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Laser Marking for Metal

Apr 28 , 2021

This section describes information ranging from the principles of metal marking and processing to advantages grouped by laser wavelength. 

It introduces marking examples and the optimal laser markers for a variety of materials such as aluminium, stainless steel, iron, copper, cemented carbide, and gold plating.

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Metal marking types

Metal processing types

Absorption rate for metals

Aluminium

Stainless steel / Iron

Cemented carbide

Copper

Gold plating

Metal marking types

Black-annealed (oxidation) marking

Black-annealed (oxidation) marking

When the laser beam is applied to the marking target, the focus is shifted so that only the heat will be conducted. Applying heat without engraving the target forms an oxide film on the surface. This film appears black and represents black marking.

 

White etching marking

White etching marking

The laser beam is applied to the marking target at the focal point. The metal surface is slightly removed to expose an uneven surface. This cause irregular reflection of light to create marking that appears white.

 

Engraving marking

Engraving marking

Laser light irradiates the focal point and etches the surface of the target for marking. A deeply engraved impression can be made by increasing the amount of engraving by increasing the laser irradiation count.

 

Surface peeling

Surface peeling

Uses laser irradiation to peel off the surface and remove the electroplating of the target for marking. This makes the substrate visible, and brings the marking into view.

 

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Metal processing types

Laser cutting

Laser Cutting

Focuses the laser light output by a laser oscillator and irradiates any fixed point from the irradiation unit to melt the target. Because there is no contact, it does not cause a reaction with the item processed. Deformation and cracking is kept to a minimum. In addition, because it is possible to specify processing areas in extreme detail, it is possible to create localised holes or cuts in places where cutting tools cannot fit.

 

Solder barrier

Solder barrier

Due to the trend toward smaller and thinner, some connector terminals have solder barriers (nickel barriers) to control solder from soaking up. Conventionally, masking was used on locations where electroplating is not necessary, but removing the mask material took time and effort. Surface peeling using laser light is effective in these cases.

 

Welding

Welding

Laser welding is a method that irradiates laser light on targets and joins them at a location by melting and solidifying the metal. It is possible to irradiate a pinpoint with high density energy and complete the process at high speeds. Material distortion due to heat can be kept to a minimum. In the past, deformation occurred easily. Now even thin materials can be welded.

 

Soldering

Soldering

The heat from the laser melts the solder paste and joins the metal. 

Irradiation of localised laser spots is possible, so irradiation is suitable for small parts. In addition, compared to the flow method where heat is added to the entire part, it is possible to reduce the load caused by the effect of heat on the part.

 

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Absorption rate for metals

The graph below shows the different absorption rates of metal materials with a green laser (532 nm) and with the standard wavelength (1064 nm). There is no significant change to the absorption rate for iron (Fe), nickel (Ni) or aluminium (Al) when the wavelength is changed. However, the absorption rate for gold (Au) and copper (Cu) is affected greatly by changes in wavelength. The absorption rate for gold (Au) with wavelengths of 532 nm is approximately 30%, but with the standard wavelength of 1064 nm the absorption rate is less than 10%. Similarly, with a wavelength of 532 nm, copper (Cu) has an absorption rate of 40%, whereas that rate is less than 10% with the standard wavelength of 1064 nm.

 

Absorption rate for metals

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Aluminium

Black-annealed Marking

Black-annealed Marking

On aluminium surfaces, black-annealed marking appears as a highly visible dark grey. Heat is applied to the metallic surface with a laser, which makes the marking a dark grey.

 

Selection factor

Aluminium has a higher reflectance than iron or stainless steel, so select a laser with a high peak power. For aluminum materials, laser markers with the standard wavelength (1064 nm) are optimal. Keep the beam spot diameter small and mark with a high energy density where the laser beam is in focus to achieve beautifully coloured marking.

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