When considering industrial marking methods, screen printing and laser marking are the most common options. Screen printing has long been a popular marking method for creating colorful designs. Laser marking is more precise and durable when marking logos, barcodes and dimensions. In addition to high precision, laser marking is faster and cleaner than screen printing. Below is a comparison of each method to help you decide which process is right for your needs.
How do they work?
Laser marking and screen printing use very different equipment. While laser marking equipment is more expensive than screen printing, it requires fewer consumables and labor.
Laser marking method
Laser marking uses a laser beam to remove or oxidize a layer of surface material. Steer the beam using computer software and a directional mirror. Exposure to the beam changes the appearance and properties of the surface material, creating programmed patterns. Laser marking can be used to create a variety of designs including company logos, barcodes, dimensions and complex geometric designs. The power of the laser can be increased to etch the design or decreased to simply discolor the surface.
Screen printing method
Screen printing uses ink to mark the surface of a material. Dip the mesh stencil into the ink and use a spatula to spread over the surface. The material is then passed through a specialized dryer to cure the ink. The inks used in screen printing are not as durable as laser marking, and while they can be layered to create a variety of colors and patterns, they are less precise. This makes it less useful than laser marking in industrial applications.
Key Criteria and Performance Factors
Screen printing and laser part marking are both viable methods for marking materials in a wide range of applications. To ensure that you use the best method for your needs, be sure to consider the following key performance factors:
The material to be marked. Screen printing is suitable for almost all materials, including fabrics and industrial products, although it is not as durable as laser marking. Laser marking is ideal for industrial applications as it can be used on a variety of high quality and rigid materials including metals, ceramics, plastics and glass.
Marker color. Since screen printing uses ink to mark the material, it is available in a variety of colors and patterns. Laser marking removes a layer from the surface of the material being marked, limiting the printed color to that of the heated material. For industrial use, this is enough to ensure a visible and long-lasting marking.
Equipment and training. Screen printing equipment is inexpensive and requires little training to operate, but is less precise and labor-intensive. For industrial and manufacturing uses, laser marking is faster, more efficient and higher quality. Over time, the higher cost of laser equipment is offset by lower production and material costs.
Accuracy. Screen printing equipment is difficult to calibrate for precise marking. While screen printing can be used to create multicolor patterns, the equipment is not very precise. Laser marking machine can be programmed to produce extremely small and detailed designs with extreme precision, making this method ideal for industrial production.
Versatility. While screen printing can only be applied to flat materials, laser marking allows users to print in multiple axes, which facilitates precise printing on small or profiled surfaces.
Durability. Screen-printed inks adhere to surface materials and may fade or be removed with continued rubbing or contact, making them less suitable for surfaces that are likely to be subject to abrasion or frequent human contact. Laser marked etchings cannot be erased.
Production speed and quantity. Silkscreening requires a lot of preparation and cleanup. However, laser marking is highly automated and requires very little time to set up. Once the parameters are programmed, the laser marker will complete the marking in seconds. This is especially useful for large production runs and can significantly reduce production costs.
Advantages of Screen Printing
Wider variety of colors
Lower initial equipment cost
Works on any material, but ink is less durable
Laser Marking Advantages
Quick and efficient production
Reduced waste and more environmentally friendly
Superior precision, especially in small spaces or on unusual shapes
Permanent markings won’t rub off
Reduced possibility of contamination
Control of etch depth
Overall, laser marking is the superior solution for the production of highly accurate and efficient marked and engraved industrial products.
Best Projects for Laser Cutting Wood
How to install the laser cutting machine?
Introducing the A5 Simplified Laser Engraving