Plastic parts can be marked with lasers

A wide range of products can be marked and engraved with лазерная гравировка по пластику, from airplane cockpits to ID cards. A representative of FOBA Laser, Faycal Benayad-Cherif, sat down with Plastics Decorating to talk about how laser marking/engraving works, as well as the best application for use and selecting the right laser for the job.

Explain how lasers are used to mark and engrave plastic parts.

The process of foaming is used to mark plastic parts with lasers. The laser beam melts the plastic, creating a molten area of microcavities that either reflect or capture light. Laser marking will not produce a color contrast on all polymer materials. If the material has a specific characteristic, the result could be lighter, darker, or no mark at all. Adding additives or dies to the material is a common way to overcome this limitation. By adding additives to the plastic, a contrasted reaction is created between the laser and the plastic.

What is the best way to use lasers to mark 3D plastic parts and products?

Markers with lasers are designed to leave the best mark on flat surfaces since they were invented. Almost all markings do not occur on flat surfaces. As long as the curvature of the surface does not exceed a few millimeters, lasers can mark on curved surfaces thanks to their “depth of focus”. While the range is limited, lasers are useful for a variety of marking applications. The multi-shaped buttons on the steering wheel control module are an example. Lasers can create good marks even on angled or curved surfaces.

Using an optical focus shifter or third axis is required if the mark area is significantly curved (more than a few mm). Focus shifters displace the laser’s focus, allowing it to follow an object’s shape. The part can also be mounted on a multi-axis gantry that reorients the part as it is engraved. Despite being more complex, this last technique places the surface perpendicular to the laser, resulting in more uniform and continuous material removal.

How can laser marking be used to mark plastics?

Laser marking on plastics can be used for product traceability, secure ID cards and automotive decoration. A special layer of carbon-enriched polycarbonate is used to print names and pictures on ID cards, such as drivers’ licenses. Throughout the world, many drivers’ licenses have plastic photos laser-etched onto them. Combined with special plastics, grayscale lasers have made counterfeiting difficult.

Cars and airplane cockpits are the most common places to find them as decorations. All the text and graphics in a car are marked with lasers, from the gauge dial to the window control button. For instance, the graphics on the steering wheel buttons, made of white plastic and covered with a thin layer of black paint, are laser etched to reveal the white plastic beneath. With the dashboard lit, the graphics are visible through an LED mounted behind the button.

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