One of the most common questions we get at MECCO is "How do I choose the right marking technology for my application?" The truth is, marking and engraving technology is not a one-size-fits-all solution There are many factors to consider when choosing the best solution.
Therefore, before you invest in marking equipment for your factory, the following three main considerations can help you choose the best laser technology:
The first thing you need to consider is the type of material you want to mark. We like to divide materials into two broad categories: organic or non-organic.
Organic materials are wood, glass, plastic or paper products, etc. Metals, steel, cast aluminum—anything that sparks when put in the microwave (though we don't recommend it!)—are considered non-organic materials.
2. Mark type
Now that you've identified your material, what do you want the mark to look like? Are you looking for deep print? Do you want more mark comparisons?
Depending on the type of marking technique, you can create dark or matte marks. For example, if you are working with barcode technology and are having difficulty with your vision system's ability to read the code, you will want to use a matte background and dark markings. It all depends on your specific situation and how you want your final product to look.
3. Security Considerations
Think about where your engraving machine will be placed. Is it in a workshop near the operator, or is there a dedicated enclosed space? Will this machine replace another technology like inkjet?
You should know that if your laser marking machine will be located in an open workshop, your laser supplier should help you install a Class I laser safety system. This includes laser safety enclosures and warning lights, curtains that form secure entrances, and other safety considerations. You can also choose a laser workstation that includes a Class I safety enclosure and laser source in one compact unit.
If you have a Class IV laser, you will need a dedicated room that meets certain safety conditions, such as area posting, safety glasses, and key switches, to still meet safety requirements.
When to use a CO2 laser
In general, if you are looking to mark product information on organic materials and looking for non-contrasting marks, you are probably looking at CO2 laser marking technology. With a wavelength of 10.6 microns, it is generally safe to use plexiglass shielding in open floor environments. CO2 markers are a great solution when you are switching to other marking technologies such as ink jet, dot pin or label.
Bottom line: CO2 lasers give you high-quality marking and are a cost-effective solution for marking date codes, serial numbers and other product identifications on wood, glass, rubber, plastic, cardboard and product packaging.
When to use a fiber laser
On the other hand, if you are marking non-organic materials such as metals or plastics and want contrast in the marking, then fiber laser marking technology may be the best choice for your application. 1-micron wavelength fiber lasers must be located in separate rooms or enclosures with doors, and must also follow CDRH (Center for Equipment and Radiological Health) safety precautions to ensure that anyone working around them is safe.
Bottom Line: Fiber marking lasers offer a wide range of capabilities and produce high-quality marks that can engrave serial numbers, barcodes, 2D data matrices and graphics on the widest range of materials, including metals, plastics and ceramics.
When to use a diode-pumped laser
If you're marking on plastic or anodized aluminum and are looking for a higher contrast mark, check out diode pumped laser technology. With three times the power of conventional fiber lasers, this laser delivers short pulses that produce clean, crisp marks with minimal surface disruption.
Bottom Line: Diode-pumped lasers provide sharp, high-contract markings for improved barcode and scanner readability and enhanced traceability throughout the process.