Laser Marking Applications
Laser marking, in the simplest of terms, is the marking of a material using a laser. While this means that all applications will in some way involve marking, the process can be utilised in different ways in order to produce varied results. For that reason, it is useful to highlight just some of the many ways that one can use laser marking, and why it is the preferred choice over other more traditional methods.
Benefits of laser marking
Before looking at some of the many applications for laser marking, it is worth briefly examining some of the many advantages that this method offers. This will help to give you a clear understanding of just why it is used in so many industries around the world.
It is a non-contact process that causes no abrasion damage to the material, or any effect to the area that isn’t being targeted by the laser beam. It also won’t strip away any of the material, instead causing a colour change in the surface. These colour changes, which are the marks, are extremely high quality, extremely precise, very durable and are easily readable by both the human eye and machines.
One of the most appealing benefits to industries and the reason it can be used for so many applications is that it is capable of working with a range of materials, including metals, plastics, silicon and ceramic. It can also operate on a range of shapes and sizes, with the ability to work at very small and precise sizes too.
Another huge benefit to laser marking, and particularly so if you are using a fiber laser over the other alternatives, is that it can easily adapt between various processes. For instance, many fiber laser setups can perform both laser marking and laser engraving. This multi-functional approach is a huge time-saving and cost-saving for industries. Alongside this, these setups can be easily integrated into production lines.
Finally, it is a safe process that is environmentally friendly and uses a low amount of consumables too. As you can see from the above, laser marking clearly offers a huge range of benefits to its users!
For more information on the use of a fiber laser, please read our extensive article here.
The different types
It is possible to laser mark in more than one way in order to produce different results. By providing a quick overview of these, combined with the above benefits, the various applications listed below will be much clearer.
- Annealing – this is a type of laser marking used on metals with a primary objective of making the surface harder than it was before the laser treatment. The process can also cause a colour change beneath the surface that isn’t black, typical colours are yellow, red or green
- Colour marking – this will cause different shades of colours to be created on the material being targeted
- Foaming – The area being targeted is left lighter than the areas that aren’t
- Carbonising – The area being targeted is left darker than the areas that aren’t
- Night and day marking – a process where the markings can be easily read during the day and then illuminated at night
Laser marking applications
Now that you’ve gained an understanding of some of the ways that the process can be used and the benefits that it offers to its users, we want to examine some of the many applications where you’ll find laser marking being used.
To give a general overview, the most common types of markings that you will see being created are for labels, bar codes, QR codes, trademarks, guidance markings, serial numbers, date codes, ID markings, smart cards and best before dates.
These markings are created using laser marking because of the many benefits that we examined above, but also because these markings are great for fraud prevention.
However, you may also find laser marking being used for aesthetic reasons too.
Anneal marking cast iron
As we examined above, annealing is used in order to make a surface harder, whilst also sometimes creating a colour change on a metal surface, such as cast iron. This works by forming an oxide layer on the surface of the cast iron, which then results in a colour change.
While a black mark could also be used, using a colour mark will often create a greater contrast between the marking and the metal, making it easier to read and trace.
The marking of copper
Each metal is different, and so often requires a slightly different approach to mark. Laser marking is great at this, which is important given the fact that many industries, such as the automotive and aerospace sectors, which use a variety of different metals in their products.
Copper is a tougher metal to mark than the cast iron that we examined above as it is a highly reflective metal. This means that it can often reflect whatever is being directed at it. SPI Fiber lasers are a great workaround for this due to our innovative back reflection technology, but must still be operating at high peak power to achieve the desired results.
Using a multi-waveform process, a select few colours can be left on copper’s surface. This has been one of the most important developments in laser marking in recent years.
The marking of steel
Another metal that is commonly marked is steel. It’s crucial that a good process is used for this, as steel is one of the most widely used metals in the world. It’s often used for things such as car chassis, the frames of motorcycles or a number of domestic household products such as cleaning appliances.
One example of the marking of steel is for Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN).
Colour marking of metals
There are other metals that can be colour marked too, such as titanium and brass. One of the most common uses for this is within the jewellery industry, where the colour helps to add aesthetic appeal to the item being marked.
Night and day marking car parts
This process, which we touched on above, is also referred to as selective paint removal. It leaves a marking that can be viewed both during the day and at night when illuminated. This is crucial in places such as car dashboards, or on some mobile phone keypads.
Clearly, it’s not just metals that are laser marked, but others too. One other object which is often laser marked is brick. The most common use for this is within the construction sector and is used for ‘names of contributors’ applications.
Plastic laser marking
Another popular non-metal material that is marked is plastic. Many consumer electronics and medical products contain plastic, particularly white plastic, and need smooth, clear markings for a range of reasons. This may be to add to the finished design of the product, to add a barcode or a traceability label.
Other plastics that are marked are in the food and consumables industries to add best before dates.
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