How is Laser Marking Used in the Aerospace Industry?

Today’s aircraft, both commercial and military, can have very long operational lives. The average age of US airliners is 24 years, and the Air Force’s most recent operational B-52 aircraft rolled off the production line in 1962—56 years ago. Maintenance, repair, and support of these and all other aircraft require a constant supply of certified parts.

Component serialization and traceability are two critical aspects of aircraft manufacturing and maintenance. Parts and components must be traceable for both manufacturing and maintenance. In the past, manufacturers had to choose between traditional engraving or screen printing to mark a part with text, an image, or a barcode. However, these processes are nonpermanent, expensive, and may damage parts.

Inks and adhesive stickers wear away. Mechanical etching and other physical marking systems can weaken some parts. The challenge is to apply a permanent marking so that it does not degrade the strength and integrity of the part and to do it quickly and economically.

Rockets with laser marking application on them taking off from the ground.

How is laser marking used in this sector?

Aerospace parts must be manufactured to exacting standards and marked with a Unique Identifier (UID) or the equivalent that meets the labeling requirements of the Federal Aviation Agency or the Department of Defense.

Today, manufacturers can imprint characters, images or numbers without compromising the parts using laser marking. This process uses focused laser light to produce easy-to-read, damage-free marks instead of using a physical tool to transmit ink or etch the surface.

Laser marking has become a vital tool to meet customer product marking requirements, minimize counterfeiting, and enhance quality. Hai Tech Lasers, Inc. provides several affordable solutions for laser marking of aerospace parts.

Many other federal agencies also require some kind of identification to comply with laws that support traceability, quality, and other safety standards. For example, automotive companies use part traceability to rapidly determine where and when a part was produced in the event of a recall. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board use this traceability to assist in accident investigations, hence the requirement for permanent, fireproof markings.

The Process is Eco-Friendly and Clean

Unlike chemical etching or inkjet printing, laser marking does not use any consumables, making it affordable, clean, and energy efficient. It also eliminates the downtime and costs associated with fixing, cleaning, or powering printers.

Laser marking is a non-contact, damage-free process that ensures clean marking with minimal material penetration.

To assure that a mark remains legible for the life of the component, especially when operated in an aggressive environment (i.e., in the presence of oxidation, corrosion and wear phenomena), an adequate depth of the mark is required. The mark depth is strongly affected by the laser source and by the fully controllable process parameters, such as average power, pulse frequency, and scanning speed.

Laser marking is also keeping up with advancements in manufacturing. Cold Spray Deposition (CSD) is a relatively new technology for coating surfaces without a significant increase in the temperature of the substrate. In aeronautics, this technology is useful for coating materials sensitive to temperature. Laser markings were tested on CSD Ti coated materials, to study the effect of the laser marking process on the coating. The experimental marking tests were carried out through a 30 W MOPA Q-Switched Yb:YAG fiber laser, under various process conditions. The results showed the effectiveness of the laser process to produce high-quality marks without damage to the titanium layer.

A precise and reliable integrated part marking solution

As mentioned, component serialization and traceability are critical aspects of aircraft manufacturing. Parts need to be tracked during the manufacturing phase, as well as when the equipment is installed on an aircraft. Part identification is also critically important following a crash to allow investigators to track the history of each critical part. Hence, the markings must be properly engraved, easily legible, and not wear away over time. Having a precise and reliable integrated part marking solution is essential for any aerospace manufacturer. Hai Tech Lasers provides solutions that can be applied to any set of marking standards, and our laser marking processes complies with AS478-3 and MIL-STD-130 standards.

Features of Laser Marking System for Aerospace Applications

Many aerospace components are exposed to extreme temperatures and harsh environmental conditions. The type of laser system used should ensure that the laser markings are legible and long-lasting. For aircraft components, Hai Tech Lasers uses lamp pumped and fiber laser marking machines. The lamp pumped system uses a Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (Nd:YAG) crystal, while the fiber system uses a Ytterbium doped fiber for generating the laser beam.

Benefits of Laser Marking Systems

These particular laser systems offer significant benefits to meet aerospace marking requirements:

  •       All letters, numbers, or symbols in the markings are created without any distortion.
  •       The system is inexpensive and can be easily automated for high volume requirements.
  •       The system uses a non-contact method to create permanent, high quality, and contaminant-free markings.

Aerospace Laser Marking and Engraving Service Applications

Our laser marking systems have the capability to mark and engrave nonmetals such as plastics, ceramics, and thermo-elastomer rubber, and metals including titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum. The laser system provides various laser marking services to satisfy aerospace manufacturer’s requirements, including:

  •       Serialization
  •       Logo marking
  •       Barcode marking
  •       Regulatory marking
  •       Nameplate engraving
  •       Metal labels engraving
  •       Part numbers engraving
  •       Panel and controls marking
  •       Lot and date coding marking
  •       Marking plastic switches and backlit buttons

Why is Laser Engraving the Best Option for Aerospace Applications?

Over the years, laser marking has gained wide acceptance across every sector of the aerospace industry because:

Compared to inkjet, hand engraving, and dot-peen marking methods, laser marks are extremely durable. The marks will not fade even with continuous exposure to heat, elevated temperatures, or harsh chemicals and solvents.

Laser engraving is much faster, even when imprinting complex designs. Generally, laser marking equipment can apply marks at a rate of several characters per second.

The technique is compatible with a wide range of aerospace materials including:

  •       Platinum
  •       Silver
  •       Brass
  •       Stainless steel
  •       Carbide
  •       Titanium
  •       Aluminum
  •       Plastic
  •       Coated metals

Since the method uses no chemicals, there are no harsh chemicals or fumes generated by the laser marking process.

Marks can be Engraved on Virtually Any Aerospace Part

Laser marking is an ideal solution suitable for marking a wide range of aerospace parts. Certification symbols, barcodes, serial codes, and numbers, as well as simple custom texts, can easily be marked on:

  •       Turbine components such as blades, rings, and discs.
  •       Tooling including bolts, screws, nuts, and washers.
  •       Pumps, generators, and thermal exchange systems.
  •       Landing gear parts, brake discs, thrust reversers.
  •       Actuators, turbine shafts, ID plates, refurbished engines.
  •       Nozzles and vanes, combustors, transmission gears and gear assemblies.

Laser marking offers unlimited possibilities in terms of marking, including complicated symbols, texts, logos, and graphics. The method guarantees clear, legible permanent marks on virtually any aerospace part.

The advent of new products strengthens the need for effective component marking and engraving. Laser marking is the most effective method to apply high-quality logos, identification, or computer readable codes.

However, having the laser marking machine may not solve all of your marking challenges. You need a service provider who can offer you marking and engraving solutions for products made from a full spectrum of materials and parts of all shapes and sizes. This is where we come in. Welcome to Hai Tech Lasers, Inc.

Who We Are

Hai Tech Lasers, Inc. specializes in precision industrial laser marking and laser engraving, and we provide worldwide distribution of systems, parts, and service. We service the Aerospace, Medical and Automotive industries, with customers in North America, South America, and Europe. Our headquarters are located in Santa Clarita, California, bordering northwest Los Angeles.

We also provide complete refurbishment services and we can provide custom upgrades to help your machines adapt to changing manufacturing requirements. With a complete inventory of replacement parts and skilled technicians, we can provide on-site repair services to ensure the least amount of downtime.

If you would like to know more, please contact us via phone at +1 (661) 775-0210, or via email at sales@HaiTechLasers.com.