The need for tracking and identifying products is ever rising in the manufacturing industry. Manufacturers are continuously looking for more effective and reliable ways to mark their products.
Reasons such as the maintenance of high product standards, prevention of counterfeiting, and ensuring that suppliers keep quality standards, among other reasons, are why manufacturers seek out marking technologies.
Whether you choose dot peen, laser marking, and inkjet, each option has its particular niche in various industries.
Further, these technologies have advantages and disadvantages in equal measure.
Manufacturers choose the best technology for their industry based on mark quality, material type, surface texture (roughness/softness), and part size, among other factors.
In this article, we shall talk about the most remarkable use-cases of marking technologies in various industries, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of those technologies. Let’s get to it!
Parts Marking in the Automotive Industry
Marking technologies are used majorly in the automotive industry. The industry was one of the earliest to embrace part marking. Some of the reasons why automotive parts are marked is for traceability, identification, to comply with international standards, and for automated marking and reading.
The issue of marking in the automotive industry is sensitive because it should be done in a way that does not compromise the reliability and quality of individual parts, which contribute to the overall safety of the automobile.
Marking on automotive parts is done by laser marking, dot peen marking, or inkjet printing. The markings can either be done by the manufacturer or the car owner. However, the manufacturer takes the larger piece of the cake because even the smaller components of the machine are marked due to legal and industrial requirements. The car owners mainly mark for identification purposes.
The following are parts that are marked by the manufacturer:
- Engine Components- The engine of automotive consists of various metals and alloys. They include the gears, pistons, axles, engine blocks, cylinders, crankshafts, and camshafts. These parts are very critical. Therefore, manufacturers want markings that will survive the entire lifecycle of the car while still achieving optimum efficiency and strength. The markings have to be permanent and legible. This is because most of these parts are exposed to high degrees of heat and pressure. It is, therefore, necessary that they use marks that do not degrade under these conditions. The best technology for this type of marking is high power laser etching.
- Fuel supply system- The components here include the fuel pump, air cleaner, radiator, and the fuel injection system. The materials that make these parts differ according to the vehicle make. It is advisable to use laser markings on hard plastics and dot peen marking for metals.
- Gearcase- The gearcase is a non-moving part that holds the components of the gearbox. The gear casing is made of steel alloys, making the dot peen a great option. Fiber laser marking can also be used.
- Car chassis- The car chassis consists of car frames, doors, and body panels. They are non-moving and are mainly made of metal bars and sheets. This makes the dot peen perfect for marking these parts.
Cheap marking equipment are now emerging from Chinese companies, including such suppliers as XTLaser, HeatSign and many others.
Marking in the Medical Industry
The medical industry has two major branches. One is the healthcare sector, which involves the treatment of patients, and the pharmaceutical sector, which consists of the research and development of medicine for treatment purposes.
Technology in the medical industry is ever-evolving, and parts keep getting smaller and more efficient. For this reason, there is a need to take precautionary measures and avoid any medical hazards that might occur within health facilities. For this reason, and also for cost-effectiveness, fiber lasers have become very popular in this sector.
One of the earliest uses of fiber lasers in the medical industry is to mark stainless steel surgical equipment, which is also common in dentistry. These markings should be easily legible. Other than that, they should have the ability to resist sterilization processes, while not allowing germs and bacteria to stick.
This equipment have corrosion resistance. The markings should not interfere with this feature. Other than the equipment and devices, you can find these marking on medical implants as well.
Other methods of marking mostly use chemical compounds to mark on materials. This wouldn’t leave the equipment safe for use. Laser technology, however, uses laser beams and leaves the equipment safe. Other advantages of fiber laser marking in the medical sector include;
- A wide range of markings can be created on different equipment without tool changes
- High mark quality and accuracy
- Flexibility with materials that include titanium, stainless steel, plastics, ceramics, and high alloy steels, among others.
- Laser markings are permanent and are acid, heat, and corrosion-resistant.
Security technology and ID industry
Marking technology in the security and ID industry is a crucial process. This involves the creation of highly sensitive cards such as identification and passcards. There is also the marking of ID cards with grayscale images.
The documents marked must be tamper-proof and have protection against misuse. They must also be defect-free to personalize them. Laser engraving is the most suitable for this industry because it not only satisfies all these requirements but also satisfies worldwide security standards. Further, fiber laser marking offers more flexibility concerning the contents of the markings. It is even possible to display photographs and images as high-resolution grayscale images. It also maintains a high level of quality when it comes to the final markings of the card.
Documents that are security-relevant such as bank cards, driving licenses, ID cards, smart cards, passports, and badges, have to adhere to stringent requirements when it comes to security standards. They should be protected against forgery. Since the use of marks protects these documents, the marking process should be perfect and secure. Laser markings offer the following advantages in the security industry;
- Long-lasting and tamper-proof markings
- Flexibility in the type of markings. The markings can be of owner’s data, passport photos, logos and graphics, changeable laser images (CLI), multiple laser images (MLI), and tactile markings.
Many materials, such as metals and alloys, are used nowadays to make jewelry. From way back in the past, the industry has always used a lot of engravings, either produced mechanically or with more recent methods such as etching.
The main reason for engraving jewelry in the past was for personalization or to add meaningful inscriptions on expensive jewelry. Today, the creative design of jewelry pieces, including the fashion jewelry sector, has become quite important.
Laser technology is the modern solution for creating one-off, custom, and unique inscriptions on jewelry. The technology can mark even the smallest yet most exquisite details on jewelry materials. The precision of a laser marking machine makes the details legible once the engraving has been made.
Laser marking is suitable for precious metals such as gold, silver, titanium, and brass, as well as alloys and glass. Jewelry pieces that can be marked include rings, bracelets, watches, necklaces, spectacle frames, and glasses.
The advantages of laser technology in the jewelry industry include;
- The possibility of versatile designs. Laser technology can help realize practically any design. You can mark logos, patterns, designs, and even photos.
- Laser technology has flexibility in the engraving and designing bracelets, necklaces, and rings. Further, these ornaments can be created from a range of materials.
- Laser technology produces perfect and precise results. It also gives high accuracy even in the smallest of engravings. The marking processes can also be put together to clean the materials after etching or to create higher contrast.
- The laser marking process is non-contact; hence, there is no risk of defacing the jewelry. The material being processed does not have to be tightly clamped. This feature also makes the process fast.
Smart coding for electronic components
The technology space is snowballing with each passing day. The electronics sector has, therefore, become one of the most valuable and essential industries in the world. This sector is setting the pace for other areas in growth and advancement.
That said, the processes and methods used to develop and manufacture these electronics must maintain high quality and efficiency. Electronic components are small in size. This requires that the codes and markings fit in small spaces and constraints. Other than size limitations, the marking equipment must be able to produce complex but clean and high-resolution codes. The codes should be durable to endure the production processes that include alcohol cleaning.
The manufactures should adhere to regulatory requirements and meet customer’s needs, such as use halogen-free inks. They should have the ability to produce unique codes for identification, tracking, and tracing purposes.
Laser technology fits perfectly for these needs. The advantages of laser markings in this sector are;
- Lasers are known for producing consistent, clean, and high-quality codes.
- Laser markings are not ink-based. The codes are, therefore, not affected by the organic solvent cleaners.
- During the marking process, the laser beam changes the surface properties of the components being marked. The result is high contrast and high-resolution code.
- Because of the non-contact process, the components that are not targeted are not at risk of being damaged. This is vital because of the vast number of small parts in the devices.
- The codes and marks created are machine-readable, hence ensuring traceability.
Coding in the Food and Beverage Industry
Markings in the food and beverage industry are used to provide product-specific information. Manufacturers may also use markings for marketing purposes.
The most common markings in this sector include bar codes, 2D and QR codes, as well as product information such as price, expiry date, batch number, manufacturing date, ingredients, shelf life, and industry certifications.
The rising number of counterfeit products within various markets has prompted many governments to set stringent regulations. One of these laws requires food and beverage manufacturers to print product information on the packaging.
In this sector, laser coding is used where there is a need for permanent marks. It offers the following advantages in the food and beverage sector;
- It can work on various materials such as wood, glass, paper, or cardboard.
- It produces high-quality codes
- The process of marking using laser beams is fast; hence, the manufacturing process is barely affected.
- It produces codes that can survive in and are legible in harsh environments
- The process is ink-free, so there is no risk of food contamination
Engraving in the Aerospace Industry
he aerospace field is one of the most significant and essential industries in the world. It encompasses many different areas. Consumer and business travel is the most common, but it also involves cargo transport, military aircraft, and even space exploration.
No matter the reason for using the aircraft, there is absolutely no room for error as they withstand great stress and pressure at high altitudes. For this reason, lasers and fiber lasers are the most suitable for engraving in this industry.
Aircraft are made up of thousands of precision components. They are put together to form significant sections of the aircraft, such as frame structure, turbine, brake parts, gears, fuel control system, and maintenance parts. All these require serial numbers, identification tags, and barcodes. Laser marking is used when the markings are needed at the surface level. However, at times, they might need to go a bit deeper, in which case laser engraving is used.
Benefits of laser technology in the aerospace sector include;
- The codes occasionally need to be read and processed by machines. Laser technology is the remedy to this as it provides clear and highly legible markings
- During the engraving process, parts of the material are removed. However, the rest of the material needs to remain intact. Other methods of engraving may cause damage to the areas around the marking. The laser engraver doesn’t cause wear and tear to the rest of the material.
- Aircraft components are made up of different materials, primarily metals such as titanium and aluminum. Due to its flexibility in handling various materials, laser technology handles this well without any issues in adaptability. It is common to find other materials such as glass and plastic, which also needs to be engraved.
We have seen the fantastic applications of marking in various technologies. Among the applications is in the automotive industry, where laser and dot peen markers are used to mark the parts of a car. These parts include the car chassis, engine components, gear case, and the fuel supply system.
Another great application is in the jewelry industry, where you can personalize, design, and add meaningful inscriptions to make your pieces stand out. Laser etching is the most preferred means of marking in this sector because of its precision and flexibility.
Other applications of marking are in the medical, security, electronic, food and beverage, and the aerospace industries.