Laser Marking and Engraving Plastics

for polyamide, polyethylene, ABS and many other plastics

electronical components laser marking

Lasers for marking, cutting and engraving plastics

Lasers and plastics: the possibilities are endless

Like lasers, plastics are highly versatile and used for many different applications. Used together, lasers and plastics can significantly broaden your product and processing capabilities. There are a number of ways to laser mark and laser engrave plastics. With a fiber laser, for example, you can quickly and easily mark many different plastics, such as polycarbonate, ABS, polyamide, and many more commercially-used plastics with a permanent, high-quality finish.  Because a laser machine requires only minimal set-up and provides a large degree of flexibility, laser marking plastics can be done economically even in small batch sizes. You can also laser engrave and laser cut plastics with the highest level of precision and efficiency using a CO2 laser machine.

Types of plastic you can 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

Examples of plastic items processed with a laser



You can laser engrave almost any type of plastic, however the various raw materials, color pigments and additives (such as fillers, additives, and flame retardants) may cause the plastic to react very differently when processed. 
Fiber lasers offer a few different methods for laser marking plastics, such as dyeing, carbonation or foaming. Since various plastics react very differently, it is a good idea to test a material sample. 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
marking key chain

Why lasers are a better way to mark plastics

There are several reasons why lasers are a better way to mark plastics. Non-contact laser marking is very fast as well as abrasion, heat and acid resistant, and many different plastics can be marked or engraved with a laser. All kinds of content including logos, codes, serial numbers and fully dynamic data from ERP systems can be used. Even smallest components and details can be marked quickly and easily with the laser in difficult-to-access areas.

Laser processing plastics: Let us count the ways

Cost-efficient production

Direct laser marking is more cost effective because a laser does not require supplies such as inks, chemicals, pastes or sprays, which eliminates the cost of purchasing, handling and disposing of these items.

Laser processing also eliminates pre- and post-processing, and because it is a contactless process, it also eliminates tool wear.

Advantages of a Trotec laser

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

Laser marking take seconds and allows greater output

  • 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

  • Intelligent and intuitive marking software for ease of 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

Permanent engravings

  • Unlike other technologies, laser marking is permanent and abrasion, heat and acid resistant
  • 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 66 x 98 inches
  • Galvo workstations with processing areas of up to 19.7 x 19.7 inches
  • OEM galvo fiber lasers for integration into production lines
  • Custom-built systems according to customer requirements

Perfect marking results - fine tools

  • Precise and small shapes can be marked with high precision advantages

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • 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 the laser.
  • It is even possible to create 1-point fonts and small shapes that are still clearly legible.
  • 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

  • DirectMark or JobControl software for laser engravings that are produced directly from the graphics program make it as easy as printing

Non-contact and reliable material processing capabilities

  • There is no need to firmly clamp down or fixate materials
  • Time savings and consistently good 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

Product recommendation

  • SpeedMarker series: Industrial high-speed laser marking of many plastics, such as polyamide, polycarbonate and many more.

Advantages of a Trotec laser

  • ProMarker series: High-speed laser marking of many plastic types as easy as printing, perfect for personalizing promotional items. Creative and software-independent operation allows implementation of markings using your printer driver.
"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

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.