How to choose the right laser marking technology?

  • Laser part marking technology is becoming increasingly important in all areas of manufacturing, from automotive to aerospace and medical industries. The truth is that marking and engraving technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and there are many factors that go into choosing the best solution for your application.

    Therefore, before you make a significant investment in marking equipment for your facility, here are three key considerations to help you choose the best laser technology.

    1. Marking type

    Now that you have determined the material, what do you want the mark to look like? Are you looking for deep marks? Do you want your mark to have more contrast?

    Depending on the type of marking technology, you can create dark or frosted marks. For example, if you are working on barcode technology and struggling with the ability of your visual system to read the code, you will want to use frosted backgrounds and dark markers. It all depends on your particular situation and how you want your final product to look.

    2. Materials

    The first thing you will want to consider is the type of material to be marked. We like to divide materials into two main categories: organic or non-organic.

    Organic materials are materials such as wood, glass, plastic or paper products. Metal, steel, cast aluminum anything that sparks when you put it in the microwave (although we do not recommend this) is considered non-organic.  

    3. Safety Considerations

    Consider where your engraver will be placed. Will it be on the factory floor near the operator, or do you have a dedicated enclosed space? Will this machine replace another technology, such as inkjet?

    You should know that if your laser engraver will be located in an open shop, your laser supplier should help you install a Class I safety system. This includes laser safety enclosures and warning lights, curtains to create safe entrances, and other safety considerations.

    If you have a Class IV laser, you will need a dedicated room that meets specific safety conditions, such as area posting, protective eyewear and a key switch so that it still meets safety requirements.

    Regardless of the marking technology you use or the material you engrave, high-quality markings are key to improving traceability, reducing counterfeiting, complying with industry regulations and improving quality. How do you ensure high quality laser marking?

    a. Measure focal length

    If you see a mark degradation, the first thing you want to check is the focal length. The focal length is measured from the object you are marking or your marking plane directly to the laser lens. If the offset distance between these points is wrong, it could mean the difference between a clear mark and a faint mark.

    b.Maintaining the lens

    This is an obvious but overlooked issue that affects mark quality. Anyone who wears glasses knows that if you can't see well, try cleaning your lenses. The same rules apply to your laser marking machine. Any type of residue buildup other than scratches or cracks, such as oil or dust, can damage the laser beam path and reduce mark quality.

    Avoid lens problems altogether by developing a regular preventive maintenance schedule to maintain your lenses. Depending on your environment, this schedule can range from weekly to yearly. Taking the time to make sure your lenses are free of debris and scratches will give you a better mark in the long run.