2D Data Matrix TM codes are made up of two parts: the finder pattern that tells the reader the code orientation and array size, and the actual encoded data. If you’re getting no read or a marginal read, you may have an issue with one these read factors. It’s also worth noting that the quality (and price) of the reader can have a significant effect – particularly on small codes, and codes marked on shiny surfaces.
Not long ago, I discussed some of the factors you should consider when deciding which marking technology to use: material type, part function, geometry, surface finish/roughness, coating, mark quality, mark dimension/part size, and serialization - all play a part in this process. Today’s post digs a bit deeper into selecting the right marking technology for your specific application by looking at a concise listing of the pros and cons of each of the major marking technologies: inkjet, dot peen, chemical etching, and laser marking.
Product traceability over its complete lifecycle is one of the key issues driving marking technology today. Manufacturers are looking for cradle-to-grave traceability to improve product quality and make sure all their suppliers fall in line with quality standards. Oh, and let’s not forget they also want to make it easier and less costly to engage in product recalls.
Solid state laser marking technology has been around since the 1980’s, when lamp pumped, Q-switched Nd:YAG lasers were THE standard laser engines. These lasers were – and still are - well suited to laser marking, producing tens of kilowatts of peak power with sub 75ns pulse durations which made it possible to mark and engrave on both plastics and metals. Over the past 30 years, however, the evolution of solid state markers has seen a number of milestones including; Nd:YVO4 “vanadate” lasers, diode pumping, the utilization of 532nm and 355nm wavelength sources, and, finally, fiber laser technology.
Laser marking is rapidly replacing older product marking technology, especially for direct marking applications which aid in tracking and traceability. From medical devices to automotive and aerospace parts, part information is showing up everywhere, either in the form of human readable alphanumerics and barcodes or Data-Matrix™ codes. Laser marking is a fast, clean marking technology, which also has benefits like flexible automation, improved environmental profile, and low cost of ownership. There are a few different technologies out there - and the “best” one for your application depends on the kind of mark you’re trying to make, and the material you’re using.
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.
In our last blog, we explored when laser markers make sense in comparison to other marking technologies. Key reasons included high mark and material variation, fragile material, and mark durability. But did you know laser markers can also be used for machining? Yep - your laser marker can do double duty as a micromachining system!
Product identification, serialization and tracking are key elements for any production environment. Parts are labeled with all kinds of marks: alpha-numeric serial numbers, date stamps, barcodes, etc.. There are a lot of marking methods available out there including dot-peen, chemical etching, pad printing, ink-jet printing, and laser marking. As manufacturers of laser markers and laser marking systems, we, of course, believe that there are many good reasons why laser marking makes sense in your manufacturing operation?