If your manufacturing company is in need of a laser marking system, there are many things to keep in mind prior to purchasing. Primarily, it is important to know which marking system is the most valuable for your industry’s application. Additionally, each of our laser marking machines offer different functionality and will produce varying types of marks.

To determine which of our laser marking systems would be the best fit for your company’s production needs, you’ll need to decipher between the four most common types of laser marking, which are:

  • Annealing laser marking
  • Carbon migration laser marking
  • Foaming laser marking
  • Coloration laser marking

In this post, we will examine each of these laser marking types and present the following:

  • A basic definition of each laser marking process
  • The ideal functionality of each marking system
  • The differences each marking system offers in comparison to the others
  • Industry applications for each laser marking machine

1. Annealing Laser Marking

Some key points:

  • Used on carbon-containing metals
  • Oxidation process can result in a variety of colors
  • A slower, more drawn-out process
  • Common in the medical industry

Annealing marking refers to an oxidation process of applying heat to a surface material (without applying a high amount of aggression). This type of laser marking generally results in a solid black mark with a smooth finish, but based on the temperature at the surface of the mark, colors can also vary between shades of yellow, red and green.

This process is typically slower because the annealing relies solely on heat to bring carbon from the metal to the surface and make the markings. Once the metal is heated, you must also allow it to gradually cool.

Common metals used during the process of laser annealing include the following:

  • Titanium
  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Iron

In addition, this process can be used for a variety of industries. However, it is most commonly used in the medical industry with applications such as internal tracking and branding.

If you’d like to learn more about our annealing marking products or if you’d like to know if annealing is the most ideal laser marking process for your industry, reach out to one of our representatives today.

2. Carbon Migration Laser Marking

Some key points: 

  • Can be applied to metals and metal alloys
  • Carbon migrates to the surface via a heating process
  • Produces dark markings
  • Heat is applied at a rapid pace

Carbon migration is another type of laser marking in which a metal or metal alloy is heated, causing said metal to chemically bond with its carbon molecules. This bonding brings the carbon properties to the surface of your material. When this occurs, it will often result in a dark laser marking that can even be black.

This type of marking is a faster process than annealing because it provides a high amount of heat to a smaller area within a more rapid time period.

Only metals containing carbon can utilize this type of laser marking. Common metals in which carbon migration applies to include:

  • Steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Carbide
  • Titanium

Industries which have used carbon migration for beneficial applications include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Aerospace
  • Jewelry engraving
  • Metalworking

To learn more about the process of carbon migration laser marking, or inquire about our products’ use in your company’s application, contact one of our team members.

3. Foaming Laser Marking 

Some key points:

  • Is used on plastics instead of metals
  • Produces light markings
  • Material is melted, creating foam and gas bubbles
  • Results in relatively smooth marking

Foam laser marking is used when a plastic is darker and the desired end result is a lighter color (usually white, gold or various tan shades). This change in color occurs by creating a molten burn on the surface that is both contained and controlled. When the surface is melted, it creates an atmosphere of foaming gas bubbles.

These bubbles change the light refraction properties of the material, making foaming a desirable process when light effects, lettering, symbols and more are requested for a product’s surface.

Foaming is not used on metal; rather, it is used only on plastics, making it a valuable asset within the plastics industry and sectors which regularly utilize plastics in their operations.

Examples of applications that foam laser marking can be used for include:

  • Marking on ink cartridges
  • Marking on keyboards
  • Marking on cosmetic packaging

To learn more about the process of foaming laser marking, be sure to reach out to our team members because our machines can be a valuable solution for your plastics operations.

4. Coloration Laser Marking

Some key points: 

  • Can be utilized for both metals and plastics
  • The process for coloration varies, depending on your material
  • Creates contrast in both colored and black and white materials
  • Color results are based on an oxidation process

The process of adding color to a plastic or metal, or coloration laser marking, is created by heating specific parts of a surface based on the anticipated outcome. Modifying the surface by controlling its pulse frequency, width, and more will result in varying colors and shades, so it is important to know what your desired results are beforehand.

When coloration is applied to a plastic material, it can be done so via a foaming process. When polymers within the plastic are manipulated, it results in a wavelength of colors, usually ranging from infrared to ultraviolet.

Metal coloration occurs with an oxidation process that can be applied to surfaces that have previously been both treated and untreated. This gives users more freedom with their coloration outcomes, and can even be used for decorative applications.

As a result, lasers used for coloration marking often are able to operate at a broad range of frequencies, speeds, power levels and so on.

Examples of industrial applications in which laser coloration marking can be used include:

  • Creating decorative jewelry
  • Color coating ear tags for cattle
  • Marking colors on a bottle cap

If you have any questions about coloration on plastics and metals, our representatives can help you. Contact us today to learn more about our laser marking options.

Which Laser Marking Machine is Right for You?

Now that you have a better understanding of annealing, carbon migration, foaming and coloration laser marking, you should be able to distinguish which of our machines would be the best fit for your company’s needs. Remember, though, that our line of laser markers is versatile and continually growing. Each of our products can be used on a variety of materials in varying industries.

If you’d like to learn more about our current line of equipment, or the four types of laser marking, feel free to contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you