Laser Marking of Plastics

Direct part marking on plastics offers several advantages over competing technologies. These advantages are in the areas ranging from quality to cost-of-ownership.

Advantages – Laser Marking of Plastics:

  • Permanence – With plastic laser marking, the material itself becomes the mark. This results in the highest possible level of durability, especially when compared to ink marking or labels.
  • Quality – With possible line widths of a few microns, lasers have a higher imaging resolution when compared to other standard technologies.
  • Consumables – With lasers, there are none of the typical consumables associated with other marking technologies (such as ink, paper, etc.). Laser marking plastics also requires no secondary processes such as ink curing.

Methods – Laser Marking of Plastics:

The classification of “plastic” encompasses an extremely wide range of materials. As such, the types of marks that are possible and the lasers that produce them vary as well. Some of these possible marking processes include:

  • Foaming – The most common method for marking dark plastics, this process expands the material at the surface in order to produce a bright color contrast.
  • Carbonization – The most common method for marking light plastics, this process “burns” the material in order to produce a dark color contrast.
  • Ablation – This process removes material by raising the temperature to the vaporization point, producing an engraved mark.
  • Melting – This process raises the temperature of the material to the melting point, altering the appearance after re-solidifying.
  • Bleaching – This process eliminates the plastic’s ability to absorb light, resulting in a white mark.
  • Chemical Alteration – Also referred to as “cold marking”, this process alters the molecular structure of the material and is used primarily for applications which are sensitive to thermal damage.

In most cases, depending on the type of plastic, one or more of the above processes can be utilized. The “best” one for the job can be selected based on the purpose of the mark, the required durability, as well as laser cost.

With an applications lab stocked with a wide range of lasers operating at various wavelengths, Control Micro Systems has the ability to demonstrate all possible marks for your specific material.