We often talk about our laser markers as being "flexible" and "capable of making many different kinds of marks." Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yes! But what exactly does that mean? Well, it means that depending how the laser is controlled, the mark you make may be just a surface effect – a color change - with little or no material removed, or it can remove significant amounts of material, leaving a groove that you can both see and feel. Below is a list of several types of marks and typical applications for the same. Note that all of these marks were made with a single (flexible!) fiber laser marker.
Laser etching/Laser Engraving – these terms are used interchangeably and refer to a mark that removes material from the primary source, e.g., laser engraving on stainless steel. This type of mark is resistant to weathering and suitable for parts that undergo a lot of wear and tear as in the automotive or tooling industries.
Laser Ablation – this more specific term refers to the removal of a coating material such as paint or anodizing. Simple to make, this mark has wide application reach. One market with a specialized laser ablation need is electronics, however it is most typically used to remove anodization on aluminum name plates/labels.
Laser Annealing – laser annealing is a surface heat-tempering mark. This dark, permanent mark is ideal for medical device applications where material removal is prohibited to ensure part integrity and performance.
Laser Deep Engraving- laser deep engraving removes significant amounts of material from the part being laser marked. Often used in relief molding, this technique looks at not only material removal, but also wall characteristics. Photo of deep engraving, below, courtesy SPI Lasers
Laser Foaming/Laser Bleaching – These techniques are specific to plastic marking. Laser foaming creates a negative relief of the position where the laser marked, while laser bleaching removes the pigment from the plastic, leaving a light or white mark behind.
So, you see, laser markers really ARE flexible – one laser marker, 6 different kinds marks – and don’t forget that these marks may be alphanumeric, 2D, barcodes, graphics, and more!