every time.

Exercise Routine for nutrition plans

Having experience in boot camp and joining the army at an early age I have a program that will take care of your nutrition plan. This program comes directly from the United States military and is effective in the care of your nutrition. The first thing that must be integrated into your plan is you must get in the habit of running. This is one of the top ways to lose weight. I like to very my running different days of the week. It is not healthy and can be quite harmful to run every single day. Now again no one likes to run but you cannot leave this out of your plan. The two things are straight forward. They are push ups and sit ups. I know this seems like a very dull exercise routine but these 3 exercises are the core exercises you need to maintain a healthy and nutritional body. You can add swimming if you like but the point is that the above 3 exercises I mentioned must be included in your plan. Stick to this plan and you will see your nutrition plan will affect your life and you will see changes within the matter of a month.

Facebook Commerce – Is It Time to Get in to That?

F-commerce, a term derived from e-commerce, refers to the e-commerce on Facebook and has already become a powerful e-commerce strategy to drive traffic to the e-commerce site and selling products on Facebook. Facebook social networking platform has become a hub of millions of potential customers and tapping those customers to the original e-commerce & letting them buy your product is an option that no longer can be ignored. Think about a single mom who can be your next best customer, is using Facebook network and rarely searches for your keywords. How do you win her loyalty for your business? As a business owner you should make sure your products’ visibility to the Facebook users and keep them updated about your products and services.

Retailers are using Facebook to engage permanent & potential customers to drive traffic to their websites. Apart from driving traffic to websites, they are using Facebook applications which let the Facebook users get updated on the product and service offerings; order a product without visiting the original site or recommending to a friend. Market leading brands like iTunes, McDonalds, Porsche etc. have their Facebook fan-page and applications that give excellent Facebook shopping experience to the users. Target audience, technology, credibility, market trends and increased Facebook users – all speak for the possibility of F-commerce.

Facebook is already challenging the market leading search engines as a major source of traffic to e-commerce websites. Many retailers are using social media to build large groups of devotees in local communities. Community based product serving is an important aspect for business growth, especially for the small and medium business type and Facebook can be the perfect platform to organize this devotees in a local community.

Customer advocacy (A friend is recommending a product or people finding products bought by friends) is an important selling point that can be achieved using f-commerce. From a customer’s perspective, f-commerce allows him/her to shop with the social graph and can make smarter and informed purchasing decision using the social intelligence (learning from friends).

Fcommerce has already become another online channel (not an alternative but a parallel channel) for businesses to sell products & services with all the marketing power that Facebook provides.

Some additional advantages of fcommerce that should help you decide to go fcommerce if you are not already in it:

  1. Facebook users spend more time online than other internet users.
  2. Fcommerce drives customer advocacy which has a stronger impact on reference selling.
  3. Facebook helps identify and create a local community based market segment.
  4. Enhance a diverse exposure of your brand and business.
  5. Customized application can be built to particularly meet your business need.
  6. Build brand awareness

Would you invest to make sure your business appearance on Facebook or do you consider Facebook as the next MySpace? Regardless of your point of view, as a business owner you should grab every single possibility and f-commerce is an opportunity you should no way miss. It is evident that Facebook commerce will revolutionize the way people shop, making it a truly social shopping experience. Build a strong f-commerce appearance for your overall e-commerce success.