Laser etching is typically used when a shallow mark – such as a logo, barcode, image or text – is needed to be applied to an object. The etched mark is created by subjecting a surface area to localised heat. As part of the etching process, the heat generated from the laser beam removes a thin layer from the surface (no more than 0.001”) by melting the area, which in turn, also expands and elevates the etched boundary of the mark. The end result is a contrasting mark that is smooth to the touch.
The laser etching process is used in dozens of industries including automotive, electronics, aerospace, firearms, construction equipment, medical and more.
What are the key advantages of laser etching?
Permanent – Unlike other labelling technologies, such as ink or paper labels, laser etching is created by directly altering a surface of an object. As a result, the mark is more resistant to heat, scratching and general wear-and-tear.
Non-contact – The etched mark is created without the laser head needing to touch the object. The non-contact etching method is ideal for reducing bacteria levels and minimising physical damage.
Intricate patterns – The thin laser beam is capable of etching tiny detail in a super-fast time. From JPEG photographs, complex vector patterns or the smallest of text; the laser makes it easy to carry out.
Corrosion resistance – The combination of a shallow mark and non-contact method of etching is ideal for avoiding corrosion. In particular, if used with stainless steel. For this reason, the medical industry is heavy user of the laser etching method for items such as surgical tools, devices and more.
Flexibility with materials – A laser etching machine is like a swiss army knife! It can easily work with a variety of metals and plastics – including different material thicknesses.
Professional appearance – As the laser beam only removes a thin amount of material, the result is a contrasting mark that looks sleek and feels smooth to the touch. For this reason, many technology companies use this laser technique for their products, such as smartphones, tablets, monitors, TVs and more.
Laser etching for direct part marking (DPM)
The laser etched method is most often used in Direct Part Marking (DPM); a process used to track the lifecycle of parts and components as they progress throughout the manufacturing process and supply chain journey. As governmental regulations become increasingly stringent, manufacturing and production houses find that the etching process offers a permanent, robust and speedy solution for marking the relevant information needed for traceability. In particular, to help resolve liability issues in the event of warranty disputes or product recalls.
Direct part marking has become commonplace amongst many industries, including the automotive, medical and aerospace sectors.
For example, a car manufacturer would need to etch individual component, subassembly, system and the final car assembly codes, in order to track the manufacturing process of each car. The laser etching method is ideal for this type of marking, as it is a quick and permanent solution that is not affected overtime by the heat of the engine.
Similarly, tools and devices within the medical industry need to comply with the Unique Device Identifier (UDI) guidelines. Parts and products such as hip stems, bone plats, catheters and surgical tools, must have a permanent code for traceability and quality assurance. The non-contact laser etching technique is perfect for such application. It creates a permanent mark that would last for years and is corrosion resistant.
Full life cycle traceability
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