Laser marking plastics

for polyamide, polyethylene, ABS and many other plastics

Laser machines for marking, cutting and engraving plastics

Laser marking plastics can provide a variety of ways to broaden your product line. Plastics are highly versatile and are used for many different applications, and there are a number of ways to laser mark and engrave plastics. For example, using a fiber laser can produce different effects than a CO2 laser machine, and you can easily create permanent, high-quality marks on many different plastics such as polycarbonate, ABS, polyamide, and many others. With a CO2 laser, you can also engrave and cut plastics precisely and efficiently for a variety of applications. Because a laser machine requires minimal set-up and provides a large degree of versatility, laser marking plastics is an economical processing method, even in small batch sizes.

What types of plastic can you process with a laser?

  • 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

What are some examples of laser marked plastics?



Engraving plastics with a CO2 laser can create different reactions or appearances, not only based on the type of plastic, but based on the raw materials as well, such as color pigments and additives like fillers and flame retardants. Fiber lasers can also create different appearances when laser marking plastics, which include foaming, carbonizing, and color changing. Since not all plastics will react the same way to laser processing, it’s always a good idea to have your material tested before purchasing.

Contact our applications lab to arrange material testing

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

Why are lasers a better way to mark plastics?

Laser marking plastics offers fast, non-contact processing which helps maintain the integrity of the material. Lasers also offer versatility since they can process a wide variety of different plastics in different ways. Graphics, logos, text, codes, serial numbers, as well as fully dynamic data from ERP systems can be marked easily and efficiently, even on the smallest components and in areas that are difficult to access.

What are the functions and advantages of laser technology?

Permanent engravings

  • Unlike other technologies, laser marking is permanent and resistant to heat, acid, and abrasion
  • Especially important for traceability and quality assurance

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • Product portfolio with matching fiber laser systems for all requirements
  • Flatbed systems with processing areas of up to 87 x 126 inches
  • Galvo workstations with processing areas of up to 39.4 x 17.7 inches
  • OEM galvo fiber lasers for integration into production lines
  • Custom-built systems according to customer requirements

Cost-efficient production

  • Direct laser marking is more cost effective since inks, chemicals, pastes or sprays are not required for processing
  • Laser processing also eliminates pre- and post-processing and eliminates tool wear due to non-contact processing

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • The SpeedMarker fiber laser can be integrated as a laser workstation or into an existing production line
  • The robust mechanics of Trotec laser systems have been designed for many years of intensive use with minimal maintenance

Faster marking and increased production

  • High-speed markings are possible with variable data (e.g. serial numbers, codes)
  • A wide range of markings are possible without retooling or tool changes

Advantages of a Trotec laser

Precise marking results

  • Small shapes and tight tolerances can be marked with high precision

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • Ideal optics and optimal beam performance due 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 the laser including small shapes and 1-point fonts
  • Complete freedom in the design of markings, logos, designs, bar codes or serial numbers
  • Even photos can be produced in the shortest possible time

Advantages of a Trotec laser

Non-contact and reliable material processing

  • Non-contact processing doesn't require clamping or fixating materials, which can damage the integrity of the material
  • Precise and consistent results

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • Broad product portfolio with the right laser system for every requirement
  • Highly accurate laser markings even on your "first attempt" thanks to camera-assisted positioning
"We have found the Speedy 300 Flexx laser to be a great investment for our production shop. We can now run many more materials through one laser instead of having to use a CO2 and Fiber Laser. This makes maintenance much simpler and is has been more affordable to run one machine instead of two. The Speedy 300 Flexx also is very fast and is helping increase our production rates."
- ​Todd Stephens - Go Tags -
"Our Trotec laser has excellent accuracy, great speed, and extremely low maintenance."
- Mark Warren - American Awards & Promotions -
"Our Trotec works great for us. We have three Trotec lasers and we love them all. A large surface area means expanding capabilities."
- Ron Ung - Cable Markers -

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 leaves a tangible mark on the material. It can be seen as laser-induced boiling, which melts the surface. Due to the rapid cooling, bubbles are encapsulated in the material. These bubbles leave a positive mark, which is tangible.
The laser works on a low power level and longer pulses. Foaming works on all polymers, but also on some metals. Depending on the material the mark is light or dark.

Carbonizing

Carbonizing enables strong contrasts on bright surfaces. During the carbonizing process the laser heats up the surface of the 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 marking times compared to other processes. Carbonizing can be used for polymers or bio-polymers such as wood or leather. Since carbonizing always leads to dark marks, the contrast on dark materials will be rather minimal.

Color change

Color change on the material guarantees highest legibility. Laser marking with color change is basically an electrical process, which reorders the macromolecules (by changing the direction). No material is removed, but partial foaming is possible.
The laser works with a maximum pulse rate but low energy per pulse. Otherwise material would be removed or foaming might occur. Color change works on all polymers and the change of color can be bright or dark. Most color changes are dark.

Removing

Removing is used with multilayer plastics (laminates). During the removal process the laser beam removes the top layers, which had been applied to the base material. This results in color contrasts due to color differences in the layers.

See our lasers in action! Request a demo now
Request a demo now