Why KERN Started a Laser Source Company
Many of our customers, and those in the industrial laser industry, know Kern as a reputable US manufacturer of laser cutting and engraving systems. Kern has been manufacturing laser systems since the early 90’s and has thousands of systems in the field working on a wide spectrum of applications. Up until 2012 Kern partnered with various vendors to supply the “heart” of our laser system, the CO2 laser source. Like other technical products, lasers need to be serviced and maintained to keep them running smoothly. This is widely accepted and incorporated into our training and service manuals. However, lasers can also fail for reasons other than neglected system maintenance. With any product it becomes frustrating when the same components fail year after year. It was apparent that design flaws were not being proactively corrected, and in many cases, the same known problems were being pushed into production time after time. This was one of the driving forces that catapulted KERN into designing our own CO2 lasers.
In 2012, Kern Technologies, was formed as an off-shoot of our R&D department. A new building was constructed across the road from our main factory to better meet the demands of CO2 laser production. Clean-rooms, ultra-sonic cleaners, cryogenic vacuum stations, laser beam profiling equipment and alignment tables are just some of the investments we made in our effort to make the best lasers possible. Internally, we discussed three core principles that would drive our company to success.
As mentioned previously, every laser needs to be serviced at some point in its life. When a laser fails the customer’s machine is “dead in-the-water”. Every day the laser is not repaired, the customer is losing production and ultimately dollars are lost down the drain. The single most important question customers should be asking laser manufacturers is “What is the laser replacement or repair policy?”. I have heard too many stories over the past few years of customers waiting 6-8 weeks or longer to receive a replacement laser. It has almost become the norm with several laser machine vendors.
Due to this fact, Kern has put together the most effective advance replacement program in the industry. Instead of repairing the laser onsite or requiring the defective laser to be returned for repair, Kern simply sends a replacement laser to the customer upfront. This allows the customer to have their laser system back up and running as quickly as possible. Once the laser is swapped out the customer simply places the defective laser in its box and it is returned to Kern.
Kern’s 100-200 watt lasers are small enough to ship by UPS Next Day service. This means our customers can be up and running with a replacement laser in as little as 1-2 days. This is the level of service our customers have come to expect, and that Kern strives to achieve!
CONTINUOUS DESIGN IMPROVEMENT
Once the customer is back up and running, Kern’s work has just started. Our laser technicians then receive the defective product and do a complete failure analysis of the laser source. The reason for this analysis is to understand the cause of the failure which is then documented in our quality control system.
Periodically, failure reviews are performed to determine if product or process improvements can be implemented. The goal being to eliminate problems and ultimately decrease the failure rate of each laser model. The process works and Kern’s failure rates are dropping year after year. In essence, the more lasers we manufacture, the more reliable they will become.
After the failure analysis is completed Kern’s technicians determine if the laser is to be disposed of (older laser revs or badly damaged lasers) or refurbished. Refurbishing the laser generally means replacing parts, re-gassing, software updates and putting the laser back through the testing and calibration process that all new and advanced replacement lasers must pass. Once completed these lasers are ready for the next customer that needs a quick Advance Replacement laser. Refurbished lasers are never placed on NEW machinery.
The frosting on the cake is Kern’s industry leading 3 year Advance Replacement warranty that is placed on all new laser tubes. This is generally 1-2 years longer than most laser manufacturers are placing on their products. Additional years of warranty can be purchased at the time of sale or any time an advance replacement laser is shipped out.
After reading this blog I hope you have a better understanding of “why” Kern started laser manufacturing and the benefits our customers will realize because of this. If you have any questions about our CO2 laser sources please do not hesitate to contact us.