Laser marking is often associated with manufacturing; marking components with serial numbers so they can be traced when something goes wrong or needs replacing but what many people overlook is just how vast the need for laser marking is becoming across a multitude of industry sectors. From the jewellery industry to the medical world, to automotive, food and design, the development in laser technologies now means that most types of materials can be marked by lasers which is providing a whole new range of solutions to businesses. We asked our Business Development Manager Chris Ogden, from our Industrial Lasers division, to give us the inside info.
Who typically would want to utilise laser marking?
You’d be surprised just how many industries would look to use laser marking. With lasers, speed and accuracy are exceptionally good, so they’re used by many businesses for products where speed and accuracy are also essential; lots of companies buy lasers when they want to identify a part with a serial number but also, many organisations use them to add compliance symbols, maker marks or logos. QR codes are also becoming more popular to laser mark, where the code then links to a website when scanned, to allow for reordering of certain parts once they come to the end of their shelf life. These sorts of innovative solutions allow us to do so much more than simply mark a part number.
What sort of set up would you need to be able to laser mark something?
People often think it’s very complicated, dangerous and expensive to use laser marking but these days systems can be really simple; there are compact desktop options which plug into a three pin plug socket and take 5 minutes to set up and programme – and hand-in-hand with increased efficiency, they’re becoming much more economical too.
At the other end of the spectrum, we also supply laser systems that can be integrated and built into a robot or production line. It really depends on what challenge a customer needs a solution to.
If I came to you wanting to laser mark a product, what process do you typically go through to find a solution for me?
Usually we’ll have initial discussions about your requirements to really understand what you want. From there, we’ll then look to run laser marking trials; testing different lasers next to show what can be achieved and then we’ll compile a report detailing the work from the trials; what the recommendations are and any other observations that might be useful to you in making a decision about how you’d like to move forward. We’ll present this report back to you and demonstrate the system we’ve identified as best suiting your needs. We aim to complete that whole process inside of two weeks but we can offer an express service if customers requirements are particularly urgent.
Can you laser mark on to any type of material? If not, why not?
Typically, with the right laser, you can mark just about any material. Different wavelengths of lasers will mark different materials; some laser wavelengths will mark the majority of materials, with the exception of wood and glass but with a longer wavelength laser, you can mark on both of those too. We’ve also marked cheese and sausages, loaves of bread, cardboard boxes, all sorts of weird and wonderful things.
Certain materials like carbides can only be suitably marked by lasers and no other method would be suitable as the materials are just too hard. How materials absorb the laser wavelength creates the difference in how it marks them and that’s why the marking trials are so essential in ensuring a customer has the right laser for their needs.
What limitations are there when working with different types of materials to mark?
The limitations tend to be where companies want to mark a number of vastly different materials with the same laser marking system. We can supply laser marking systems in five different wavelength ranges which is a useful range that means we can find a solution to mark just about any material.
There are also some limitations when marking on certain plastic materials, as due to the nature of how the laser is absorbed into plastic, it’s can sometimes be difficult to create a black mark, for example, it’s often a dark grey. Like any challenge though, the industry is responding to this and more and more options are becoming available to combat that. Efficiency and economics will be two areas we continue to see vast improvements and innovations in the years to come.
Find out more about our industrial laser marking services, call Gary, Chris and the Laser Lines team on 01295 672 500.