The ability to verify the origin of manufactured parts is becoming increasingly important throughout virtually all industries. Among the issues driving this movement are: the need for traceability when recalls are required, identifying the causes of product failures, and thwarting counterfeiting.
Most medical, automotive, and aerospace parts have long required indelible markings to insure traceability, and many other industries are adopting the practice to help protect themselves from liability issues and to hold contract suppliers accountable for meeting their quality standards. Additionally, counterfeit parts from overseas and within the U.S. are on the increase. In 2011 U.S. Customs, alone, seized foreign-made counterfeit goods valued at over 1.1 billion dollars.
Whether you need to comply with customer requirements or wish to protect your manufacturing business from counterfeiting and potential liability problems, the method of choice for providing traceability is laser marking. Laser beams can mark a wide range of materials without making contact with the part, which makes it an ideal choice for identifying parts of all shapes and sizes, and for placing markings on hard to reach surfaces.
There are three types of laser marking methods for branding metal parts. The most familiar form is 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. Another process, called 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.