Vehicle production involves assembling different parts made by the same or different automotive parts manufacturers. When there is no proper monitoring and part identification procedure, assembling different parts can lead to problems. Therefore, each component needs proper identification for effective tracing. The process of by which part manufacturers identify each part is automotive part marking.
Automotive part marking is an important set of procedures in the automotive part industry. On the one hand, it helps part manufacturers trace their parts during and after assembling. On the other hand, vehicle manufacturers and users can easily get components due to easy identification. Here, you will learn about automotive part marking, its types, and their respective machines.
What is Automotive Part Marking?
Automotive part marking is a set of procedures that part manufacturers use to identify and trace their parts. The process involves encoding, marking, and verifying parts such as the engine blocks, fuse boxes, and even the wiper blades.
With traceability, manufacturers can have access to parts’ records, locations, and uses. Therefore, they can save costs and provide a better customer experience. Consequently, this will improve their company’s image.
Elements of Automotive Part Marking
Automotive part marking consists of three important elements that every part’s manufacturer should note:
Before the development of the 2D codes, the 1D codes were the standard in automotive part marking. The change in the type of codes is due to the ability of 2D codes to contain more information.
Currently, the standard in the automotive part marking industry is the Data Matrix ECC 200. The Data Matrix ECC 200 requires that part manufacturers mark their parts with a 2D matrix code.
The arrangement of the codes can be in a square or rectangular pattern. The square pattern ranges from 10×10 modules up to 144×144. However, the rectangular pattern ranges from 8×18 to 16×48 modules.
The Global Standards One (GS1) is the international body that governs Data Matrix ECC 200 and other DataMatrix codes. It is also responsible for governing the barcoding application standards. In automotive part marking, codes must have high readability and resistant to environmental conditions.
After choosing the right code format, the next thing to do is to mark the part. Marking in the automotive part industry occurs via two methods:
· Marking With Labels
This is a simple method that involves the printing of the code on a carrier material. The carrier material can be paper, plastic, or metal. After printing on the carrier, part manufacturers then affix the encoded carrier material on the vehicle part.
Marking with labels is simple and very stable. It is also an established process and boasts of good code contrasts that enhance visibility. However, the method is not permanent and resistant to environmental conditions.
· Direct Part Marking (DPM)
Direct part making involves the use of certain methods to create permanent marks on components or objects. It is the most important process in the automotive industry due to the permanent mark it produces. Therefore, some people directly relate direct part marking with automotive part marking.
Direct part marking has many advantages. For example, it produces durable and flexible an automotive mark. However, choosing the right process depends highly on the materials, the surface, thickness, etc. We talked about this below.
Verification of automotive part marking is vital, especially in Direct Part Marking. It allows the part manufacturers to check whether the processes employed are effective. Therefore, the part manufacturer will instantly know whether the code does not meet up to standard. A common verification standard is the ISO/IEC 16022 standard.
Direct Part Marking’s Processes and Machines
Direct part marking is the most relevant set of procedures in automotive part marking. Methods used in automotive direct marking are in two distinct categories: Intrusive and non-intrusive methods.
These methods result in the component’s surface alteration during the encoding process. Examples of such processes are dot peening, laser, electrolytic chemical etching, etc.
These methods involve providing the component with another layer before encoding. Examples of non-intrusive methods are inkjet, automated adhesive dispensing, liquid metal jet, etc.
Consequently, there are a lot of methods used for the process. However, the most common methods used in automotive part marking are dot peening, inkjet, laser, and electro-chemical etching.
Ink Jet Marking System
Ink jet marking system involves encoding a component by applying color pigments. It is programmable, fast, and ideal for many materials. However, the method is also costly and requires astute maintenance.
Mechanism of the Ink Jet Marking System
Ink jet marking requires the print head and part to pass each other at a constant speed. Consequently, the heads fires ink to the component surface. The ink is present in a solvent, and when the solvent dries up, it leaves the ink to form a small matrix on the part. Every material has a special ink made by manufacturers to ensure the best adhesion possible.
Types of Ink Jet Markers
There are two types of ink jet methods used in auto marking.
- Continuous method.
The continuous ink jet marking system is majorly applicable in automotive part marking for making data matrix codes. This involves pressing single droplets of inks through a jet. This action charges the droplets of ink, and they deflect to the required position due to the two electrically charged deflection plates. However, the ink droplets deflection occurs only in one dimension. Therefore, the print head or the part will need to move.
Evaluation of Ink Jet Marking System
Ink jet markers work with a wide spectrum of markable materials. Therefore, it is ideal for the automotive part industry. The wide spectrum is due to the types of inks available for every material. Although, the method is not ideal for Teflon and silicon-containing materials due to ineffective adhesion.
- It has a wide spectrum of materials.
- It has a high marking speed.
- It can undergo mechanical stress.
Every material needs special ink for effective adhesion.
Dot Peening Marking System
The dot peening marking system is also ideal for marking automotive parts. The process involves using a dot peening machine already programmed to strike the component’s surface.
On striking the surface, the machine removes a small part of the component with each successive hit. Successive hits result in the formation of a dot matrix which is a permanent automotive mark.
The dot peening marking system is very effective in deep marking due to the successive hits. However, the method depends highly on material hardness, support tooling, and stylus properties.
Types Of Dot Peen Automotive Marking Tools
There are three types of dot peen automotive marking tools in automotive part marking. They are also applicable in the aviation and steel industry:
- Pneumatic dot peen markers.
- Electromagnetic dot peen markers
Parameters of Choosing a Dot Peen Marker
To get the best quality while using a dot peen marker, part manufacturers should understand some parameters. Below are few important parameters you must note
– Automotive Part Hardness
The indenting pin hardness properties are directly proportional to the component’s hardness. Therefore, a harder material demands a harder indenting pin. However, the upper limit of metal hardness you can mark with the method is approximately 63 HRC.
– Automotive Part Outermost Layer’s Hardness
The part’s outermost layer is where encoding occurs. Therefore, controlling the indenting force is very important. Consequently, you must adjust the force to suit the component’s thickness.
The type of dot peen machine you choose also plays a huge role here. For example, the electromagnetic dot peen markers have a constant indenting force. Therefore, they have a huge benefit over the pneumatic systems that use a compressed air supply system.
Also, the permissible penetration depth depends on the component thickness and the distance between the dot peen marker and component. When you have a deep indentation, you can read the code better.
– Automotive Part Surface Finish
The surface finish of the component determines the indenting pin diameter. Therefore, when working with a rough surface, you should use an indenting pin with a large diameter. Preferably this should be a portable dot peen marking machine as it will be easy to maneuver. Consequently, there will be a clear distinction between the code and object background.
When using the dot peen marking system, you can ensure the highest quality by doing the following:
- Use an indenting pin most compatible with the component.
- Properly maintain the indenting pins.
- Always check for pin tip wears as it can reduce code quality.
Evaluation of the Dot Peen Marking System
Dot peen marking system is ideal for creating a permanent code using a low outlay. Also, unlike other methods, the method only exposes the component to mechanical stress. There is no thermal or chemical stress. Therefore, there is the preservation of the component materials.
- Dot peen marking system has a lower cost.
- The code is permanent and durable.
- The component only undergoes mechanical stress.
- It has a high marking speed.
- It exposes the indenting pins and parts to mechanical stress.
- It is only ideal for only metals and plastics.
Electrochemical Etching Marking Method
Electrolytic-chemical etching involves the marking of a component via electrolysis. This occurs by the removal of layers of materials from the part via electrolysis. This marking method has four crucial steps:
- Apply a template of the code negative to the component.
- Fill the template with a matched electrolyte
- Press the template with a stamp.
- Initiate electrolysis which prompts the removal of the layers of component.
Upon completing all the steps, the position where electrolysis occurs has a greater or a lesser reflection. This leads to a contrast that identifies the mark.
Evaluating the Electro-chemical Etching Marking System
The electro-chemical etching method is highly accurate. The method allows the removal of very thin layers of the component materials using the appropriate electrolyte. With electro-chemical etching, you can remove layers ranging from 2.5 to 100 μm.
- It has a very high level of precision and accuracy.
- It has low mechanical stress on the component.
- It is applicable for very hard yet conductive materials.
- It is only ideal for conductive materials.
- It is expensive.
Laser marking is a non-contact automotive marking process. It involves making permanent marks by laser marking automotive parts.
There is a high use of a laser marking machine in many industrial marking systems because of its precision and high quality. Therefore, laser marking is the right method when accuracy and permanency are of the highest value.
Laser Automotive Industrial Marking System Methods
A laser marking machine works by using a focused beam of light to mark the component. The laser marking machine intensity (wavelength) is critical as it determines the type of laser marking you will get. Below are the common types of laser marking processes applicable in the automotive part industry:
- Laser Annealing
Laser annealing uses a laser machine to heat and changes the color of a component. The color of the material depends on the temperature used. Standard colors seen in laser annealing are yellow, red, and green.
Laser annealing is permanent. However, it is non-degradative. The laser’s heat through a process of oxidation leaves a permanent and readable mark on the product. Laser annealing is ideal and widely applicable in the automotive industry since it leaves the component surface smooth after marking.
- Laser Etching and Engraving
Laser etching and engraving is a permanent process. However, unlike laser annealing, it involves using a portable laser engraver to remove materials from the component’s surface. It is very much in use in the automotive industry due to the permanent marks for part identification and traceability.
- Laser Discoloration
Laser discoloration occurs only in plastics. There is a color change on marking with a laser. This happens as a result of the plastic’s pigment reaction to heat. However, unlike laser annealing, it leads to creating a slightly raised surface called foaming or frothing. Laser discoloration is applicable for marking plastic automotive parts.
Laser Marking Machine Materials
You can use a laser marking machine with parts of different material types. For example, you can use the method with plastic and natural fibers, aluminum and alloys, coated metals, glass, composites, steel and alloys, and various plastics.
In conclusion, laser marking is applicable with almost every surface, such as automobiles’ engines and fuel systems.
Evaluating the Laser Marking System
Laser marking is an ideal method for part marking due to its many benefits. Below are a few things you get to enjoy by using the process:
- It promotes quality and protects your product from forgery.
- It produces a permanent and durable automotive mark.
- It applies to the marking of many materials.
- It has very high precision, speed, and high contrast.
- It has a high resistance to heat and exposure to liquid environments.
- It has a straightforward operation, making it a perfect option economically.
The laser marking system is the top method in automotive part marking. However, it has its disadvantages.
- There is a subjection of the material to mechanical stress.
- It has a higher cost
Vehicle Components Markable by Laser Marking Machine
Industrial laser marking systems are the most applicable methods in the automotive industry due to permanent markings of parts.
Permanent marking is necessary for components that customers use a lot. It is also essential for components that customers will constantly expose to environmental conditions. Example of parts frequently marked with a laser marking machine are:
- Rev counter.
- Warning and information signs.
- Window controls (day/night design).
- Components (functional inscription).
- Engine parts.
- Lacquer and plastic inscriptions.
- Seatbelt tensioners.
- Type plates.
How to Choose the Right Marking Method?
Selecting the right marking methods comes with understanding some important factors. These factors depend hugely on the industry. For the automotive industry, below are the different factors you should keep note of:
· Part Function
You should use the non-intrusive methods for parts used in high pressure and high-stress systems.
· Part geometry
You should know the geometry of the part you are working with. It is more difficult to mark a curved surface than a flat surface.
Polished materials can lead to glaring during marking. Therefore, if you are working with one, you should texture it.
· Surface Roughness / Finish
Surface roughness depends highly on the method you are using. Dot peening marking system requires a surface roughness level of about 8um. The laser marking system is ideal for rougher surfaces.
· Surface Thickness
You should consider the surface thickness of the material to prevent part’s deformation. The generally accepted form is that the marking depth should not be more than 1/10 the part thickness.
Getting the Best in Terms of Automotive Part Marking
Getting the best automotive part marking comes with understanding the procedure and getting the best marking machine. It also means hiring the best company, and with us at Heatsign, you have the solutions to your part marking problems.
We offer our services to auto makers and part suppliers who crave the need for accuracy and error-free traceability. Therefore, we aim to offer the best direct part marking process and marking machines in the automotive part industry.