Industrial Automation

    

Know Your Tech

Direct Part Marking Methods

Assessing Your Application

Since each application is at least somewhat unique, you should know the answers to the following questions before selecting a marking method: what type and how much data will you need to encode, how much real estate is available for the symbol, is symbol permanency a concern and who will be using the information.  

Many Marking Methods Are Available

There are many methods to directly mark objects.  Selecting the best method for the application is critical to achieving success.  Each method has its own advantages and limitations.  Since each method has its own advantages and limitations, it is important to review and experiment with as many methods as possible before selecting the best one for your application. 


Electrochemical Etch:  This process uses a low voltage current to mark the object surface.  This is commonly used for low volume product runs. 

Ink Jet:
  This type of marking uses small , dots sprayed directly onto the surface.  Ink jet produces high contrast marks.  Ink jet is not considered a permanent marking method. 

Laser Etch:  Lasers etch the symbol directly onto a surface. Clean, high resolution marks are produced making laser-etch well-suited for automated environments. 

Dot Peen:
  Dot peen is a percussive marking method, using changes in depth to create marks.  Dot peen is recommended for applications where the symbol must last the entire life cycle.  

Marking Method 

Description

 

Advantages & Disadvantages


Ink Jet on ABS Plastic

Contrast levels vary widely, round element shape

Applications:

  • Post-packaging
  • Warehousing
  • Automotive 
  Advantages:
  • Low-entry cost
  • High speed
  • East to read if contrast is good 

Disadvantages:

  • Not considered permanent by some industry standards
  • Dot registration can vary
  • Higher cost consumables
  • Mark quality dependent on surface cleanliness
  • Difficult to read if contrast is poor 

Pre-Printed Packaging

Typically high contrast, square element shape

Applications:

  • Product labeling
  • Product packaging
  • Document processing 
 

Advantages:

  • Economical
  • High speed
  • Good contrast
  • Easy to read 

Disadvantage:

  • Less flexibility 

Thermal Transfer Label Stock

High contrast, typically black on white label stock, square element shape

Applications:

  • Product labeling
  • Packaging
  • WIP tracking, various industries 
 

Advantages:

  • High contrast
  • Low-entry cost
  • Easy to read 

Disadvantages:

  • Not permanent
  • Higher cost: consumables 

Laser Etch on Silk Screen

High contrast, square & round element shape

Application:

  • Electronics 
 

Advantages:

  • Good contrast
  • No consumables
  • Permanent 

Disadvantages:

  • Displaces surface
  • Process creates debris 

Ink Jet on Plastic

High or low contrast, round element shape

Applications:

  • Bio-science
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Packaging 
 

Advantage:

  • Limited damage to surface 

Disadvantages:

  • Higher cost consumables
  • Not permanent
  • Bleeding can affect mark quality 

Thermal Print on Foil Packaging

Typically good contrast, square element shape

Application:

  • Pharmaceutical packaging 

 

  Advantage:
  • Economical 
Disadvantages:
  • Reflective nature of marking method may require additional lighting
  • Deformation of surface may affect readability of code 

Ink Jet on Glass

Good contrast, round element shape

Applications:

  • Pharmaceutical packaging
  • Clinical R&D
  • Electronics 

 

  Advantages:
  • High contrast
  • Low entry cost
  • Limited damage to surface 
Disadvantages:
  • Not permanent
  • Bleeding can affect mark quality 

Laser Etch on Metal

Low contrast, square element shape

Applications:

  • Electronics
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • DOD
  • Medical devices 

 

 

Advantages:

  • Permanent
  • No consumables
  • High quality mark 
Disadvantages:
  • Process creates debris
  • Affects surface of substrate 

Laser Etch on Glass Epoxy

Medium contrast, square element shape

Application:
  • Electronics 
 

Advantages:

  • Permanent
  • No consumables
  • High quality mark 
Disadvantages:
  • Process creates debris
  • Lack of contrast; difficult to read
  • Affects surface of substrate 

Laser Etch on Rubber

Very low contrast, square or round element shape

Application:
  • Automotive 
 

Advantages:

  • Permanent
  • No consumables 
Disadvantages:
  • Process creates debris
  • Affects surface of substrate 

Chem Etch on Metal

Typically medium contrast, square element shape

Applications:
  • Electronics
  • Semiconductor
  • DOD
  • Aerospace
  • Medical devices 
 

Advantages:

  • Permanent
  • High quality mark
  • No debris from process 
Disadvantages:
  • Potentially toxic material bi-product
  • Low-volume use only
  • Potentially complex process 

Chem Etch on Silicon

Typically medium contrast, square element shape

Application:
  • Semiconductor 
 

Advantages:

  • Permanent
  • High quality mark
  • No debris from process 
Disadvantages:
  • Potentially toxic material bi-product
  • Potentially complex process 

Dot Peen on Smooth, Highly Reflective Metal

Low contrast, dependent on difference in depth to create light and dark elements, round or square element shape, dependent on shape of stylus

Applications:
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • DOD 
  Advantages:
  • Permanent
  • No consumables 
Disadvantages:
  • Alters surface
  • Low contrast mark
  • More difficult to read
  • Inconsistent depth will create smaller elements
  • Background noise 

Dot Peen on Textured Metal

Low contrast, dependent on difference in depth to create light and dark elements, round or square element shape, dependent on shape of stylus

Applications:
  • Automotive
  • Aerospace
  • DOD 
  Advantages:
  • Permanent
  • No consumables 
Disadvantages:
  • Alters surface
  • Low contrast mark
  • Very difficult to read, due to high degree of surface noise created by texture