Laser part marking is significant in several industries due to the high need for part traceability, branding, and other reasons. It is an extensive marking system with several processes and marking technologies leading to many questions on how to use the process to improve quality, reduce counterfeiting, and more.
Getting to know about the right laser marking technology can be challenging for those without information on laser marking. There are five major laser marking technology, each with its unique attributes. Therefore, there are many things to consider when selecting the optimum technology. This article will give a brief overview of laser marking technologies and how you can choose the right one for your project.
The Five Laser Marking Technology
There are five different laser marking technology. Below is a brief introduction to what they entail, their differences, unique features, advantages, and disadvantages.
· CO2 Laser Technology
The CO2 laser technology is an easy-to-use technology ideal for creating long-lasting and high-quality engravings on thick organic materials (larger than 5mm). Machines using the technology usually have sealed-tube laser marking systems with galvo-steered beams of about 10,600nm that deliver a non-contrast mark. Therefore, it is the perfect option to replace other marking technologies like dot pen and inkjet when working with non-metals.
The CO2 laser markers are the oldest laser technology, and they do not require much maintenance. Therefore, they have lowers expenses. They also have fast processing, which improves their productivity. They are applicable in marking polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, mobile communication devices, building materials, and food and pharmaceutical packaging.
Bottom line: CO2 lasers produce high-quality marks on rubber, wood, cardboard, plastics, glass, and product packaging. They are a cost-effective alternative for marking the date, codes, serial numbers, and other product identification.
· Fiber Lasers Technology
Fiber laser technology is suitable for engraving materials like metals, rubbers, and plastics due to its high wavelength (780nm to 2200nm). The high wavelength makes it a suitable technology for permanent and difficult to remove markings. Moreover, the markings are of great quality. Therefore, laser engraving, cutting, and annealing are best with fiber lasers.
Fiber lasers possess a very negligible focal diameter. This makes them excellent, especially for permanently marking identification numbers, barcodes, and linear barcodes on metal.
Bottom line: The technology is suitable for graphics, identification numbers, 2D Data matrix, and barcode marking on different materials. These include metals, ceramics, and plastics.
· Diode-Pumped Laser Technology
Diode-pumped laser machinery technology is suitable for marking plastic or anodized aluminum or creating a contrasting mark on a product. This laser produces short pulses with about three times the ordinary fiber lasers. Therefore, the resulting marks are clean and fragile with negligible external surface damage.
Diode-pumped laser technology is the most appropriate when applications need ample peak energy, such as deep engraving and high throughput. The laser may either engrave or cut. Common materials compatible with the process include wood, aluminum, cardboard, marble, steel, glass, and stone. You can also use it with some common categories of plastics
Bottom line: Diode-pumped lasers produce sharpened, high contrast markings for easier reading on scanners or barcodes, alongside improved process traceability.
· Green Laser Technology
Green Laser Marking technology is a cold laser technology designed to mark products with highly reflective surfaces such as silicon wafers. Green laser markers operate in the green Near-IR visible light spectrum (at 532 nm) and power ranges of 5-10 watts producing high precision markings. Due to the wavelength, there is a greater heat absorption, making marking more effective.
Bottom line: green laser markers have an accuracy of up to 10 µm. They are suitable for marking soft plastics, PCB Boards, and Integrated Circuit Chips
· UV Laser Technology
Ultraviolet (UV) is a band of the electromagnetic spectrum having a wavelength of 10 nm to 400 nm. UV laser markers are cold and ideal for marking thermolabile products. They produce a 355 UV laser wavelength suitable for marking products made from materials such as plastics, ceramics, and glass without the need for additives.
Bottom line: UV laser markers produce high-quality beams, making them ideal for marking micro-mark electronics, circuit boards, and microchips. They are also the perfect markers for precise medical equipment marking
How to Choose the Right Laser Marking Technology
· Number #1: Material
The first thing that should come to mind is the type of material you want to mark. When looking into laser marking, there are two categories of materials: organic and non-organic. Organic materials are carbon-based materials from living organisms such as wood, glass, paper, and plastic are examples of organic materials. Non-organic materials include metals, cast aluminum, and steel.
The material you want to mark using a laser should be compatible with the marking technology. For example, UV and green laser marking are suitable for thermolabile substances. Fiber laser machines are suitable for non-organic materials, while CO2 laser technology is used for organic materials.
· Number #2: Type of Mark
There are different ways laser marking can be done, each with uniqueness in terms of what the marks look like. Due to the type of marks obtained, each one has different applications. For example, barcode marking will require you to have a dark or frosty mark so that people will not have a problem reading the codes
Each technology used for laser marking has varied capabilities that result in different types of marks. Choosing the most appropriate type of mark is a crucial step. Below are the common types of laser marks.
Laser engraving involves using a laser beam to physically peel off a material’s outer surface, leaving a visible engraved mark. It is the most common method for customizing and personalizing different products. You can have different laser marking technology depending on the material, although fiber laser markers are the most common. Laser engravable materials include wood and plywood, leathers, and glass. Bricks and stones.
Laser etching involves using a laser beam to melt and raise a material’s outer surface, leaving a visible engraved mark. It is like laser engraving and is also applicable for customizing and personalizing different products. However, unlike engraving, it has wider material supports and lower cut depth, reducing the markings’ permanency. Fiber laser markers are the only laser etching machines due to the high energy required
– Layer removal
Laser layer removal involves vaporizing the covering layer of a product using a laser beam. This makes the main material visible again and results in a marking effect. This method is suitable for indirectly marking label-coated materials such as laser marking films and painted base materials. The laser technology depends on the material, with CO2 laser engraving machines and fiber laser marking technology being the most common.
– Carbon Migration
They are also referred to as ‘black annealing.’ It involves heating the material to bring the carbon to its surface due to its release from carbon-containing compounds. Therefore, the surface becomes dark, and black laser marking is sometimes left behind. Metals and sometimes metal alloys can be used.
Laser bonding is an additive technique that involves binding another material to the surface of the material being marked. Unlike other methods, it does not remove part of the materials you want to mark. It is common to mark glass, stoneware, and metals.
· Number #3: Safety considerations
The next thing to consider is the location of the laser marking machine. These include the setting, the type of location (whether confined or not), the presence of other marking systems, and the hazards that accompany the technology.
If your laser engraving machine is set on an open shop floor, you should be assisted with installing a Class I Safety system by your supplier. A Class I safety system comprises a laser-safe cage, warning lights, and curtains to enable safe entry and other safety features.
Another option is a laser workstation with a Class I safety confinement and a laser source. An isolated room that meets certain safety criteria, such as safety goggles, area posting, and a key switch, will be needed to meet safety requirements if you have a Class IV laser.
You can easily choose the right laser marking technology for your project with the knowledge above. Fiber and CO2 laser markers are the most common of the different laser marking technology due to their powerful nature. Fiber laser markers work with metals, while CO2 laser technology is suitable only for non-metals. Do you have a question about using the technology, or do you want to get machines that deliver quality?