What to Know About Laser Marking On Corrosion-Resistant Surfaces

At TYKMA Electrox, our laser systems are adept at corrosion-resistant laser engraving for use on various single- and multi-use stainless steel tools and equipment. Our systems optimize these products by marking them for essential tracking and identification.

Because stainless steel tools must avoid corrosion, they undergo passivation which is a treatment process consisting of coating metals in order to reduce the chemical reactivity on the surface.

Let’s take a look at some specifics of corrosion-resistant laser marking and engraving and some of the benefits it can provide.

Exceed Your Production Expectations with a Laser Engraving System

Medical Devices Require Corrosion-Resistant Laser Marking

Medical equipment and devices are made from materials for mechanical strength and corrosion-resistance.

  • These steel types made from stainless steel have a natural corrosion-resistant layer consisting of chromium oxide
  • During passivation, iron is removed from the surface of the material which leads to removing any potential corrosion

A common mark required by the medical device industry is a “dark or annealed mark.” This type of laser marking on corrosion resistant metals will not remove any of the material from the equipment. In addition, this avoids a potential occurrence for contamination to collect and corrode.

Applied by our laser markers, the creation of the marks requires a build-up of a specific oxide that turns dark at a specific level of thickness. This process is contributed by a quantity of heat that is applied, which can damage the passive layer on the marked surface.

  • There are a number of passivation processes that use citric or nitric acid
  • These processes occur at room temperature of an elevated temperature for a set duration

From our laser marking perspective, citric acid is preferred as it tends to be gentler on the laser engraving on corrosion-resistant surfaces. In addition, laser marking is the only option for devices that require passivation. One alternative, an ink-jet mark, is non-permanent and contains materials and chemicals that are not FDA-Approved, making laser marking the superior choice.

Manufacturers for medical devices needing these marks have struggled with making anti-corrosion marks on stainless steel metals. However, with our systems being adept at laser marking on corrosion-resistant surfaces, we can help them.

Some of the medical products that utilize our systems include:

  • Dental implants and hand tools
  • Electronic and laboratory equipment
  • Surgical instruments and tools
  • IV access and syringes
  • Medical re-manufacturing procedures

In addition to the medical industry, there’s an extensive list of other manufacturers and industries that can benefit from corrosion-resistant laser marking.

Regulations for Laser Marking on Corrosion-Resistant Surfaces

The Food and Drug Administration passed a law in 2007 that requires a specific identifier on medical devices. The legislation calls for a Unique Device Identification (UDI) to be implemented on medical devices and packaging with a specifically formatted machine-readable code.

Prior to the UDI marking requirements, manufacturers used laser marking for depth aides, as well as logos for aesthetic purposes, so the industry was previously aware of some of the benefits of laser marking.

The dark mark that the lasers produce on stainless steels can:

  • Provide visibility from all angles
  • Avoid removal of materials that are vulnerable to contamination
  • Maintain product quality from the manufacturer to the end user

Standardizing these dark markings brings reliability, consistency, and clarity to the identification and traceability process, making them perfect for fulfilling the FDA guidelines.

Selecting a Laser Marker for Stainless Steels

Some manufacturers struggle with creating corrosion-resistant laser marking on stainless steels, due to either using the right laser with the wrong settings, or using the wrong laser for the specific mark desired.

Even after selecting a suitable laser source for the marking, it is important to implement the correct amount of heat to the process for the specific part and marking. Remember:

  • The size of the letters, the number of the letters, and the thermal mass of the part are important factors to the marking

Parameters can be adjusted on the laser and it is important to get instant feedback from a passivation test. It is also vital to use a uniform heat source in order to control the rate of heating and cooling. This is the foundation to fine tuning a specific laser marking on corrosion-resistant metals.

The source needed to produce corrosion-resistant laser-engravings is directly related to the surface finish, the material, and the speed of the required mark. This can be done with a standard fiber laser marker.

  • The fiber laser mark that undergoes passivation will look similar to one that does not
  • The picosecond laser mark surface appears to be significantly different with micro-features when compared to the surface metal

Choosing the right laser source for the required mark will lead to stability in the laser marking production. This is important because there can be significant costs and problems that follow an unsuccessful mark or inconsistent production which can include:

  • The re-working of parts
  • Late delivery schedules
  • Varying yields
  • Delayed production

In addition to saving labor costs and avoiding issues, a reliable machine makes for an overall smoother manufacturing process.

The Right Laser Marker for You

Here at TYKMA Electrox, we are able to offer the following services to manufacturers requiring laser marking with UDI:

  • Custom software solutions for factory automation and data handshaking
  • UDI-ready laser engraving for corrosion-resistant metals
  • Application and implementation assistance

We are accustomed to working with a variety of difficult materials, such as nickel plating and gold, as well as painted and anodized surfaces. Our laser systems that utilize MOPA fiber laser technology were created to be the very best in power, reliability, and consistency.

Advantages of our fiber laser marking systems include:

  • Highest beam quality
  • Compact design
  • Air-cooling with air temperature operating capabilities
  • Efficient low power consumption
  • Maximum application flexibility
  • Nearly maintenance-free

With our MOPA laser marking machines, there is flexibility and increased pulse control no matter the material or project. Utilizing selectable waveforms and a flexible frequency range, we are able to assist you with your laser marking needs.

Some of the materials and surfaces that our laser-engraving machines mark on include:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Brass and copper
  • Polyethylene
  • Painted materials

In addition, our fiber lasers are ten times more efficient than traditional laser systems as they use little to no energy in stand-by mode, making them a particularly efficient option for laser engraving corrosion-resistant metals.

We Are a Step Above the Rest

Our specialized industrial laser marking and laser engraving on corrosion-resistant surfaces are crafted to make production easier for you. We strive to customize parts and machines to your needs while maintaining strict regulations.

Contact us today to learn how TYKMA Electrox can provide the laser marking solutions you need. We look forward to hearing from you.

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