Stainless steel is a metal alloy with wide applications in many industries due to its unique features. However, depending on the industry, there is a need to know the right techniques for effective stainless steel marking.

Many marking techniques are applicable in all types of materials. However, in terms of stainless steel marking, there is a little restriction. For example, it is not ideal to engrave stainless steel when it is used for its anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties. Therefore, this article will introduce the stainless steel marking techniques you can use and how to choose the right one.

Stainless Steel Properties

Before getting to know the right stainless steel marking techniques to use, it is important to talk about the different properties of the material. Unlike other materials, stainless steel does not tarnish either by rusting or corrosion over time. This is the most important characteristic of stainless steel as it determines its use and the marking method to use.

Also, even though stainless steel boasts high tensile strength, it has lightweight. Consequently, it is applicable in many industries, such as the automotive and aviation industries.

What Methods Can We Use For Stainless Steel Marking

stainless steel marking methods you can use

Stainless steel material is popular among many industries because of its anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties. However, these two properties play a huge role in the marking method and the machine you can use.

The most important thing to note is that stainless steel has coatings by which it can avoid corrosion (although there are different grades of steel). Therefore, the method and machine to use should not alter this composition or remove the layer where the two properties are useful.\.

Many marking processes are available for use in stainless steel marking. However, not all of them are compatible with stainless steel. For example, marking methods like inkjet printing needs heavy maintenance. They can also lead to frequent downtime.

Two important marking methods have been highly utilized in stainless steel marking; Laser marking and dot peen marking. Below is a thorough explanation of how the two methods work.

Stainless Steel Laser Marking 

Laser marking processes are common stainless steel marking methods used in different scenarios. However, their use depends highly on the grade of stainless steel available and the use. Consequently, there is five laser marking methods for stainless steel marking.

What Laser Marking Methods Can You Use For Stainless Steel Marking?

Due to stainless steel features and the use, four laser marking methods are ideal for stainless steel marking: laser annealing/stain marking, etching, ablation, dark marking, and engraving. Each method has its requirement, and they mark in different ways. Therefore, they should be used appropriately. Below is an explanation of the process.

Laser Annealing/Stain Marking

Laser annealing is a non-penetrative and non-degradative laser marking method involving a laser beam to change a material’s color.

The process is achieved by heating the material surface till an oxide forms. The type of color obtained depends highly on oxide thickness, the grade of stainless steel, and the laser beam temperature. Common examples of color achievable with the process are gray, dark brown, and black. You can achieve a wider range of colors with powerful fiber laser machines. However, these machines are difficult to use because they have too many complicated laser settings.

To use laser annealing, there are many things you have to take note of. For example, the focus spot size of the laser beam will affect the end product. Therefore, if you use a small focused point, the stainless steel material can vaporize instead of heating to the point of oxide formation. Other things to consider are laser output power, pulse frequency, and galvo scanning speed.

Laser annealing is the most common method used in stainless steel marking because it is non-degradative. Consequently, the stainless steel material is unaffected, and it can be used normally as before.

Laser Etching

laser etchingLaser etching is another stainless marking process popular for its speed, versatility, and durability. The process involves using a laser etching machine to laser etch stainless steel by delivering a high amount of energy on the stainless steel material. Consequently, the stainless steel surface melts and expands. Etching is most commonly used to produce permanent markings such as data matrix codes, serial numbers, barcodes, and logos.

Dark Marking

Dark marking involves roughening the surface of the stainless steel material and applying color to it. The “color” is a function of the oxide layer with stain marks or the color or reflectivity of the underlying surface with ablation marking.

Due to the roughening up, the stainless steel material is trapping and coloring at the roughened part. In addition, because of the procedure involved in stainless steel marking via laser dark marking, it is not ideal for some industries. For example, the medical industry does not use it due to the need to maintain equipment sterility.

Laser Ablation Marking

Laser ablation is another stainless steel marking method ideal for different use in many industries. It involves removing a thin layer of the stainless steel material to create a light-colored contrasting mark.

Laser ablation requires little heat and little or no penetration into the material. It is also characterized by a faster marking speed, high peak power, short pulse width, and lower laser power output. This is significantly different from laser engraving and laser annealing.

Using ablation marking comes with understanding the properties of stainless steel and its uses. However, in areas where the outer layer of the stainless steel responsible for its anti-corrosive properties is important, ablation marking is not ideal. This is because it can lead to the rusting of the material.

Laser Engraving

 laser engravingLaser engraving is the use of an engraving machine to create deep marks on stainless steel materials. It is very durable and long-lasting, and it is achieved by using high laser power and lower marking speeds.

Steps Involved In Laser Engraving Stainless Steel

  • Get Your Ideas

This is the most important step in laser engraving your stainless steel. Getting your idea means deciding on the image engrave and its design. Possible ways of getting an idea of the mark are projects, environments, and the internet.

  • Design and Input your Image/Text

After getting the right idea, you should and input your image into the stainless steel engraving machine. Designing the mark is only obtainable on a computer. However, you must make sure that the file will be compatible between the computer and the laser engraver. After designing the mark, send it to a steel engraving machine. There are many types of steel engraving machines. However, it would be best to use a portable engraving machine for ease of operation and its industrial application.

  • Make the Right Settings

After inputting the design to the laser engraver,  you should make the right settings. This depends on the stainless steel engraving machine you are using. For example, the fiber laser marking machine will allow you to alter fonts, edit the design, etc.

  • Begin the Process

This depends on the type of steel engraving machine that you want to use. For those using portable laser engravers, place the stainless steel material on a flat surface and mark it with the handheld part of the machine. Remove the stainless steel material at the end of the process, and you have an engraved material.

 

Laser engraving involves the removal of the surface of the material. Therefore, it is not a readily used method for stainless steel needed for their anti-corrosive effect. Most industries would rather use stainless steel marking methods such as laser annealing instead of laser engrave stainless steel.

Evaluating the Use of Laser Marking Methods With Stainless Steel

Laser marking methods are popular ways of marking stainless steel in different industries. However, depending on the type of methods involved, there are different advantages and disadvantages. Below are the advantages and disadvantages of using the method in stainless steel marking.

Advantages

  • Laser marking methods produce a permanent on the stainless steel’s surface.
  • They do not require application and cleanup like the marking compound
  • Laser marking methods are precise and produce marking of high contrast.

Disadvantages

  • Depending on the laser marking method, the stainless steel material’s surface might be removed. Consequently, it will lead to loss of the anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties. An example is the use of a laser engraver for stainless steel marking.
  • It has a higher cost

Fiber Laser Machines

The most powerful and multifunctional solutions today are based on fiber laser. The newest laser etching stainless steel system there
is, fiber system is perfect for commercial and industrial use. HeatSign’s fiber laser marking machines apply high quality engravings and add extra advantages for the user:

  • Fast performance
  • Power saving
  • Improved usability and flexibility
  • Heavy workloads
  • No maintenance

Recommended Stainless Steel Laser Engraving Machine

Dot Peen Marking

dot peen marking

Dot peen marking is another stainless steel marking method involving a dot peening machine to strike the stainless steel surface. This leads to the removal of a small part of the stainless steel with every hit. Successive hits will form a dot matrix which becomes the mark itself.

Dot peening marking system is very effective in deep stainless steel marking because of the successive hits. However, deep marking the material depends on material hardness, support tooling, and stylus properties.

Types Of Dot Peen Marking Tools You Can use with Stainless Steel

You can use three types of dot peen marking tools with stainless steel. They are:

  • Pneumatic dot peen markers
  • Electromagnetic dot peen markers
  • Scribing

Each dot peen marking tool has its application and requirement. Nevertheless, they are all applicable with stainless steel.

How to Choose the Right Dot Peen Marking Tool

Choosing the right dot peen marking tool is desirable to get the best in terms of quality. Therefore, it is important to know about some parameters associated with the process. Below are few important parameters you must note:

  • Stainless Steel Hardness

Stainless steel has different grades. Therefore, they have different hardness properties. Therefore, you must ensure that the indenting pin hardness is directly proportional to stainless steel hardness.

  • Stainless Steel Thickness

Thickness is another property that you should look at when choosing a dot peen marking tool. Encoding occurs at the stainless steel’s outermost layer. Therefore, you should control the indenting force. Controlling the indenting force depends on the type of stainless steel material and its uses. For example, if the stainless steel will retain its anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties, you must reduce the indenting force such that the outermost layer is intact.  However, it would be best to remember that you need a deep indentation to read the code better.

 

You can also ensure the highest quality of stainless steel marking by doing the following:

  • Use a compatible indenting pin with the stainless steel material
  • Always maintain the indenting pins properly.
  • Always for wears as this can lead to a reduction in quality of marking.

Evaluating the Use of Dot Peen Marking With Stainless Steel

Dot peen marking is an ideal stainless steel marking process applicable in different industries. Unlike other methods, it subjects the stainless steel material to mechanical stress. However, it does not subject the material to thermal or chemical stress. Therefore, there is a guarantee of stainless steel preservation.

Advantages

  • The stainless steel mark is permanent and durable.
  • The stainless steel does not undergo thermal or chemical stress.
  • It has a high marking speed.

Disadvantages

  • It exposes the stainless steel material to mechanical stress.
  • Depending on the material, there can be noise pollution.

Dot Peen Marking on Stainless Steel

Some of our customers also seek deep engraving by a pin marker.

marking stainless steel | HeatSign - dot peen marking

Recommended Dot Pin Marking Machines

How to Choose the Right Stainless Steel Marking Method

We already introduced the two popular and general methods of marking stainless steel. However, choosing the right stainless steel marking method comes with understanding the properties of stainless steel material. Below are a few things to consider when looking for the right method.

Stainless Steel Grade

The stainless steel grade you are working with plays a huge role in the stainless steel marking method you will use. For example, it plays a huge role in the color obtained in laser engraving. It also plays a huge role in the indenting force and the indenting pin used in the dot peen marking system.

Anti-Rust and Anti-Corrosive Property

Stainless steel is majorly used for its anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties. These properties occur as a result of the chromium layering of the stainless steel material. The chromium layer prevents rusting and corrosion of stainless steel by stopping oxygen from reaching the steel part. However, if you remove the chromium layer, oxygen can then cause oxidation of the underlying steel layer. As a result, this leads to rusting that gradually destroys the material.

Due to the importance of the anti-rust properties, the stainless steel marking method must not allow stainless steel to rust after marking. Consequently, laser annealing is the most common method as it guarantees against rusting, unlike laser engraving, laser etching, and dot peening. In addition, laser annealing will only modify the material under the stainless steel, create the marking while the protective chromium layer responsible for its anti-rust properties is intact.

The Marking Method Itself

Understanding the marking method plays a huge role in the right stainless steel marking method you can use. For example, dot peen marking systems are noisy. Therefore, you should consider that if you are choosing them. Also, the availability of the machines needed for the process is important.

Applications of Marked Stainless Steel

HeatSign offers an expert approach in providing stainless steel engraving and marking solutions, taking into account the industry and the exact demands of the part manufacturer.

Stainless steel marking is widely used in many fields. Some of the common examples are:

  • Keeping a record of parts for automotive, aerospace, and metalworking
  • Nameplates and tag necklaces for corporate and military use
  • Custom etching on promo articles for marketing purposes
  • Corporate inventory management
  • Data matrix codes for easy part traceability
  • Mark steel medical instruments
  • Knife blades and other kitchen utensils

Get the Best in Terms of Stainless Steel Marking 

Stainless steel is an alloy with wide applications in different industries. It has a lightweight, huge tensile strength, and anti-rust and anti-corrosive properties. Choosing the right stainless steel marking method comes with understanding many things. For example, the different grades of stainless steel, the use, and the available marking methods.

This article discussed the two common stainless steel marking methods and how to choose the right one. For those that need the precise and error-free stainless steel marking process, Heatsign is the right service to choose.

Need Help? Contact Us