Parts, Laser Marking

Traceability, Liability and Counterfeiting: 3 Reasons to Mark Critical Parts

March 7, 2014

There are some obvious reasons to avoid permanently marking the parts you machine, including equipment cost and adding another step to a manufacturing process. These may be valid reasons if the parts you are making are low-cost commodity items or ones that have no possibility of causing a product failure. However, if the parts you produce fall outside of those parameters, you should give serious thought to encoding them with identifying information for 3 good reasons:

  1. Traceability: Chances are, if you’re making critical parts for aerospace, automotive, medical and a number of other industries, you already are required to indelibly mark parts for quality assurance reasons, and in case of product failures or recalls. If your customers don’t require such markings, you may wish to consider doing so anyway. Why? Well that brings us to reason #2:
  1. Liability: Lets say you make an important part that ends up in a product that causes death or injury. The attorneys claim that it was your part that failed, causing the death or injury. But was it your part? Or an inferior replacement part made by another company that looks exactly like the part you made. How do you prove it wasn’t your part that failed?
  1. Counterfeiting: One reason liability issues like the one discussed above occur is that counterfeiting of parts, often by offshore companies, are a worldwide problem. The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that counterfeit goods will cost companies more than $1.7 billion next year.

Clearly, indelibly marking critical parts makes good sense, and the method of choice is laser marking. Laser light can mark a wide range of materials without touching the part, so it’s an ideal choice for identifying parts of all shapes and sizes, even on hard to reach surfaces. 

There are three laser marking methods: Engraving, in which the laser beam cuts into the material’s surface to create a marking. If desired, the manufacturer can also introduce colored oxides into the engraving to make the mark more noticeable. Ablation is often used to laser mark anodized aluminum or other coated metals by removing layers of colored coatings to reveal the base material. The third method, typically applied to ferrous metals and titanium, uses the laser to heat the area to be marked, which produces layers of oxide on the part’s surface, thus creating a contrasting color to the base metal.

To learn more about how laser marking can help protect your business, contact Gosiger, Inc.