How does laser marking work?

The idea of using light to add permanent marks to materials sounds complicated, but actually, it’s simple. Especially with the technology in our laser-sensitive Iriotec® 8000 pigments.


A versatile process that’s permanent. It’s also solvent-free.

Probably all of us remember that feeling as a child when we first heard about laser beams. They’re portrayed as magical forces that invisibly zap away aliens or etch distant objects into awe-inspiring creations. In everyday production, lasers aren’t quite that dramatic, but their ability to achieve fantastic effects is still – well – amazing. And they’re certainly extremely useful. For example, there has been a sharp rise in the demand for laser marking in recent years. We have been working intensively in this area since 1995 and we now offer a wide range of cost-efficient options for laser marking.

Probably the reason science fiction jumped so readily on lasers is that they’re so versatile, powerful, and effective. In industry, too, these are important attributes that have won over millions of engineers and development experts. Lasers keep processes flexible and when they’re used to add markings, the results are totally durable. They also help manufacturers reduce their use of working materials and avoid time-consuming pretreatment. On top of this, using laser beams to label, code, or mark plastic and powder-coated surfaces makes it possible to adhere to the strictest standards of industrial production – on all fronts.

The advantages of laser marking for your manufacturing process

Contact-free

Contact-free

Exact and efficient coding without mechanical wear thanks to a clean process that can even be applied to soft, irregular, or curved surfaces.

Ink-free

Ink-free

No need for solvent-based consumables.

Fast

Fast

Razor-sharp markings can even be added at an exact position on a moving part.

Highly flexible

Highly flexible

You come up with the inscription and a software programmer simply sets up your individual marking in an instant – even in batches of one.

Durable

Durable

Laser markings are added inside materials, not on them – no need for pretreatment of surfaces; moisture and surface impurities are irrelevant.

Highly cost-efficient

Highly cost-efficient

Inline material marking is fully automated, avoids costly warehousing of semi-finished products, only requires minimum maintenance, and can be carried out without operating materials.

Safe

Safe

Zero impact on the protective properties of powder coatings or plastic.

How can materials be marked by “writing with light?”

With the Iriotec® 8000 series, you have the choice of two first-rate solutions for permanent and reliable laser marking: granulated pigments or powdered pigments. Writing in light is made possible by activating these pigments with a laser beam.

Powdered pigments – adding markings by converting laser energy into heat

Depending on the properties of the polymer, powder pigments reacts to lasers in two ways:

Carbonization:

  • heat breaks up the plastic compounds inside the polymer
  • carbon is formed
  • this results into a discoloration in the material somewhere between gray and black 

Foaming:

  • carbon inside the plastic oxidizes to form CO2
  • tiny bubbles are produced which create an ultra-thin layer of foam
  • this result is a light discoloration in the material, which is sometimes even white.

Granular pigment preparations – the color change comes from within

With these pigments, polymers are mixed to contain tiny pigment granules before molding. This has no effect on the polymer itself. The embedded pigment granules are evenly distributed throughout the plastic, resulting in tiny, insoluble “units.” These units contain densely packed absorbers and color formers. The reaction with laser is as follows:

  • the absorbers take in the light and stimulate the color former
  • this leads to a dark marking in the polymer

Can you write with light?

If you’ve ever wondered how companies actually add pigments to polymers or add a powder coating to a material, the answer lies in how they mix materials.

Before you make a polymer, you already have to decide what color you want it to be. You’ll find yourself using a so-called masterbatch or a ready-made compound. This is where the Iriotec® 8000 pigments are already added – directly, before forming the polymer.

If you want to add a laser marking to a powder coating (on a surface, not inside the material itself), the process with the powder coating is the same. The pigment is added to the coating which is then used as normal.

Many masterbatch and compound manufacturers already have experience with our laser pigments and offer finished combination batches or compounds. A variety of powder coating manufacturers also have experience with adding pigments. If your product requires some kind of fine-tuning, or you have to consider individual requirements such as cost optimization, your contact will be happy to provide you or your suppliers with support in finding the right product.

Laser Portal

Explore more about the difference of pigment powder or pigment granules. Discover how you can laser mark plastics or powder-coated surfaces. Just visit our laser portal.

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