HOW TO NAVIGATE THE DIFFICULTIES OF LASER ENGRAVING PLASTICS
“When you get into laser marking on plastics, you’re moving into a complex realm,” says laser programs guru Josh Christly. “In many ways, it’s completely special from marking metals. Metals are surprisingly straightforward. But plastics are complex; that’s what makes them so versatile. And with that complexity, you get a hint of uncertainty.”
We solution you maximum regularly requested questions on laser engraving on plastics and what laser engraving/marking machines paintings fine for marking plastics.
EXPERT Q&A: LASER ENGRAVING PLASTICS
Q: So, laser marking IS a sensible answer for plastic elements?
Josh: Oh, of course. It’s been a dependable workhorse throughout an entire spectrum of industries for decades. Aerospace, clinical units, and devices, semiconductors, car production … each week I see new sub-sectors combine laser marking with their manufacturing traces to engrave plastic elements with text (like serial numbers and component numbers); machine-readable information (barcodes, Unique ID codes, 2D codes); or graphics (trademarks and different branding marks).
Compared to lasers, different direct marking strategies like dot peen don’t continually play nicely with Laser marking plastic shapes and surfaces. And each printing and adhesive labels fall quick in phrases of cost (think about the consumables), environmental impact, permanence, visibility, speed, flexibility, and maintenance. So laser marking makes quite a little sense, for plastics in addition to different
Q: But there’s no one-size-fits-all method for laser-marking plastics, is there?
Josh: Correct. That’s genuine while you’re marking metals, as nicely. The identical floor guidelines follow any time you’re seeking out a laser gadget to fit your application: For a smooth, low-threat transition to a brand new technology, the primary precedence is to hook up with a supplier who’s inclined that will help you deep-dive into your processes, goals, and business. That’s the way you get a gadget that’s going to paintings for you.
Those are the basics for operating with any cloth. It’s while the cloth is a polymer or a composite that matters begin to get interesting.
Q: You’ve stated that marking metals is surprisingly straightforward. What makes plastic marking so complicated?
Josh: It’s just like the distinction between checkers and chess.
To begin, we custom-layout each gadget we construct to fit the residences of the manufacturing cloth as intently as 21st-century technology and engineering allow. Nothing is off-the-shelf. In that manner, we ought to realize lots greater approximately your uncooked cloth than you may imagine.
Just study the form of resins in no unusual place use. All the polys: polyamide, polycarbonate, polyethylene, polypropylene, polyoxymethylene, polyether ketone, polyimide, polystyrene, polymethyl methacrylate, polyester, polyethylene terephthalate. Then you’ve got Delran, silicone, olefins, butadiene, styrene, and so on. Each behaves in its way, and everyone will reply in another way to versions in laser type, energy setting, and pulse duration.
Another twist: Any of these compounds can behave in another way from batch to batch, in particular, if re-floor resins cross into the mix.
Furthermore, cloth from one resin producer can also additionally vary, in a few diffused ways, from every other maker’s nominally comparable product. That’s why, while our production companions alternate suppliers, I continually suggest they deliver us a pattern run of elements crafted from the brand new cloth. Our Quality Assurance lab will take a look at the brand new elements beneath the identical situations that were implemented while we designed the purchaser’s gadget, and lift a flag if any issues arise. Later on, our archive of bodily samples and constant take a look at information can assist your in-residence troubleshooters music down reasons and treatment options for any manufacturing-line irregularities that would pop up.
Q: But that simply covers the natural resin. What approximately fillers, extenders, and different components is affect marking on plastic?
Josh: For motives unrelated to marking, resins commonly incorporate components decided on for the particular component, product, process, and charge point. Not uncommonly, manufacturing substances incorporate 50 percent or greater of fillers like calcium carbonate, calcium metasilicate, talc, mica, gypsum, or maybe glass fibers. All of the above —and greater — can affect the interplay of laser and plastic. Additives optimize the cloth for its purpose, however in addition they gift the laser gadget fashion dressmaker with every other set of variables.
Have I noted color yet? Let me provide you with simple examples: A fiber laser, for instance, can’t efficaciously mark white Delrin or clean polypropylene due to the fact the fiber wavelength — 1,064 nm — passes properly thru the cloth. The identical laser can, however, position a legible, khaki-colored mark on Delrin that’s been pigmented with light-soaking up carbon black.
Another answer is probably to coat a white or obvious component with a clean, nanoparticle-bearing polymer movie that selectively absorbs the ideal wavelength.
Color is rarely a trivial issue, however. Factors like purchaser specifications or pre-present FDA approvals could make a color alternate impractical. Instead, you and your laser tech associate can also additionally reconsider your alternatives of energy setting, laser type, or marking effect.