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The Ins and Outs of Laser Marking

Kip Hanson
By Kip Hanson Contributing Editor, SME Media

Part identification is a necessary step in any manufacturing operation. This might be as simple as a label on the shipping box, but more often shops are required to mark each component, especially those used in automotive, aerospace, or medical applications. So what’s the best way to go about this usually onerous task? Stickers come off, engraving tools are slow, and electrochemical marking is a pain. That leaves lasers.

Laser markers are both fast and affordable. Depending on the type of laser, they can apply any combination of text, numbers, barcodes, or artwork on curved or flat surfaces, and on virtually any material. Some are even capable of serialization, or being placed inline as part of a manufacturing cell. All are non-contact, and all offer clean, permanent marking.

Nicholas Kaczmarski knows all about it. The national sales manager for Beamer Laser Marking Systems, Flushing, Mich., he said the company offers three classifications of marking systems: standard, engineered, and inline. The first includes five stand-alone machines, from the S-Series (benchtop) to the M-Series (multi-axis), covering a broad range of industrial applications. Each comes equipped with graphics-based programming software and offers a “plug-and-play” marking solution, according to the company.

Beamer’s Engineered Solution offers advanced options such as partial or full automation, hopper loaders, conveying capabilities, machine vision, and robotic integration, while the Inline Solution is designed for use with assembly lines and other high-volume manufacturing. Both are supported by Beamer’s in-house integration team.

“All of our solutions are designed, sourced, and manufactured in the U.S.,” he said. “[Integration is key.] In a typical laser marking application, the customer must work with a third party to perform the engineering duties needed to integrate the laser with the machine tool or assembly line. We’re able to do that in-house, simplifying the process and reducing costs.”

That’s good news for larger manufacturers, but what about smaller shops looking for a dependable, straightforward, and affordable solution? There are plenty of systems and options available, including CO2 vs. fiber, laser wattage, enclosure size, rotary tables, and more.

Engineering Manager Allen Warren has some recommendations. “CO2 lasers are great for organic materials like corrugated containers and wood, but fiber marking systems are the most versatile laser on the market and should be the first choice for all metals or ceramics and the majority of polymers,” he said. “As for laser power, we offer 20, 50, and 100-watt systems, with the key difference being throughput relative to the size of the mark and the material. Although laser markers in general are effective and easy to use, deciding which is best depends on a number of factors. This is why we strongly encourage people to give us a call before investing in any system.” 

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