Laser Marking of Metal

Marking metal for traceability, quality control, and personalization with permanent, durable, and legible marks is a growing need in manufacturing. Laser metal marking is the most recent solution to this challenge that offers many advantages over traditional marking techniques. Using a variety of laser wavelengths, permanent marks can be made on almost any type of metal including but not limited to: Aluminum, Brass, Carbide, Chrome, Cobalt, Copper, Gold, Nickel, Platinum, Silver, Stainless Steel, Steel, Tin, Titanium, Zinc, etc.

Advantages of Laser Marking of Metal:

  • Durability – Marks can withstand industrial environments while remaining legible and defined.
  • Non-Contact Marking – There is no need for replacement machining tools.
  • No Additives or Coatings – Laser metal marking does not require any inks or extra chemicals.
  • Precision –A laser’s localized energy allows for excellent thermal control, very tight dimensional tolerances, and repeatable marks.
  • Easy Automation – Laser metal marking can be easily integrated into an automated system. Marking can also be done On-The-Fly with closed loop feedback.
  • Flexible Etching Depth – Whether your application requires strictly surface marking (oxidation) or a fully engraved mark, laser marking systems can meet your needs.

Methods of Laser Marking of Metal:

There are four main methods used when marking metal using lasers. Each method provides its own unique type of mark. The engineers at Control Micro Systems, Inc. will develop an application around your requirements using the method that fits your needs.

Ablation – The focused energy from the laser is used to vaporize the metal and remove it from the surface of the part. This method creates an etched or engraved mark that has significant depth below the surface of the part. Ablation can be used to create marks that will withstand a harsh industrial environment and will remain legible even if the surface of the part is subject to wear and tear that may remove the top surface over time. Ablation can also be used to create micro-machined patterns that have precise depths and positional tolerances.

Hardened steel casing marked with laser

Oxidation – A zero depth surface mark can be created by using oxidation. This method uses the laser to cause a molecular change in the surface of the metal. An oxidized layer is created where the laser energy is directed that appears as a color change on the surface of the part. Oxidation leaves a mark with no raised or lowered areas and does not produce any debris. The medical device and appliance marking industries commonly require this clean marking technique.

On titanium and stainless steel parts specifically, specific laser settings can be tuned to produce a range of different colors on the surface using this oxidation method.

Dark marking of a logo on stainless steel medical tools

Melting – Using the controlled thermal energy from the laser to melt the surface of a metal part can change its appearance and create a legible mark. Melting the surface changes surface texture and allows light to reflect differently in the areas where the laser has been scanned.

Layer Removal – Lasers can be used to remove an added layer such as paint or anodization from a metal surface. In many cases, the precise control of the laser energy can remove the extra layer to reveal the unaffected metal below.

Laser marking of annodized metals with text, shapes, and logos

Control Micro Systems, Inc’s custom laser metal marking machines are used all over the world in a variety of industries. Let us help you with your metal marking challenge today! Please contact us with your laser metal marking requirements for free sample processing on your parts by filling out the sidebar contact form.