What is laser marking?
Lasers are able to mark in a variety of ways depending upon the limitations of the material and the desired result. Lasers can mark by removing small amounts of surface material resulting in an etched, engraved, or deep engraved result. They can also react with chemicals in the material to change them and produce a mark. For example, annealing can produce a smooth black mark or, in the case of some stainless steels, produce a variety of colors depending upon the settings of the laser.
What kinds of lasers are used in marking and cutting?
The kind of laser used depends largely upon what material is being used and the color of that material. Fiber lasers (1030-1080nm) are often used when working with inorganic materials and virtually all metals. Green (532nm), CO2 (11μm), and UV (355nm) lasers are most commonly used to mark organic materials (such as polymers), and some metals or other materials that have organic coatings.
How small can you mark?
The exceptional precision of lasers allows us to mark to impossibly small sizes. The spot size of 0.005in enables us to produce microscopic text ‒ fiber lasers can often provide a spot size down to .001-.002in ‒ sometimes used to prevent counterfeiting. We have, for example, marked as many as 32 characters on the head of a phillips eyeglass screw.
How fast can the laser mark or cut?
That depends upon the laser power, the material, the nature of the process (marking, engraving, cutting), and the area that the laser has to cover. A 20w fiber laser can mark a short part number, for example, in under 1 sec.
What thickness material can the laser cut?
The depends upon the type of material as well as the wavelength and power of the laser. Lasers can cut through varying thicknesses of many substrates from polymers to metals.
Can ILS laser my company’s logo?
Absolutely. We can mark your logo or artwork on just about any material.
What kinds of materials can you mark or cut?
ILS can work with a wide range of inorganic and organic materials. Take a look at our Materials section to learn more.
What do I need to provide for you to give me a quote and process my job?
At a minimum we would need the artwork and/or copy you plan to mark, drawings and specifications (dimensions) of the parts/material, and the quantity. Logos and line art are best provided as vector files (dxf) but we can convert raster files if needed. For cutting jobs, a dxf file of the job is required. Samples of what is to be marked/cut would be needed to determine actual cycle times and costs. Our sales engineers will work with you to determine how many samples we need.
What are raster and vector?
Artwork can be rendered in a couple of ways in the laser world. Your computer screen is really a series of tiny, same-sized dots (pixels). Turning those pixels on and off determine what you see. The laser also works by producing a tiny, fixed-size dot in the material. By controlling the spacing of those ‘on’ dots we can produce a raster image. A vector image, on the other hand, is a continuous line. Artwork of this nature presents as an outline ‒ although we can ‘fill’ areas in order to get solids. The advantage of vector artwork is that it tends to laser faster. It’s also the obvious choice when cutting is being done.
Can you help me with layout and design?
No problem. If you give us some direction as to fonts, sizes, basic layout and such we can produce a .pdf file for your review. By working together, we can revise the layout to get you finished artwork that meets your requirements. Our staff can also apprise you of design considerations based upon the nature of your job and material.
How long will my job take?
ILS understands timelines. We work to support just-in-time delivery and will what it takes to get the job done. We’ll be able to give you a realistic delivery date once we’re able to run samples to your satisfaction and calculate the respective cycle times.
How much will it cost?
Cost is determined by laser time (see the preceding FAQ), design time (setup), materials and jigs (if applicable), and shipping.
Do you have minimums?
No. But we can offer discounts as quantities increase.
What is a jig and why do I need one?
A jig or tray is a fixture that is built specifically for your part(s). Most commonly it’s used to hold a number of parts so that they can be marked all at once thereby minimizing parts handling and speeding-up throughput. If we will be marking a large number of parts we may recommend that two or more trays be built so that some can be loaded and unloaded while another is being marked. Alternatively, if your part needs to be supported in a particular manner in order to allow for marking on a particular surface a jig may be needed. However, if the part to be marked can simply be laid on a flat surface and marked no jig would be needed.
Can you mark around a cylindrical part?
Positively. We can wrap text and artwork around a cylindrical or conical part ranging in size from .010 to several inches in diameter. Larger parts may require us to fabricate an adapter for the rotary.