Laser marking is a process through which, as its name suggests, various parts and pieces are marked or engraved using a laser marker machine that allows permanent marking to take place. This process, which we at Couth are very familiar with, may vary depending on the type of material you wish to mark, such as metals, plastics, wood and glass, among others.
These laser marking machines work by emitting a beam of laser light that acts on the surface of the material, leaving a permanent mark. The intensity and speed of the laser can be adjusted according to the user’s needs, allowing the creation of detailed designs and logos, barcodes, text, serial numbers, and many other elements.
The key to achieving successful marking is choosing the ideal technology and configuration according to the material to be marked, the shape and size of the piece, the duration, as well as the production process.
One of the main benefits of laser marking machines, for example, is their precision and versatility. They can mark a wide range of shapes and sizes, even on irregular or curved surfaces. The laser also does not require physical contact with the material, which makes it more accurate.
What is a laser marking machine?
As we indicated previously, laser marking machines are devices that use laser technology to make permanent marks on different materials. These machines emit a high-intensity laser light beam that interacts with the surface of the material, creating a mark or engraving.
Laser marking machines can be used in a wide variety of industries including the automotive, electronics, jeweller and food sector. They are used to mark and engrave logos, texts, barcodes, serial numbers and other elements on metals, plastics, wood, glass, leather and other materials.
Laser marking machines offer several advantages compared to other marking methods, such as a high degree of precision, marking speed, versatility, marking durability, and the ability to perform highly detailed markings.
Generally, the laser marking machine is compact in size and easy to maintain and operates at high speed with a high degree of precision.
How do laser marking machines work?
Laser marking machines work by using a high-intensity laser that emits a highly focused beam of light. This light beam is controlled and directed by means of lenses and is focused on the surface of the material to be marked.
When the laser light beam reaches the surface of the material, different interactions occur depending on the composition and properties of the material. The laser light beam can generally burn, vaporise, or melt the surface of the material, creating a permanent mark.
The intensity and speed of the laser can be adjusted according to the user’s needs. Laser marking machines can also be controlled by software to generate specific designs, texts, barcodes, among other elements.
The laser marking machine procedure involves the following steps:
- Preparing the object: It is important to ensure that the object to be marked is clean and free of any substance that could affect the quality of the marking.
- Laser settings: Laser parameters such as power, speed and frequency are adjusted according to specific marking needs. These parameters will determine the depth and clarity of the marking.
- Marking design: The design or image to be marked on the object is created. This can be done using computer-aided design (CAD) software or specific laser marking programs.
- Positioning the object: The object is placed in the laser marking work area, ensuring that it is properly supported before starting the marking work.
It is important to bear in mind that laser marking machines can have different types of lasers, such as fibre or CO₂ ones. Use the one that best suits the type of material.
How many types of lasers can laser marking machines work with?
There are a range of types of lasers which can emit different wavelengths depending on the laser source and its components. The laser marking must be properly selected according to the marking system required according to the material.
On this occasion we are going to talk about two types of systems for laser marking machines, such as the fibre system and the CO2 system.
1) Fibre laser systems
Fibre laser systems are ideal for marking metal. Many call them solid state lasers. This laser originates from an optical fibre, which contains ytterbium that usually generate a laser light whose wavelength is about 1064 nm or 1 micrometre.
Some of the materials that can be marked with our fibre system include:
- Metals such as stainless steel, carbon steel, gold, titanium, aluminium, etc.
- Leather and leather imitations
This type of laser marking is commonly used as a form of product identification in the form of barcodes or QR codes, also to mark the expiration date of certain products, copyrights, trademarks, logos, serials.
It is also used because it offers a high level of security against any fraud. They are used in smart and identification cards.
2) CO2 laser system
A laser marking machine with a CO2 system is one that uses laser in a gaseous state. This is a suitable system for marking organic materials.
The wavelength that can be produced with this marking system ranges from 9 to 10.2 micrometres. In other words, about 9,000 to 12,000 nm. While most organic compounds react well with this wavelength, it is not suitable for metals.
Some of the organic materials that can be marked using the CO2 laser system include:
- All types of wood and its derivatives
- Leather (and leather imitations)
- Mirrors and glass
Benefits of using laser marking machines
Some advantages of using laser marking machines include:
- Precision: Laser marking machines provide high marking precision, with the ability to create very fine and detailed lines or characters. This is especially useful in applications that require clear, legible branding, such as in the automotive or electronics industry.
- Durability: Laser markings are very durable and resistant to abrasion, wear and chemicals. This makes them ideal for applications that require a permanent and resistant mark.
- Speed: Laser marking machines are fast, significantly reducing marking times. They can mark objects in seconds or even milliseconds, making them an efficient option for production lines.
- Versatility: generally most modern materials can be laser marked.
Advantages of fibre laser marking machines
- High quality marking: Fibre laser marking machines offer high marking quality, with sharp lines and well-defined characters. This is due to the high energy concentration of the fibre laser, which allows greater precision in marking regardless of the size and complexity of the design.
- Speed: Fibre laser marking machines are very fast compared to other types of laser marking machines. They can mark objects at speeds of up to several metres per second, making them ideal for high-production industrial applications.
- Material versatility: Fibre laser marking machines are suitable for a wide variety of materials, including metals, plastics, ceramics and flexible materials.
- Non-toxic process: This is an ecological process due to not using any type of chemicals that could be toxic, and it does not require much energy for its use.
- Adaptability: This is a controlled process and an easily adaptable system, since changes can be made to the wavelength, as well as the beam, allowing marking to be made easily and quickly change to cutting or engraving without requiring direct contact, which allows nearby areas not to get damaged.
Advantages of CO2 laser marking machines
- Versatility: CO2 laser marking machines are highly versatile and can mark a wide range of materials such as plastic, paper, leather, glass and wood. This makes them suitable for various industrial sectors and applications.
- Power and speed: CO2 laser marking machines are powerful and fast compared to other types of laser marking machines. They can perform marking at high speed without compromising the quality and accuracy of the marking. Worth noting is that the entire process is computerised without the need for any human labour.
- Engraving and cutting: Apart from marking, CO2 laser marking machines can also perform engraving and cutting operations on various materials. This makes them useful for customising products, creating labels, promotional items, etc., achieving a cleaner finish, especially on materials greater than 3 mm thick.
- Cost: While the use of this laser marking system is quite cost-effective thanks to the lower cost per watt, the quality of the infrared light beam is excellent and very powerful. While easy to maintain, this must be performed by experts such as those from Couth who provide this type of service.
Industries that use laser marking machines
Laser marking is used in a diverse range of industries for a wide range of applications. Some of the industries that use laser marking include:
- Automotive: Used to mark components, parts and labels in the automotive industry, such as serial numbers, manufacturing dates, barcodes and logos.
- Electronics: Used to mark electronic components such as chips, integrated circuits, control panels, keyboards and labels.
- Medical: Suitable for marking medical instruments, surgical equipment, implants, tracking labels and medication containers.
- Aerospace: Used to mark aircraft parts, space components, identification labels, serial numbers and barcodes.
- Jewellery: Used to place certain aesthetic details, customisation dates, etc.
- Semiconductors: This is generally used to mark their details.