The Silent Revolution

Cutting, welding, deposition welding, 3D printing ... these cool kids of laser material processing hog the limelight, so it is easy to overlook the marking laser standing in the background. And yet it has transformed the marking of objects forever.


It began with the simple idea of engraving characters using laser light. Today it has grown into an almost universal and fully connectable technology platform for marking, surface processing, surface functionalization and material micro-processing.

01[Factor SIZE]

The installation space needed for marking laser systems is shrinking all the time. They can be set up like office printers, easily inserted into process chains, shuttled back and forth between cumbersome components, or integrated directly into processing machines. Moreover, they are closed, almost maintenance- free, plug-and-play systems that require practically no prior experience with laser technology. All this increases their availability as a tool.


02[Factor Control]

Modern scanning and control technology makes it possible to control the position of the focus and the amount of energy input with huge precision — not just on surfaces, but also in 3D space. The software supports operators or automation solutions as the case may be, calculates edges, aligns markings, recognizes and reads QR codes, creates documentation and initiates follow-up steps. It is the key to integration in manufacturing solutions, ERP systems, and database solutions — both on the road to plug and play and also on the road to Industry 4.0 and smart factories.


03[Factor LASER LIGHT]

Modern, almost maintenance-free beam sources make it possible to build systems that can be operated by users without special laser know-how. At the same time, they offer increasingly more freedom in the choice of process- and material-specific processing parameters. For individual solutions, the full range of pulsed industrial beam sources is available: for special materials, higher productivity, or applications such as ablation, cleaning, and surface structuring and activation.


04[Factor MATERIALS]

Pulsed lasers can leave marks on practically any kind of material. In case of doubt, it is just a matter of choosing the right laser, wavelength and pulse duration to achieve the desired result. Today’s possibilities for fine-tuning individual parameters also make it possible not only to leave markings, but also, for example, to just change specific pigments in a targeted manner.


05[Factor PROCESSES]

Laser marking started out with laser engraving in steel. With the evolution of beam sources and scanner and control technologies as well as its use on materials other than steel, a variety of other processes developed over time: the foaming of plastics for raised markings, heat-induced color contrasts that do not affect the surface characteristics, the manipulation of pigments in the material, or the targeted ablation of paint or other coating layers.


06[Factor Application]

Marking lasers are continually expanding into new fields of application. Because they are faster, more efficient and more productive than conventional methods, because they do not require the use of consumables and because they are more versatile — they are not limited to reproducing characters or symbols from a fixed set. They are not even limited to marking tasks. They simply use laser light to process surfaces very quickly while affording extremely tight control. This makes them a wonderful platform for application ideas in the lower power range — and for uses far beyond their original purpose.


Photos: Fotolia/Markus Mainka, iStockphoto/omersukrugoksu; Gemalto, Heureka/Ville Eerikäinen, Markus Mainka/fotolia, Landesmuseum Württemberg, electriceye/fotolia, composing: Gernot Walter

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