A Guide to Understanding Laser Marking

A Guide to Understanding Laser Marking

Laser marking enables product manufacturers to add precision colors and shapes onto a variety of worked surfaces. It is a contact-free coloring process used to quickly create indelible marks on smooth or polished surfaces. Laser marking tools provide a wide variety of colors and tones to create an exact, appealing finish.

laser marking services

This page will discuss how laser markers work and the advantages of the process, the material surfaces laser marking works best on different industries that benefit from laser marking, the various types of laser marking systems, and the extensive laser marking capabilities here at Hai Tech Lasers.

How Laser Markers Work

Laser marks and laser etchings are permanent. In general, the lasers will apply concentrated heat to the surface to remove, discolor, or otherwise affect the top layer of the material to create finely controlled, high-contrast marks. Many lasers feature varying wavelength and power level capabilities to facilitate a wide variety of marks or to allow marking on a wider variety of materials.

There are multiple laser marking methods available. Some of the most popular laser marking processes include:

  • Annealing. This laser marking process oxidizes the substrate material below the top layer of the surface. Annealing etches and changes the color of the surface to create complex graphics and labels. Annealing works on both metal and non-metal substrates.
  • Carbonizing. Carbonizing heats up the surface of non-metal substrates to create darker marks on the surface. The heat releases oxygen and/or hydrogen, and the remaining carbon leaves a darkened surface. While this creates a high degree of contrast on lightly colored surfaces, the marks are much more subtle on darker materials. Carbonizing is a common technique for wood and leather products.
  • Foaming. Commonly used on plastics to create a raised texture, foaming creates a lightly bubbled surface. The laser creates precise areas of foaming, and the affected lines or patterns reflect diffuse light. This process is mostly used with darker colored substrates.
  • Removing. This process strips away the top coat of the substrate wherever the laser makes contact. If the top coat and the substrate have different colors, the removing process generates a good contrast to make the marks more visible. Manufacturers commonly use removing laser techniques on layered substrates, such as anodized aluminum, coated metal, film, foil, and laminated surfaces.
  • Staining. During the staining process, the laser’s beam triggers a heat-based chemical reaction with the surface. Different materials and surface layers will often generate different colors when they’re heated. However, light substrates are vulnerable to discoloration from the resulting soot.

Advantages

While laser marking is just one of the color marking techniques available, it’s one of the most advantageous. Not only can the techniques be applied to a wide variety of surface materials, but each one also creates appealing patterns and graphics that appeal to consumers in highly competitive product markets.

Some of the key advantages of laser marking include:

  1. Consistent Quality with High Resolution and Contrast

    Since laser marking equipment can use a wide variety of lasers with even wavelengths to generate heat or power, they can create high-contrast marks on almost any surface type. The lasers can also be finely controlled to create highly detailed and accurate marks like barcodes.

  2. Durable Marks

    Laser marks are permanent and they last as long as the surface does. This is essential in extreme environments, such as environments with chemical exposure, salt water, and extreme heat or wear, where labels and paint won’t last. Laser marks have been thoroughly tested under exposure to salt spray, UV rays, and other adverse conditions to ensure the longevity of the marks.

  3. High-Speed Processes

    Laser equipment creates even, detailed marks very quickly. Automated laser marking machines handle high-volume production demands with extremely short cycle times.

  4. Fast and Reliable Equipment

    The lasers used in laser marking processes are built to last in extreme and industrial environments. The lasers can generate marks with extreme precision so companies can ensure their products have clear instructions, easy-to-read safety instructions, and quickly recognizable logos. Laser marking machines can even create fonts as small as one point.

  5. High Degree of Efficiency

    Lasers follow the same set of precise instructions over and over again with limited human intervention, resulting in highly efficient production cycles—especially for high-volume orders. The process is also more efficient than additive processes such as labeling, which require additional materials to mark items. Etching and removal processes that take material away from the substrate only remove an insignificant amount.

Materials

Laser marking devices work with a wide variety of substrates, including both metal and non-metal materials. Materials that are frequently laser marked include:

Metals

laser marking

  • Aluminum
  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium

Non-Metals

  • Glass
  • Plastic
  • Wood

Many laser marking techniques can be used on both plastic and metal. However, unlike metal, plastic can benefit from foaming processes to provide slightly raised or textured markings on the surface. This reaction doesn’t occur in metal substrates.

Industrial Applications

At Hai Tech Lasers, we’re proud to serve the following industries:

Aerospace

Aerospace manufacturers benefit from the permanent nature of laser marks. The different processes can create indelible barcodes and serial numbers that permanently identify each component or device. Another advantage of laser marking is that safety information marked onto the parts can’t wear away.

Automotive

Automotive manufacturers also benefit from being able to permanently etch serial numbers and Vehicle Identification Numbers onto parts and completed vehicles. Through laser marking, automotive companies can also etch popular logos onto metal, plastic, and leather surfaces.

Electronic

Even microscopic electronic components need identifiers. Laser marked identification codes, serial numbers, and barcodes can be marked onto small or fragile electronic parts because the lasers don’t damage the surrounding surface and can create very small marks.

Medical

Precisely designed medical devices and implants benefit from laser marks because they don’t introduce additional materials to the product surface. This is especially important for medical implants. Laser marked graphics and numbers on medical devices such as surgical tools can also lay flat against the surface without changing the texture, leading to fewer sterilization errors or the risk of cross-contamination.

Military & Defense

Defense manufacturers need to be able to clearly mark equipment, components, and products to facilitate organized handling around the world. Safety information or instructions also need to be able to withstand abrasion, extreme temperatures, wear and tear, and saltwater exposure in marine environments. Laser marks perform where labels can’t.

Equipment

industrial laser marking

At Hai Tech Lasers, we specialize in using high-quality laser marking machines that fit our clients’ unique needs. We have CO2, crystal, UV, and fiber lasers to be able to laser mark nearly any material the customer brings in. Hai Tech Lasers offers the following laser marking services to our clients:

  • Lamp Pumped Laser Marking Systems. In these systems, lamps pump a Neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet crystal rod. These machines feature a high degree of power.
  • Diode-Pumped Laser Marking Systems. Diode-pumped systems are compact and require only a small degree of power to operate. These units can be used in industrial environments to create extremely precise markings.
  • Fiber Laser Marking Systems. Our fiber laser systems generate beams with a wavelength of 1064 nm. We have different systems with marking areas ranging from 4″ x 4″ to 12″ x 12″. These efficient machines create permanent marks on a variety of metal and plastic substrates and are the simplest to operate.
  • Fiber Laser Cutting System. This system is used to cut aluminum up to approximately ⅛” thick, and even thicker stainless or carbon steels. The system can hold material up to 55” x 120” and can be used to cut out flat parts, control panels, sheet metal, and more.
  • CO2 Laser Marking System. These systems are good for non-metals, including wood, plastic, and leather, and can even cut these materials up to 30” x 30”.
  • UV Laser Marking System. UV lasers are similar to fiber lasers. However, UV lasers can mark a wider variety of materials with different results than the fiber lasers, ranging from glass to paper to metal.

Get Started with Your Laser Marking Project

Laser marks are permanent, precise, and highly visible. Manufacturers can use laser marking systems to put barcodes serial numbers, and instructions on product surfaces to ensure the marks never fade or wear away. Contact Hai Tech Lasers today to find the right laser marking equipment for your next project.

Our Team is Here for You

At Hai Tech Lasers, Inc., we are committed to ensuring that your laser marking and laser engraving needs are being met in the safest, most reliable manner and remains our highest priority. As COVID-19 impacts our communities, we want to assure you that we are monitoring developments closely and are taking precautionary measures at our facility based on the latest State and Federal guidance. 

For the health and safety of our customers and employees, we are operating at a limited capacity with only critical staff and reduced hours of operation. We are still available to fulfill orders, provide quotes, and answer any questions by email or phone. 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call our customer service team at (661) 775-0210 or sales@HaiTechLasers.com

 Thank You and Stay Safe