Laser Marking Stainless Steel: Engraving, Etching or Annealing
Many types of stainless-steel alloys and grades exist. They're all made of elements such as iron, nickel, carbon, and chromium. The latter makes up for at least 10.5% of the alloy. Chromium reacts with oxygen and creates an isolating layer that prevents the formation of rust on the surface.
Before you choose to laser engrave, etch, or anneal identifiers like data matrix codes and logos on stainless steel parts, you want to make sure that:
- The identifier will be permanently marked on the material
- The surface will be left intact to avoid degradation by oxidation
This is especially true for applications like marking exhaust lines which are exposed to corrosive acids. It also applies to marking parts that must remain spotless like car interiors.
Laser Annealing with Fiber Lasers - A Stainless Reputation
When it comes to marking stainless steel, some solutions aren't adapted to industrial environments. Methods such as inkjet printing require heavy maintenance and lead to frequent downtime. Those are examples of unplanned problems on the shop floor.
Real traceability is only possible by directly marking parts. Laser annealing does that by chemically modifying the steel under the part surface.
You will get permanent and high-contrast marks that can withstand high-temperature annealing and intense UV exposure.
Stainless steel must not rust after you've marked it. Even if it's naturally resistant to rust, removing its surface protection will expose the material to rust.
Unlike laser engraving, laser etching, and dot peening, laser annealing doesn't lead to rusting. This method only modifies the material under the part surface. It thus creates markings deep in the material while leaving the protective layer intact.
You can avoid managing consumables and regular maintenance while reducing your environmental footprint.
Unlike inkjet printing, fiber lasers don't use any consumables or contaminants. In addition, they require low maintenance, as there are no moving parts.
Still curious about our laser process? Read our post on why you can't laser engrave stainless steel.