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Laser marking is the process of permanently marking a surface using a focused beam of light. It can be performed using different types of lasers, including fiber lasers, CO2 lasers, pulsed lasers, and continuous lasers. The three most common laser marking applications are:
Laser engraving: creates deep and permanent marks that withstand abrasion
Laser etching: creates high-contrast permanent marks at a high speed
Laser annealing: generates marks under the surface without affecting the base metal or its protective coating
Laser marking can mark a variety of materials such as steel, aluminum, stainless steel, polymers, and rubber. It is often used to identify parts and products with 2D barcodes (data matrix codes or QR codes), alphanumerical serial numbers, VIN numbers, and logos.
How Does Laser Marking Work?
To create a lasting mark, laser marking systems generate focused beams of light that contain high levels of energy. When a laser beam hits a surface, its energy is transferred in the form of heat, creating black, white, and sometimes colored marks.
The Science of Lasers Explained
Laser beams are generated by a reaction known as LASER, an acronym for “Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation”.
First, a special material is stimulated with energy, making it release photons. The newly released photons then stimulate the material again, generating more and more photons. This creates an exponential number of photons (or light energy) in the laser cavity.
This energy build up is released as a single, coherent beam of light that is directed at its target using mirrors. Based on the energy level, it can etch, engrave, or anneal surfaces with extreme precision.
Different Lasers to Mark Different Materials
Laser light energy is measured using wavelengths, or nanometers (nm). Specific wavelengths are used for different applications and can only be generated by certain types of lasers.
Fiber lasers stimulate a rare-earth metal known as ytterbium to generate photons on the 1,064 nm wavelength. This wavelength is ideal to mark metals, as a good quantity of its energy is absorbed by the material.
CO2 lasers stimulate CO2 gas to generate wavelengths between 9,000 nm and 11,000 nm, covering a wide range of organic materials that require different wavelengths. The most common wavelength for organic materials is 10,600 nm.
Laser Marking Benefits
Laser marking has become the technology of choice for manufacturers looking for high-quality marking, offering a multitude of advantages compared to older marking methods like dot peen marking, inkjet printing, and printed labels.
How does a Laser Cutter work?
Are you new to the world of laser cutting and wondering how the machines do what they do?
Laser technologies are very complex, and can be explained in equally complicated ways. This post aims to explain the basics of laser cutting functionality in Layman’s terms.
Unlike a household light bulb that produces bright light to travel in all directions, a laser is a stream of invisible light (usually infrared or ultraviolet) that is amplified and concentrated into a narrow straight line. This means that compared to ‘normal’ light, lasers are stronger and can travel further distances.
Laser cutting and engraving machines are named after the source of their laser (where the light is first generated), the two most common types are CO2 and Fibre Lasers. Let’s start with the most widely used, CO2.
Modern CO2 machines usually produce the laser beam in a sealed glass tube which is filled with gas, usually carbon dioxide. A high voltage flows through the tube and reacts with the gas particles, increasing their energy, in turn producing light. A product of such strong light is heat, heat so strong it can vapourise materials that have melting points of hundreds of °C.
At one end of the tube is a partially reflective mirror, the other end, a fully reflective mirror. The light is reflected back and forth, up and down the length of the tube, this increases the intensity of light as it flows through the tube.
Eventually the light becomes powerful enough to pass through the partially reflective mirror. From here, it is guided to the first mirror outside of the tube, then to a second, and finally the third. These mirrors are used to accurately deflect the laser beam in the desired directions.
The final mirror is located inside the laser head, and redirects the laser vertically through the focus lens to the working material. The focus lens refines the path of the laser, ensuring it is focused to a precise spot. The laser beam is typically focused from around 7mm diameter down to approximately 0.1mm. It is this focusing process and the resulting increase in light intensity that allows the laser to vapourise such a specific area of material to produce extremely precise results.
How To Use A Laser Marking Machine？
There are several types of laser marking systems, and each operates slightly differently. The correct process to use the machine also depends on the material you’re working with and the application you’re using. MECCO offers a list of resources to help you operate your machine and troubleshoot any issues, from how-to videos to detailed documentation.
When using any laser marking machine, it’s important to follow all safety guidelines. Thanks to a variety of preventative measures, including safety enclosure options, laser marking is a relatively safe process.
Manufacturers can gain many benefits from the laser marking process, whether it is basic part identification and branding or complete traceability to track and trace parts from cradle to grave. Direct part marking with a laser marking machine delivers durable, readable marks. The results of these high quality marks include:
Greater operational efficiency and productivity with less waste and downtime
More visibility and accountability throughout the supply chain
Minimized costly threats such as quality and counterfeiting issues
Ensured compliance with industry regulations
An inkjet printer is a computer peripheral that produces hard copy by spraying ink onto paper. A typical inkjet printer can produce copy with a resolution of at least 300 dots per inch ( dpi ). Some inkjet printers can make full color hard copies at 600 dpi or more. Many models include other devices such as a scanner , photocopier , and dedicated fax machine along with the printer in a single box.
In the inkjet printing mechanism, the print head has several tiny nozzles, also called jets. As the paper moves past the print head, the nozzles spray ink onto it, forming the characters and images. An inkjet printer can produce from 100 to several hundred pages, depending on the nature of the hard copy, before the ink cartridges must be replaced. There is usually one black ink cartridge and one so-called color cartridge containing ink in primary pigments (cyan, magenta, and yellow). Some inkjet printers use a single cartridge with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black ink. A few models require separate cartridges for each primary pigment, along with a black ink cartridge.
The principal advantage of inkjet printers is the fact that most of them are inexpensive. Inkjet printers are often given away at computer superstores along with the purchase of a personal computer or substantial peripheral. Even the cheapest inkjet printers are satisfactory for most of the needs of personal computer users. High-end inkjet printers can render digital images on special paper, with quality rivaling that of professionally produced glossy or matte photographs. Another advantage of inkjet printers is their light weight and modest desktop footprint . Many models are easy to transport, and are preferred by traveling salespeople for this reason alone.
The copy from an inkjet printer needs a little time to dry. Adequate drying time is especially important if the hard copy contains large regions of solid black or color. Inkjet printers also require non-porous paper. In bond paper containing cotton or other fibers, the ink may bleed along the fibers. Paper designed especially for inkjet printers is heavier than the paper used with laser printer s or photocopiers (24 pound vs 20 pound), has higher brilliance (it's "whiter"), and is somewhat more expensive. Another limitation is the fact that most inkjet printers are slow and they are not designed for high-volume print jobs. While the initial cash outlay for an inkjet printer may be modest (or zero), this type of printer is expensive to operate over time compared with a laser printer. When it is necessary to make hundreds of copies per day or thousands of copies per week, an office quality laser printer is a better choice.
What Is a Thermal Inkjet Printer?
Thermal inkjet printers, sometimes referred to as bubble jet printers, use thermal energy or electricity to heat ink and apply it to a medium. They can provide a low-cost option for high-speed printing, and can print on a variety of surfaces. HP and Canon are two of the leading manufacturers of this kind of printer.
As early as 1979, Hewlett-Packard tried to design a printer compatible with its popular handheld calculators. Canon was also developing a "BubbleJet" printer. In 1984, HP introduced the "ThinkJet," followed by Canon debuting the BJ-80 in 1985. More research and development was put into the technology, refining the ink usage and number of nozzles that drop it. However, while efficient and cost-effective, these printers are still far from perfect, as the nozzles still wear down and get blocked.
Depending on the printer, 300 to 600 tiny nozzles heat up the ink in the cartridge, expanding it in a bubble. The ink from this bubble is pushed through a nozzle onto the paper. Eventually, the bubble collapses, or pops, and the air vacuum sucks more ink into the nozzles. Each of the nozzles can apply ink simultaneously, from both black and white or color cartridges.
Thermal inkjet printers are a low-cost option for printing and print at a fast speed with a high quality finish. They can print on a wide variety of surfaces, including regular and specialty papers, plastics, metals and cartons. Most of these printers are simple to use and require no training or practice. They do not have a warmup or cool down cycle, so they're always ready for you to use.
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