Mount Lens Kern

Mount Lens Kern

Beam-directed laser marking of plastics

Manga-guided Nd: YAG (neodymium: yttrium aluminum garnet) laser marking provides a combination single speed, permanence and versatility in a noncontact image markup. Marked laser can generate considerable savings in reduced manufacturing and tooling costs, eliminating secondary processes and the elimination of consumption, and reduced inventory costs, costs of quality control, and maintenance downtime. Laser Marking often improve the aesthetic appearance of the marked image, which increases the perceived value product.

Of all the materials, plastics are the most difficult in terms of interaction of laser with the material and the required image quality. The wide variety of chemical materials and colors and aesthetics requirements most plastics applications require special consideration in the chemistry of materials and imaging techniques. The successful implementation of laser marking technology requires a working knowledge of the role and capabilities of the laser marker and a committed, team by the user.

Marking Basics
Laser marking is a thermal process that uses a high intensity beam of focused laser light to create a contrasting mark on the surface the material. As the target material absorbs laser light, the surface temperature increase to induce a color change in the material and / or vaporization of material to record the surface.

Manga-engineered laser marking using mirrors mounted on high-speed computer-controlled galvanometers to direct the beam laser through the lens surface. Each galvanometer provides one axis of movement of the beam in the field marked. A multi-element, flat-field lens assembly then focuses the laser light to achieve high power density in the work surface while keeping the trip focused on flat land. The laser output is White closed the beam between beats dial.

Marking can be done at speeds of up to 5000 mm / sec, with speeds branding between beats 50,000 mm / sec. Because the process relies on heat conduction in the plastic, marking speeds are usually slower than the capacity of the conduction system maximum allows sufficient to achieve the desired results.

The beam directed marker can duplicate virtually any image in black and white, including variable line widths and the images as small as 0.0001 inches. Present computer imaging technology produces very complicated plot widths line, resolution and accuracy far below 0.001 inches. Because the image is created by "drawing" with the laser beam, marking time depends on the amount and complexity of text and graphics. With computer-generated images, any graphic element or all of the tagging program can be instantly change before a new part is positioned to be corrected.

Nd: YAG lasers amplify light of 1.06mm wavelength in the near infrared. They are unique between different types of lasers in which they operate as a condenser of "optics." In pulsed operation, the Nd: YAG reserves energy between pulses, resulting in peak power of kilowatts of light energy. A Nd: YAG emits 75 watts of continuous light, pulsed at 1 kHz, emits a train pulses with peak power of 110,000 watts. The capacitor of "optical" effect provides the maximum power required to vaporize the material. For applications plastics, the laser must be run in a hat "top" mode, where power distribution is fairly uniform across the section transverse laser beam to eliminate "hot spots" on the road marking.

The beam-steered Nd: YAG marker often replaces systems and electro-etching, stamping and punching systems, and other marking systems to permanently mark products printing or engraving. Also replace other systems, less permanent impression, including inkjet.

Uncoated plastic
Most uncoated plastics must be doped with a material reflecting the laser wavelength to avoid excessive absorption of laser light, which results in loss of control of temperature rise and melting on the surface too. clear plastic is doped with mica, titanium dioxide-containing materials carbon. The heat generated by absorption of laser light causes the carbon to migrate to the surface, producing a dark mark in contrast against the natural background plastic.

Plastics are semi-transparent to the wavelength of near-infrared Nd: YAG. Depending on the degree of transparency and laser output power the laser beam can alter the material surface to depths of more than 0.025 mm, without reaching the vaporization temperature on the surface. If vaporization occurs of material, the carbon layer thins and the brand image is blurred.

There has been considerable success in changing the depth of migration carbon to create grayscale graphics in light plastics. Power adjustment and / or frequency of the laser pulse controls the depth of penetration and therebv the darkness of the mark. Increasing the laser power will increase the overall penetration depth and thickness of the layer of carbon. The increased frequency pulse will result in a longer pulse width and lower peak power. The long exposure also increases the penetration depth and the carbon layer.

dark plastic is doped with a material that produces a lighter color than the material expands and density decreases. As the temperature increases plastic the plastic expands to form a blister "on the surface and a colored mark. As with the plastics of light, the temperature must be well controlled to avoid excessive absorption. If the temperature rises too high and the blister bursts, the material is lost and the mark will lose contrast.

Not all plastics dopant required to achieve a mark of contrast. Several make plastics with excellent results, without additives, for example, most black polycarbonate to produce a brand white as snow, without altering the chemical.

Plastic Coated
Coated plastics consist of a solid plastic, translucent or transparent, with one or more layers of ink or paint. The brand image is created by achieving vaporization temperature of the surface to remove the top layer and expose the underlying or second plastic layer.

plastic coated allow greater control over the selection of colors and sharp contrast. clear plastic to allow the author to use an underlying part to set the background color (brand image), while the upper layer determines the foreground color. establish rigid plastics their own background with the color of plastic. translucent plastic often used for backlighting applications. The plastic is initially covered with white paint and covered with a dark top layer. The laser removes the top layer, exposing the white paint for visibility during the day. When the piece is backlit at night, lights turn on behind the clear plastic and brand image appears on the color of plastic.

Painting or ink used should lead to laser treatment. Standard paints and inks are neither predictable nor controllable when exposed to laser output. The inks are easily burned and can be mixed with the plastic core while the molten liquid state. laser compatible inks are mixed with a silicone-based material for reflection on the laser output, which reduces light absorption of the ink and the speed of the thermal reaction. The paintings must be suitable for high-temperature processing and free of any contaminants that may absorb the laser wavelength and accelerate the rise of temperature.

To ensure image quality, the top layer should be completely removed with minimal impact on the plastic or a secondary underlying layer. To maximize the ratio of light absorption between the two layers, the top layer must always be a dark color and contrast underlying layer should be a light color. The dark color absorbs a relatively higher percentage of laser light, resulting in increased surface temperature, while the color of light reflected a higher rate and minimizes temperature rise. The base plastic, paint or ink must also be thick enough to tolerate a small amount of material removal during dialing.

Coated plastic frame is a process multiple steps that marked the first step removes most of the top layer. The residue is removed with a second, lower power pass to minimize the effect on the underlying material. For precise definition of edges, the outline of the image before filling brand image. The scheme is marked with a heavy border pass (ie 50 kHz, 250 mm / sec, 2.5 watts), followed by a cleanup pass low power (50 kHz, 250 mm / sec, 1.75 watts). The picture is full, if desired, with a pass filler Heavy (50 kHz, 650 mm / sec cleanup pass, 6 watts) and after (50 kHz, 6.50 mm / sec, 4.5 watts). Care in determining the process parameters for each step and the edge beam paths and filling will result in a crisp, high contrast, the brand image of high quality.

Preparation and Installation
Perhaps the most critical element in the successful implementation of laser marking is the composition of part programs. When replacing an existing technology marking, wait six months for the conversion of existing art to part marking computer programs. Although the actual artwork lies in the Archives of AutoCAD, time must be allocated to convert the files to optimize the tagging programs.

Many users begin with thousands of sheets of Mylar artwork. (Mylar is a name DuPont business.) Each Mylar film is scanned to create a bitmap image. The bitmap scans can be converted directly into the laser marker with good form image quality, but the cycle time would be unnecessarily long, with a marked excess of line overlap.

For best results, import the scanned bitmap in AutoCAD as a template position. Create a separate brand "logo" for each character alphanumeric and graphic image, and in AutoCAD, placed in the position of each logo on a separate layer, using the bitmap template as a guide for positioning. An optimized logo library facilitates the creation Image software to digitize, allows standard text kerning and the main line, and ensures low cycle time and high image quality. After all the logos are instead, the template layer is removed, and the latest CAD file format is converted to laser marker program.

If the artwork in a format already exists CAD file, the image elements can be optimized without the need for an independent library of logos. All elements including shared repetitive elements between the drawings should be optimized individually. It will take more time to convert large amounts of files, and there is no guarantee that each is optimized Clemente correctly. It is much more efficient to use the original AutoCAD file as placing logos templates optimized.

Application-directed beam laser marking requires a team effort. With the implementation of cooperation. manufacturing can ensure the flow of products and integration with existing controls, materials department ensures that the plastics and coatings are suitable for laser marking, and engineering programs produce partial marking low cycle times and high image quality. The team's careful planning, preparation and execution will lead to a correct application of technology laser marking and related benefits in manufacturing efficiency, quality and product value.

About the Author

Richard Stevenson is the Sales Director for Control Micro Systems, Inc. a manufacturer of beam-steered laser marking systems. He has published and presented numerous technical papers and articles on laser marking in trade publications. For information on Industrial Laser Systems, Welding, Engraving, Cutting, Etching or Marking call 407-679-9716 or email sales@cmslaser.com

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