What is laser marking?
The term laser marking is a generic description used to describe the broad range of surface changes (“the mark”) that can be achieved when the laser energy is applied to the very extensive range of materials used in industry today. The laser process generates visual contrast between the processed element and the background.
In the following paragraphs we will explain when, where and how these occur and how you select the best combination for your material requirements.
How flexible can laser marking be for me?
Laser marking processes can satisfy almost all permanent marking requirements. From part identification and traceability, to corporate promotion, the versatility of laser marking has the power to meet your needs. When you consider that the process does not involve contact or impact onto the component, no chemicals are used and very rarely are additional processes required (drying, curing or bonding) then laser marking ticks all the boxes.
Today most laser marking equipment will be supplied with software that allows you to create and configure all your mark data requirements. Effectively a desk top publishing programme that will contain all the necessary tools to generate data such as alphanumeric characters including sequential marking to tools for the importing of technical images and artwork. A full list of laser and its software capabilities are described further down on this page. Images are also provided for each description.
In this section we try to expand further on this versatility, and explain how laser processing can provide for you and your production needs. We have visual examples of all the process formats listed below in our case studies section.
Whilst most materials can be processed using the common laser formats like fibre, CO2 and Nd:YAG, in some instances additives or material enhancements can be undertaken. In the area of plastics additives such as Iriodin and laserflare can be added to create a more absorbent barrier within the materials. This facilitates a better mark quality, a faster mark process and in some cases turns an un-markable material into one that marks easily.
Thermark is a product that is used to enhance marking as well. The product can be used on metals, ceramics, glass and other hard surfaces, creating a high contrast mark where it may not be achieved without an interim material. The laser heats the Thermark in order to fuse the material (a ceramic glaze) to the host material surface. It is the pigments used within the chemical mix (Thermark) that provides the high levels of contrast. The non-fused material is removed easily with a light washing process is used.
Further information is available from the staff at Thinklaser.
We can replicate all standard Adobe font styles, and also have special single stroke fonts, which allow for very high speed marking.
Barcodes & 2d matrices
All our lasers have multiple barcode formats, including 3 of 9 and interleaved 2 of 5. Our 2D matrix codes conform to ECC200 or below. Checksums can also be generated if required.
Graphics & logos
We have in-house facilities to convert or create graphical images from your drawings. Formats we can use include CorelDraw (CDR), Adobe Illustrator (AI), HPGL (PLT) DXF etc.
Scales & graduations
Tools are available to cater for repetitive tasks such as marking multiple jigged products at a time, or for quickly and accurately creating the divisions of a scale.
We operate two tools for circumferential marking. One for marking around components with data such as logos, and one which uses a step and repeat function to mark text in sections.
The flexibility of the operating software means that we can automatically serialise mark data. This ability means there are no additional costs.
Specially created job files allow us to make extra deep markings into your product, as required.
We can mark with great results onto convex and concave surfaces
CSV File Importation
We have created a number of tools for carrying out useful tasks. Importing data from an excel spreadsheet to remove repetitive typing is available on all systems.
We would like to ensure that all our current and potentially new customers are kept informed about our laser marking equipment and services, and in particular what can be achieved with today’s technology combined with our expertise. Below are commonly asked questions that we receive, and the answers that we can provide at this time. Click on the question and the answer will be revealed.
If you require further information
Is the process permanent?Once applied, the mark remains for the component life expectancy. The mark will remain following final processes such as passivation.
Are there things I can not mark?Possibly – however, because we operate both CO2, Nd:YAG and fibre lasers, it is likely we can process your materials.
Is the process cost effective?Fast job creation and high speed beam placement generally equates to low per unit costs. The speed at which you can mark using lasers is very much material dependent. With process speeds from 100 to 900+ millimeters per second, combined with pre-programmed computer controlled job files, the overall processing time is extremely cost effective, especially when compared to many other marking methods.
Will the process damage my parts?Because the process is non-contact, there is no physical impact or exerted forces. Any heating effect is very localised, and no clamping of the component is required. With no clamping requirements the load and unload times are minimal contributing to lower per unit costing.
Are chemicals or inks used?There are no chemicals or inks used during the marking process, therefore there should be no adverse effect to materials with coatings. It also means no secondary cleaning or drying process is required.
Can you process small parts?The laser beam is very small (100 to 130µm) and can generate characters down to 0.6mm with ease. On the new fibre based lasers it is possible to generate even smaller spot sizes. This has benefits as well as some down sides.
Is the process accurate?Software controlled beam delivery provides a high accuracy placement of the laser beam time after time. The addition of fixturing ensures process repeatability from batch to batch.
Can I get my parts back quickly?We operate multiple systems over the normal five day week on a standard 10 hour day. This allows us to schedule parts through our facility very quickly. Small to medium batch sizes are usually shipped next day.