Laser marking and engraving plastics

for polyamide, polyethylene, ABS and many other plastics

electronical components laser marking

Types of plastic suitable for laser technology

A laser machine can engrave and mark plastics in a variety of ways depending on the type of system being used. With a fiber laser system, you can mark many types of commercial grade plastics, such as ABS, polycarbonate, polyamide, and many others efficiently and with a permanent and high-quality finish. A Trotec marking laser allows for quick set-up times and fast processing speeds, which means you can mark even the smallest batches economically.   

Plastic types

suitable 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

Application inspirations



Plastics marking applications

Most types of plastics will be the ideal material for creating permanent laser engravings, however, the various raw materials, additives and color pigments (i.e. fillers, flame retardants, additives) will react differently.

When laser marking plastics, a fiber laser will allow you to process a various techniques from dyeing, foaming or carbonating. You should always test a material sample prior to processing a full batch, since each plastic type will react very differently to laser technology.

Application examples

  • Automotive parts
  • Buttons/switches with day and night design
  • Electronic components
  • Electric plugs
  • Films
  • Housings made of plastic
  • Keyboards
  • Packaging
  • Pet ID tags
  • Printed circuit boards (PCB)
  • Sensors
  • Tools & tool handles
marking key chain

Why should I use a marking laser to process plastics?

  • Fast and non-contact laser marking results in a finished product that is heat, abrasion and acid resistant.  
  • Compatible with most types of plastics, which can be engraved, marked or laser cut
  • Create serial numbers, logos, codes, as well as fully dynamic content including ERP systems, etc.
  • Laser mark even the tiniest components and hard to access areas in a quick and efficient manner, while still producing fine details. 

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Trotec product recommendation

Plastic laser marking methods

Foaming

Foaming produces a tangible mark on materials from melting the surface, similar to the concept of laser-induced boiling. During the rapid cooling processes, bubbles become encapsulated in the material resulting in a noticeable mark.

The laser machine operates using a lower power level with longer pulses. Foaming is most commonly used with some metals as well as polymers, depending on whether the material is lighter or darker in color.

Carbonizing

Carbonizing is a processing technique where the laser warms the material surface (minimum 100° C) and hydrogen, oxygen or a combination of both gases are emitted. This leaves a darkened area with higher carbon concentration, allowing for a strong contrast on bright surfaces.

The laser machine operates with reduced energy, which requires slightly longer marking times compared to other marking methods and processes. Carbonizing can be used on polymers or bio-polymers such as leather and wood, but will be rather unnoticeable with darker materials since carbonizing produces a darker mark.

Color change

Color changing on a material will result in the highest level of legibility, and is done so with a laser through an electrical process of reordering the macromolecules (changing of direction). Ultimately, no physical material is removed, however, a partial foaming is possible.

The laser machine uses a maximum pulse rate and at a low energy per pulse, which allows for no material to be removed or foaming to occur. Most color changes result in a dark appearance, however, color changes work on all polymers and the change may be dark or bright.

Removing

Removing layers of material is commonly used with multilayer plastics, such as laminates. During the removal process, the laser beam extracts the top layers which is applied to the base material, resulting in contrasting colors from the various material layers. 

Looking for more information on laser marking?

Laser Marking with Trotec Laser Machines