Laser Marking Plastic

with a laser marker from JustLaser
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Marking plastic with a laser

Almost all plastic can be marked using a laser – whether it’s polyamide, ABS or polycarbonate. Enjoy the benefits of JustLaser laser machines: an exact, permanent marking without damaging the surface. Marking plastic with a laser is contactless, the results are permanent, abrasion-resistant and resistant to acids, alkaline solutions, solvents and (hot) oils. Regardless of whether you’re making black or white marks – a laser marker from JustLaser with high peak performance and short pulse duration provides optimal results, even for challenging designs.

Which materials can be marked using a laser?

Experience has shown that marking plastic with a laser marker is an advantageous method with a number of possible applications. A large number of plastics are suitable for laser marking:

  • Polyester (PES): Dura-Lar® Film, Ertalyte®, Metallised PET, Mylar® Film, PET Film, PET-G
  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM)
  • Polycarbonate (PC): Lexan®, Makrolon®
  • Polyarylsulfones (PSU, PPSU)
  • Polymethyl methacrylate PMMA
  • Polyether ether ketone (PEEK)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene copolymer (ABS)
  • Polyimide PI: Cirlex®, Kapton®, Kolon Colourless Polyimide (CPI™)
  • Polystyrene PS
  • Polyethylene terephthalate PET
  • Silicone
  • Depending on application requirements:
    • Polyethylene (PE): HDPE, LDPE, LLPE, MDPE, UHMW
    • Polypropylene (PP): Formex®, Statex®

Which plastic parts are marked using laser markers?

As almost any plastic can be processed using a laser, the range of applications for laser marking plastic is large. The marking method is based on the material and the desired result. Admixtures (e.g. flame retardants, additives, etc.) and pigments in the product react to laser marking in different ways. So, you work with the foaming, carbonising or recolouring techniques. It is recommended that you carry out a test before the production run to check that the quality and processing time can be reproduced. The following components are frequently marked using a laser:

Our laser machines

Techniques for marking plastics with a laser

When marking plastic with a laser, various methods can be used thar are based on the coupling of laser light. The energy has the effect of carbonising or foaming a polymer. This results in the desired change of colour. The following variants are used in practice:

  • Carbonisation: here the laser heats the light surface to more than 100 degrees Celsius, causing highly volatile parts of the plastic (nearly always hydrogen and oxygen) to be outgassed. This leads to the formation of a darkened area with a higher carbon concentration. This contrast on a light base surface makes predefined labelling possible. As a negligible amount of material is outgassed, the mechanical stability of the component is retained. Nd:vanadate, Nd:YAG and fibre lasers can be used as beam sources.
  • Foaming: this process can be used to create tangible structures. In this process, the surface is melted by a laser and begins to boil. After the laser pulse finishes, the material cools so quickly that the bubbles from the previously boiling, molten mass are encapsulated. The surface of the plastic lightens, causing a noticeably-raised (i.e. not recessed) inscription to emerge.
  • Ablation: in this process, the upper-most layer of a multi-layered plastic (laminate) is removed. The different colours of the base material provide the necessary contrasts. Even sophisticated applications – such as in aircraft or automobile construction or for electronic and household products – can be flexibly implemented.
  • Colour change: this procedure is based on the process of the photodissociation of molecules. This means that an ultraviolet laser (i.e. high photon energy) can directly break chemical bonds. This involves a much lower temperature increase than in any of the other processes described here. Even sensitive plastics with a low melting point can be given a high-contrast inscription using this process.
  • Plastics with additives: in special cases (e.g. for high-contrast machine-readable codes), it is necessary to use laser-sensitive additives in plastics. This can improve the contrast and the contour sharpness, thus guaranteeing optimal legibility. This results in a comprehensive range of product colours and high contrast ratios. We’ll be happy to advise you about the benefits of selected additives in combination with your JustLaser.

Marking plastic with a laser: step by step

It is possible to mark individual pieces or hundreds of parts simultaneously when marking plastic with a laser. The laser markers from JustLaser are based on ytterbium fibre laser technology (table value: 1,064 nm), causing a temperature increase and subsequent reactions of the chemicals in the plastic. The resultant marking will be light or dark – in either case, it will also be permanent. Predefined colours can be created when using additives or laminates. Very small fonts (up to 2.5 pt.) can also be produced. It is also possible to mark very large working areas without any issues.

It is more economically efficient for many businesses to buy their own laser than to outsource component marking to external companies. The relatively low cost of a laser marker from JustLaser and its versatile range of potential uses make it a sensible investment for businesses of any size.

Benefits of a laser for plastic marking

A big benefit of using a laser to mark plastic is that even the smallest components and details on difficult-to-reach places can be marked quickly and easily. Contactless processing provides perfect, highly-resilient results. The plastic component doesn’t need to be clamped or secured for this process, guaranteeing process safety. The process leaves component surfaces (colour change) completely undamaged. It is not necessary to carry out any special pre-treatment or post-treatment.

The results are high-contrast and can be read easily, even with the smallest line widths. They are heat, solvent and acid-resistant, and are permanently abrasion-resistant. In terms of optimal quality assurance, this guarantees long-term traceability for components and products. 

A large number of different plastics are suitable for laser marking or cutting. There are practically no limits to design: Dynamic content from ERP systems, logos, serial numbers, data matrix codes, barcodes, photos and much more can be produced on plastics using a laser. The marking is quick and efficient – it isn’t necessary to change tools or retool for different inscriptions.

In comparison to alternative processes, marking plastic with a laser is considered to be an extremely cost-effective variant. There are no maintenance costs (no tool wear) or costs for consumable materials (chemicals, inks, etc.). The process is significantly quicker in day-to-day work than mechanical processes, for example.

Benefits of the laser technology from JustLaser

Laser markers from JustLaser are characterised by a range of benefits. The flexible technology is suitable for a broad range of materials. As this method is contactless, the material remains unstressed mechanically. There are also no tool costs or expensive maintenance works.

At JustLaser, you can also benefit from low investment costs and set-up costs and purchase a high-quality product that will win you over through its high throughput speed and precision!

More information about laser marking plastic?