Laser marking
and laser engraving plastics

for polyamide, polyethylene, ABS and many other plastics

electronics component laser marking

Plastic types suitable

There are many options for laser engraving and laser etching plastics. With a fiber laser, you can mark a variety of different commercially used plastics, such as polycarbonate, ABS, polyamide, and many more with a permanent, quick, high-quality finish. Thanks to the low set-up times and flexibility offered by marking lasers, even small laser marking plastic jobs become economical.

Laser engraving plastic:

Suitable materials for laser engraving

  • Polyamide (PA)
  • Polycarbonate (PC)
  • Polyethylene (PE)
  • Polypropylene (PP)
  • Polyoxymethylene (POM)
  • Polyarylsulfone (PSU, PPSU)
  • Poly ether ketone (PEEK)
  • Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene copolymer (ABS)
  • Polyimide PI
  • Polystyrene PS
  • Polymethylmetacrylate PMMA
  • Polyester (PES)
  • Polyethylene terephthalate PET
  • Silicone

Examples



Laser marking plastic: application examples

Applications

When laser engraving and laser etching plastic, it is possible to achieve a permanent mark on a number of different types of material, although the various raw materials as well as colour pigments and other additives (e.g. fillers, additives, flame retardants) react very differently.
For laser marking plastics a fiber laser offers you a range of different methods, such as dyeing, carbonation or foaming. Prior to laser engraving, laser cutting or laser marking plastic you should always use a test piece as different materials react differently to processing.

Here are some applications:

  • Housings made of plastic
  • Electric plugs
  • Electronic components
  • Printed circuit boards (PCB)
  • Automotive parts
  • Keyboards
  • Tools and handles of tools
  • Buttons and switches with day & night design
  • Identification tags for animals
  • Packaging
  • Films
  • Sensors
Laser marked plastic keychain

Laser marking and laser engraving plastic: Why choose a laser?

  • The non-contact process of laser marking plastic is very fast as well as abrasion, heat and acid resistant
  • Many types of plastic are suitable for laser engraving
  • All kinds of designs, including logos, codes, serial numbers and fully dynamic contents from ERP systems can be used
  • Even the finest text and graphics can be achieved when laser marking plastic, even in areas that are hard to reach for other tools.

Function and advantages of laser technology when laser engraving plastics

Permanent engravings

  • Unlike other technologies, laser marking plastic produces a permanent and abrasion, heat and acid resistant
  • This is especially important for traceability and quality assurance

Advantages of a Trotec laser machine

  • Product portfolio featuring matching fiber laser systems for all requirements
  • Flatbed systems with processing areas of up to 1500 x 1250 mm for large format laser cutting
  • Galvo workstations with processing areas of up to 1120 x 653 mm

Cost-efficient production

  • Directly laser marking plastic does not increase consumables costs, such as inks, chemicals, pastes or sprays.
  • The need for handling and disposing pricey materials is eliminated.
  • No pre- or post-treatments for the material is required
  • Tool wear is eliminated thanks to the contactless process

Advantages of a Trotec laser machine

  • The SpeedMarker laser machine with a maintenance-free fiber laser can be integrated either as a standalone laser workstation or into a production line
  • The robust mechanics of Trotec laser machines have been designed for many years of intensive use with minimal servicing

Laser marking plastic takes seconds and allows greater production output

  • High-speed markings are possible even with variable data such as serial numbers and codes
  • Laser marking plastic allows a diverse range of markings to be achieved without retooling or tool changes

Advantages of a Trotec laser machine

  • Intelligent and intuitive laser marking software which is easy to use
  • Fast and highly accurate positioning of components by means of a camera system: SpeedMark Vision Smart Adjust
  • Integration of contents from ERP files is possible

Perfect laser marking results - fine tools

  • Precise and small shapes can be achieved when laser marking and laser ethching plastic

Advantages of a Trotec laser machine

  • Ideal optics and optimal beam performance thanks to high-quality components
  • Camera-based component positioning for high precision and ease of use

Incredible design opportunities

  • Virtually any design can be created with laser engraving plastic
  • It is even possible to create 1-point fonts and small shapes that are still clearly legible.
  • Complete freedom in the design of laser markings, logos, designs, bar codes or serial numbers
  • Even photos can be produced in short production times

Advantages of a Trotec laser machine

  • DirectMark or JobControl laser software for laser engravings that are produced directly from the graphics program. The process is as easy as printing

Non-contact and reliable material processing capabilities

  • There is no need to firmly clamp down or fixate materials when laser engraving plastic
  • Time savings and consistently good results

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • Broad product portfolio with the right laser system for every requirement
  • When laser marking plastic, highly accurate markings can be achieved even on your "first attempt" thanks to camera-assisted positioning
"Trotec were able to customise the product to suit our industry requirements and they delivered exactly what we needed in record time. We are already working with Trotec on a second system."
- ​​Fearghal McEvatt - owner of Tocana Ltd -
"Everything about our Trotec experience has been straightforward and enjoyable, from the simple sales process to how easy it is to operate our laser machine. Compared to the previous laser machine we had, Trotec is miles ahead in terms of the quality of engraving and cutting it can provide."
- Stuart Menges - Managing Director of Universal Espresso Care -
"The Trotec machine enabled us to offer a two day service for jig making where previously it took two weeks. It is very easy to use and so far has been trouble-free. The laser has been a great asset to our company, enabling us to offer a better service to our customers which in turn allows them to offer a better service to their customers."
- Philip Allingham - Managing Director of Copytrax -

Trotec product recommendation

Clear contrast and better (machine) readability with MOPA laser

More options for marking plastics

Many plastics can be marked with the conventional fiber laser. Most of the time, the marking result is very good, but for some plastics, the same level of homogeneity cannot always be achieved. These types of plastics can then be marked with a MOPA laser, which results in much more contrast and homogeneity. The adjustable pulse durations, which allow either short or long pulses, also help.

With dark plastics (such as PA 66 GF, PA 6 GF, PP GF, etc.), the surrounding material is less heated thanks to the short pulses and the associated low pulse energy. The plastics foam less and the marking is more homogeneous. Other plastics require more energy to heat up the material sufficiently. In this case, the long pulses help to optimize the foaming of the material. In both cases, marking with the MOPA laser leads to a more clear contrast and therefore to better (machine) readability. 

Methods of laser marking on plastics

Foaming

Foaming is a process which leaves a tangible mark on the material. It can be seen as laser-induced boiling, which melts the surface of the material. Due to rapid cooling bubbles are encapsulated in the material which leaves a positive, tangible mark.
When laser marking with this process the laser works on a low power level with longer pulses. Foaming works on all polymers and on some metals. The selected material determines whether the mark is light or dark.

Carbonising

Carbonising is used to create strong contrasts on bright surfaces. During the carbonising process the laser heats up the surface material material (minimum 100° C) and oxygen, hydrogen or a combination of both gases is emitted. What's left is a darkened area with higher carbon concentration.
The laser works with lower energy, which leads to slightly longer processing with a laser marking machine compared to other methods. Carbonising can be used for polymers or bio-polymers such as wood or leather. Carbonising always produces a dark mark, meaning that the contrast achieved on dark materials will be minimal.

Colour change

Colour change in the material guarantees the highest legibility. Laser marking with colour change is essentially an electrical process, which reorders the macromolecules (by changing the direction). No material is removed during this process but partial foaming is possible.
The laser works with a maximum pulse rate and low energy per pulse as otherwise material would be removed or foaming might occur. Colour change works on all polymers and the change of colour can be bright or dark, however most are dark.

Removing

Removing is a process used with multilayer plastics (laminates). When using the removal process in laser marking the laser beam removes the top layers, which had been applied to the base material. This results in contrasting colours due to the colour differences in the layers.