Product Marking is ubiquitous across all types of products and packaging – from foods and soft drinks, to aerospace and automotive parts. Marking on products is primarily carried out for identification and traceability reasons, and as proof of the product meeting a defined quality level or complying with certain regulatory standards.
Product marks can be printed text codes, barcodes, QR codes or symbols. Typical product traceability markings are production date codes and batch codes. Whilst common quality markings include UKCA (UK conformity assessed) and CE marks.
Product Marking Solutions
Both Inkjet Marking and Laser Marking Machines are used to mark products and packaging with required codes and other identification marks. Laser marking is a non-contact technology that has numerous advantages over other marking methods. It produces higher quality and more permanent marks and uses fewer consumables, which lowers the total cost of operating the machines.
These machines employ several different types of lasers, including CO2, Fiber wire and UV laser sources in different power outputs. Depending on the laser type chosen these marking machines can successfully mark a wide range of substrates, including metal, low- and high-density plastics, rubber, wood and paperboard. Laser product marking applications include placing production marks and date codes on plastic and glass bottles and other packaging substrates, as well as marking individual metal and plastic products and parts.
Many marking laser systems incorporate laser accessories, including lenses and beam turning units that maximise the lasers’ performance, enabling them to effectively mark moving products and packaging, which supports higher productivity.
- CO2 (carbon dioxide) lasers are the highest-power lasers that are currently available, and are used in a wide range of marking situations. The CO2 laser beam of infrared light is capable of both scribing technology and marking large fields.
- UV laser marking machines are ideal for marking products and packaging in pharmaceutical, medical and cosmetic manufacturing to deter tampering and counterfeiting, ensuring lifetime brand protection and traceability through distribution channels.
- Fiber wire laser marking systems are used to mark robust, high-density materials. These are versatile lasers that offer high-speed marking of complex data, are easy to operate and easily integrated into production lines.
Laser Product Marking Systems
Laser machines create marks on surfaces in three basic ways: by marking, etching or engraving.
Marking occurs when a high temperature laser alters the surface of a product or container material, removing (or ablating) material from specific areas or altering the colour of the surface to leave alphanumeric codes or 1D and 2D codes on the material surface. These codes are permanent and are not dissolved by moisture or washdown chemicals as ink codes are.
Etching is a process used to mark hard materials such as glass and stone. The high heat of the laser beam causes the surface it touches to expand rapidly, causing the material to facture and chip. Controlling the laser beam’s position on the surface causes chips that create alphanumeric codes.
Engraving takes place when the heat of the focused laser beam alters or even vaporises the material surface of a product, creating a mark on the surface, or burns through a painted surface to expose a code with the revealed material beneath.