Laser marking and engraving is a handy way to mark materials. It has extensive applications. Nowadays, all businesses lookout for a laser marking machine for their daily marking needs. Many industries deploy laser-based machines for marking and identifying their components. Other than the obvious benefits of permanently marking products in a fast, efficient manner, there are many added benefits that make it a popular choice globally. Depending upon the type of machine you opt for and how powerful it is, you can use it for the following:
- Metal cutting
- Cutting Natural Materials
- Welding pieces of artificial materials like plastic, polymer, etc.
In this article, we take a deep dive into a laser marking machine and the commonly adopted marking techniques. We also give you a checklist that will be handy whenever you have to buy a laser marking machine or an engraving machine.
What is Laser Marking?
LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Therefore, a laser machine is a piece of equipment capable of stimulating electromagnetic radiation and emitting highly concentrated, optically amplified light beams. First invented in 1960, laser technology has undergone many waves of innovation. As we will see later, modern industries deploy gas lasers, solid-state lasers, semiconductors and dye lasers for various operations, ranging from marking plastics to cutting metals.
Where is a Laser Marking Machine used?
Though the scientific benefits of laser are many, we would stick to the topic of laser marking and list some of the most popular use cases across industries. Laser beams provide highly controlled, computerized precision. This property is harnessed for marking materials of small to medium sizes. Integrated Circuits (ICs), Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs), dies, semi-conductor fabricated wafers, metals, plastics, glass, ceramics, rubber, LEDs, graphic composites, etc. can all be marked very accurately by laser beams. Jewelry industry deploys fiber laser marking machines to achieve delicate markings on diamonds, quartz substances and other precious metals like gold, silver, and platinum. Barcode marking is another popular application that utilizes the properties of fiber lasers. Fiber lasers are also used in high-tech industries such as heavy engineering and aerospace.
Advantages of Laser Marking
Laser marking machine has been able to achieve a high degree of quality and efficiency. Laser marking and engraving has the following advantages:
- Contactless – Laser marking relays highly focused light beams at the targeted area. Therefore, there is no physical contact and there is no abrasion or damage to the surface being worked upon.
- Permanent – Laser beams oxidize the surface by heating it. Hence, there is no material loss – just a permanent color change that does not fade away with time.
- Quality – The quality of markings is easily readable by humans and machines both. This simplifies component identification and assembly on the production floor and end consumers also find it helpful when they use the products.
- Precision – Laser beams are computer operated and can work on really tiny areas, delivering high-quality markings.
- Versatile – Laser markings and engraving can be done on many surfaces that are otherwise tough to work with, such as plastic, rubber, glass, metal, silicon, ceramics, etc.
The Best Laser Marking Machines
Now that you know the basics about laser marking, its advantages and the different types of tasks that laser marking machines can do for you, let us have a look at the top quality machines from global brands.
Laser Marking and Engraving Systems from Telesis
Telesis is one of the pioneers in applying fiber lasers for marking. The company is known for its innovative range of products. Over the years, it has kept introducing industry-leading features to maintain its position as a market leader. It has got years of product engineering expertise and offers a complete range of solutions for highly demanding precision industries such as aerospace and automobiles. Here are different categories of laser marking solutions on offer from this serial innovator:
- U Series Laser Marking Systems – UVC Laser Marker is the perfect portable solution for cold marking. This machine uses 355 nm wavelength to mark plastics and additives. It stands out as one of the best markers for areas where heat-based marking is prohibited for security reasons. This series easily marks plastics, silicon, and glass with equal ease. Its precise beam is very useful for industries that require accurate markings on printed circuit boards, microchips, solar panels, etc.
- CO2 Laser Marking Systems – Ideal choice for marking substrates such as wood, glass, quartz, ceramics, fabrics, rubber and other organic materials. It is available in 10W and 30W variants and sees a wide application for heavy-duty cycle environments.
- E-Series Vandate Laser Marking Systems – Compact, air-cooled marker with higher powers compared to fiber lasers. It finds great application for fine marking heat-sensitive applications that require a very high degree of precision marking.
- F-Series Fiber Laser Marking Systems
- Green Wavelength Laser Marking Systems
Laser Marking Solutions from HeatSign
HeatSign has been a top innovator, offering high-quality products at industry-beating prices. Their innovative offerings in the laser marking space span the following three categories:
- Fiber Laser Marking Machine
- CO2 Laser Marking Machine
- UV Laser Marking Machine
These machines are capable of delivering permanent markings on a variety of surfaces. The high-quality markings are resistant to extreme environmental conditions such as high temperature, oil, vapors, etc. Based in China, HeatSign delivers international quality products to over 50 countries. Here are some of the advantages of utilizing their machines:
- Minimized manufacturing cost
- Greater marking efficiency
- High-speed laser marking, etching, and engraving solutions
- Works well with all metals and non-metals
- Long operating life
- Minimal maintenance and does not leave consumables
- Easy to integrate with your existing facilities
MCW Laser Marking Machines
With all the focus around heavy-duty, industrial usage, we often ignore the power of compact machines. MCWLaser 20W Portable Desktop Fiber Laser Marker is one such marker that is the ideal combination of affordability, quality, and portability. Its highly modular design makes it even more versatile and at under $4500, it sits in the sweet spot where technology meets affordability. A powerful controller, touch-based interface and ability to mark on a wide range of surfaces such as aluminum, gold, and copper make it stand out at this price point.
If you are just getting a taste of laser marking machines and want to try out affordable solutions before committing large capital, this is the perfect starting point.
How to choose the best Laser Marking Machine
Laser marking machines are available with many specifications. One size does not fit all. It is important to know things to look out for before you invest your hard-earned money. In this section, we give you a primer on the factors to consider while buying a laser marking/etching/engraving machine.
You will get plenty of sales and marketing material from manufacturers. They would highlight the multi-purpose nature of their products and mention how their machines can perform marking as well as cutting jobs with equal ease. Focus on the primary reason you are buying a laser marking machine for. If your core requirement is to mark different materials, buy a single function, specialized marking machine. The apparent “all-rounders” might not do even a single task well.
Laser marking machines have commercial application and it is important to have a number to work with. Look for details such as how many parts can the machine mark in an hour? Even if your current volume requirements are low, take a long-term view and plan for the time when your business will see peaks. Laser marking machine is an expensive investment.
Cost of Ownership
Do not get carried away by an inexpensive sale price. Find out how often will the machine require maintenance and its cost. The true cost of ownership takes into account the selling price as well as the operational and maintenance costs. A good quality machine lasts a decade – factor in all the costs that you would incur. This is where established brands stand out. Their products might seem expensive at first but they run trouble-free for many years. Eventually, the cost of ownership is lowe compared to machines that require regular maintenance.
Laser marking machines deploy different technology to mark different materials. Optical fiber and CO2 based lasers are really popular. However, you need to do your homework and figure out which material you will mostly be working with. Once you know the materials, buy a machine that uses specialized technology to work on it.
Other than the material, its size is also a prime factor influencing the choice of a laser marking machine. The size of the machine’s format and slot should be able to accommodate that of the work-piece.
At times, newer brands entering the market are trying to make a name for themselves and would go all out to ensure you have the best experience at an affordable cost. Bigger, more established players might take things a bit casually, especially if your order size is small. Laser marking machine is a long-term investment. Even if you have to pay more for the latest technology, go for it. There is no point in buying outdated technology, just because it comes for a lower price. You might have to buy another machine shortly, which will eventually become more expensive.
This assumes a lot of importance for commercially deployed machines. Even a day of delay in getting support will result in loss of money and goodwill. Take a good hard look at the warranty paperwork and the support resources the manufacturer is ready to deploy, should your machine fail.
As we are aware, software plays a major role in present day businesses. Computers run the show and the machine’s learning curve should not be steep. Have a look at how easy it is for your operators to learn it and customize its function to suit your needs. You do not want to call support for making the most minute changes.
A laser marking machine can be one of your most valuable assets. Be careful of its capabilities and your requirements – and strike a fine balance between the two. Irrespective of the industry you do business in, there is a customized laser marking solution to suit your exact needs. Buy a machine that specializes in doing the job you need rather than going for an all-rounder that might struggle at everything. At last, a well-maintained, well-serviced machine will last you for many years and the benefits will far outweigh the cost of ownership.