Laser Engraving Steel with N-Lase Desktop, Benchtop, Workstation
Laser Etching Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is one of the most widely used metals across several industries. Prized primarily due to its corrosion resistance, stainless steel comes in different grades and variants according to the ratio of chromium and molybdenum mixed into the steel alloy material.
In addition to its distinct corrosion resistance, stainless steel also has a measure of resistance against acid attack. It is a durable and versatile material that has a visual appeal due to its characteristic lustre and can stand up to most steam cleaning and sterilisation treatments.
With a broad base of application, such as construction, healthcare, and food service, laser etching stainless steel has become an equally sought-out service. The process is fast, cheap, and highly accurate, which does not only produces high-quality output but retains the anti-corrosive properties of the metal.
Stainless steel engraving and the automotive industry
The automotive industry is another industry that benefits from the use of laser technology to comply with traceability standards. Every vehicle – whether it’s a car, bus, motorcycle, farm machinery, or construction equipment – needs to be marked with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) once it leaves the manufacturing facility. The VIN is a 17-character serial number that is commonly marked at various components of the vehicle such as the chassis and the engines. Moreover, automotive manufacturers regularly make their own marks on their parts, whether to serve their own tracking system or simply to provide branding.
Laser machines have been used for years by automotive manufacturers for their ability to produce tamper-proof and easily identifiable marks. It’s also a fast procedure that will fit right into any manufacturing process without slowing it down – a 17-character VIN can be laser marked in only about 4 seconds. Being a non-contact method, automotive parts do not need to be clamped down before marking, avoiding secondary damage. Compared to a more traditional method such as dot-peen marking, the part to be marked using lasers do not undergo any unnecessary stress. Without the need to use fixtures or clamps, laser etching stainless steel also has unequalled flexibility in terms of marking newly designed and modified automotive parts.
In such a large-scale level of production such as those found in the automotive industry and the manufacture of engineering parts, the reliability of the machines is invaluable. As an almost entirely automated process, stainless steel produces accurate results with a consistent quality all the time. Since the marking of parts is commonly a step done towards the end of the manufacturing process, an error in this step that results in a part being scrapped will be exceptionally costly and disruptive.
Integration of a laser solution into the existing manufacturing process is made particularly easy with out-of-the-box turnkey solutions. Modern laser etching equipment has been designed to be easy to learn and use. Designs need not be made on any proprietary software, as most laser marking applications can import files created from the most common design software. Marking with dynamic data, such as part numbers and batch numbers, is well within the standard capabilities of most laser applications.
Laser marking stainless steel and the medical industry
The medical industry is a particularly heavy user of stainless steel because of the industry’s strict requirement for materials that will not produce or transmit biological and chemical contaminants. Surgical tools made of this metal can withstand repeated cycles of sterilisation by autoclave and the oxidative effect of several sterilising chemicals. Stainless steel prosthetics, such as hip bone replacements and cranial plates, can be made of alloys especially designed to resist mechanical wear and biological reactions.
Lasers are also the technology of choice of the medical industry to comply with the FDA’s mandate to mark all medical tools and devices with a unique device identifier (UDI). This requirement creates a system of traceability and liability for all medical devices, where each product can be traced and identified to its manufacturer. Having such a system compels medical device manufacturers to be accountable for the quality of their products in case of a product recall.
Although there are different requirements in the marking of medical devices made of stainless steel according to their applications, they will most often need to be able to resist chemical and heat degradation. Lasers fulfil these requirements on top of remaining clear and legible despite repeated abrasion and mechanical stress. Laser technology is a particularly accurate and can recreate incredibly small alphanumeric characters, logos, barcodes, and QR codes with superior clarity.
Medical devices, in particular, should not have deep etches, as these become perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. For this reason, annealing stainless steel is an especially appropriate process as it merely changing the colour of the metal through a chemical reaction without consuming any of the material. Thus, the surface of the material remains as smooth as it was before the engraving process.