Laser engraving PCB and electronics
Laser Engraving PCB used in Electronics
In the manufacturing of electronics, laser etching has been used to create customised process control boards or PCBs.
PCBs are the brains behind most consumer electronics, providing a compact system for the controlled connection of different electronic components. Laser etching technology allows custom PCBs to be manufactured rapidly and with pinpoint accuracy. In terms of speed, accuracy, and cost, laser etching trumps all other methods of PCB manufacturing.
Aside from executing PCB designs, a PCB laser etching machine can also be used to mark various electrical components with critical information such as barcodes, part numbers, 2D and UID codes, QR codes, serial numbers, batch numbers, logos, and business information. These marks allow manufacturers to improve traceability, identify specific electrical components during warranty claims, enforce trademark protection and more.
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What is PCB laser marking?
Laser etching, or laser marking, refers to the use of lasers to engrave an object. In this process, a highly focused laser is directed onto a specific point or pattern in the object of interest, thereby using the energy from the laser to create very accurate and controlled markings on the object. Lasers can typically focus on a very small area – about a fraction of the millimetre – while keeping the surrounding area unaffected. The markings are the result of the laser’s energy vaporising the material or causing the material to fracture and flake off the surface.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LASER MARKING PCB?
Laser marking is a technology that scales up well in response to increasing demand, while still maintaining efficiency, quality, and safety. It is a quick and fully automated process that can fit right into a production line. Additionally, being a non-contact method of etching or marking, it reduces the wear and tear that the original material goes through during the marking process.
The laser system is also capable of etching highly detailed designs – both accurately and consistently. Dynamic data such as serial numbers and part numbers can be integrated into the process without the need to change parts or for regular user intervention. Most laser etching equipment also comes with software that has been developed to be user-friendly and easy to learn.
ELECTRONIC PARTS AND COMPONENTS
Laser etching is used to mark semiconductors, circuit breaker parts, metal and plastic housings, and other surface-mount devices or SMDs. These electrical components are practically everywhere – from your oft-used smartphone to the circuit breaker in your basement, the electronics in your car, and even to the satellites orbiting in outer space.
Laser etching can be used to mark most industrial materials such as wood, marble, ceramic, granite, and several metals. Metal etching is commonly done by applying a thin layer of paint to the metal surface first, which the laser vaporises during the etching process. Due to the temperatures that high energy laser can produce, materials that are prone to melting or burning are not appropriate for laser etching, as well as those that produce toxic fumes when burned. Examples of these include common polymers including HDPE, ABS, PVC, and Epoxy.
Laser Engraving vs. Other Methods
Compared to other methods of marking electronic parts, laser etching is known to produce marks that are permanent and remain legible for a very long time. Other engraving methods such as dot-peen marking, or hand engraving cannot be counted on to produce traceable marks that will not fade over time. This is the reason that products that require lifetime traceability often resort to laser etching over all other methods.
What’s more, laser etching is a non-contact technology, thereby preventing secondary damage to electrical components that more traditional engraving methods are prone to do. This also means that there is less wear and tear on the marking equipment, significantly lowering the costs needed for regular replacement of parts.
Laser etching also does not use toxic solvents, inks, or acids that are essential ingredients in chemical etching or inkjet marking, making it a more environment-friendly alternative. The costs associated with laser etching is generally smaller compared to other engraving or marking methods due to the absence of chemical consumables and its low power requirements. Design changes can be implemented rapidly and reliably with laser etching technology, and a single laser etching setup can be used to engrave on different types of materials.
The laser etching machine can also fit right into an assembly line and become a fully automated machine. As a result, the laser technology offers a much faster operation other than other marking or engraving methods. For the most part, there is little disruption to the manufacturing process, and lack of human intervention also means that parts marked using laser etching come out with consistent quality.