Laser marking systems are becoming an increasingly popular direct part marking (DPM) method for full lifecycle traceability in demanding manufacturing and engineering environments. Contrary to traditional DPM methods, such as inkjet marking, dot peening, electro‐chemical etching, laser marking offers an array of benefits that simply cannot be matched by other technologies.
While laser marking systems may require a larger initial capital investment, manufacturers in all types of industries attest to the significant ROI they have achieved by adopting this method. For one, laser marking systems are much faster and cleaner than other means. They require no consumables, which is ideal for keeping maintenance, running costs and profit‐gouging downtimes to a minimum. Furthermore, laser systems generate high‐ quality, ultra‐precise and permanent marks of all types, such as texts, graphics, linear barcode and 2D codes. Lasers can also mark on virtually all types of materials, making them a very flexible option for any application.
This guide was designed to present an overview of laser marking technology, important considerations to keep in mind when acquiring a laser marking system, and demystify some common preconceived notions regarding operator safety and usability. We hope you enjoy the read!
Laser Direct Part Marking: An Overview
Laser direct part marking is used in many different industries, including aerospace, defense, nuclear, automotive, marine and power‐sports sectors, where it is critical to ensure traceability of the parts throughout the product’s lifecycle and user safety. Laser direct part marking is also widely used for process control so that manufacturers can identify, in real time, where parts are in the production chain, parts in inventory and if any parts are missing.
Thanks to the very nature of lasers, identifiers can be permanently embedded on even the most difficult surfaces and on almost any type of material, whether it’s steel, stainless steel, copper, lead, aluminum, acrylic or plastic. In fact, high‐power laser marking has been gaining a lot of traction in the aluminum industry: from sows to billets to cold and hot rolls to extrusions or die castings, information marked by lasers follows parts and products so that all stakeholders downstream of the marking step, can use the data for traceability purposes.
In the long run, what’s important to remember is that high‐power, near‐infrared pulsed lasers are ideal for most marking applications in the primary metal sector. It is interesting to note that laser parameters have to be adjusted for each type of metal. In fact, Laserax has even developed special techniques for laser markings on each type of primary metal, including zinc, lead, magnesium, titanium, nickel, tin, aluminum and stainless steel.
Laser systems etch information directly onto parts and use a non‐contact marking approach, which is perfect for marking very hot surfaces, such as metals just getting out of the smelter, hot rolling or forging. What’s more, laser systems marks at a very high speed, allowing for marking on parts as they move and enabling very elaborate marks to be added to parts. Manufacturers oftentimes use laser systems for branding purposes, such as adding logos or trademarks to a component, serial numbers, batch numbers and text. Lasers are particularly ideal for encoding mechanisms, like barcodes, Quick Response codes (QR codes) and Data Matrix Codes (DMC), to efficiently convey the most amount of information as possible.