The automotive industry uses laser technology throughout its production process, from technical car components to aesthetic buttons and switches.
Laser marking is the technique widely used on automotive components to create data matrix codes and identifying numbers.
This article will explain why laser marking is used, explore the different types of markings, and discuss which laser marking machines are best for the automotive industry.
Laser marking is used to mark identifiers on vehicle parts and components. The advantages of marking with lasers over other techniques is that it:
Traceability in the automotive industry is hugely important. Vehicle parts or components, particularly those related to safety, are required to be identifiable and traceable back to the manufacturer, helping with recalls and warranty decisions. The mark left by laser marking is perfect for this, as it is permanent, high quality and high contrast, plus laser marking can be used on a range of materials, making it ideal for use across the production process.
Different laser marking uses in the automotive industry include:
A data matrix code holds data that can be read by scanners to reveal the data encoded within it. The code is made up of two solid bars that form an L-shape (that helps scanners to locate the code), and black and white cells. The configuration of these cells is what holds the unique data, with the number of rows and columns increasing with the amount of information stored in the code, which is limited to 2,335 alphanumeric characters.
A data matrix code is often 2D, typically square (although they can be rectangle), and can be read from any orientation.
When laser marked on automotive parts and components, they are used to hold traceability data. They are favoured over QR codes as data matrix codes are smaller and are therefore better suited for marking small components.
Some components that require identifying codes or numbers have complex or textured surfaces, making it potentially difficult to read identification marks on the part. This is also the case for parts within the engine bay, where they are exposed to road dirt, oils, and heat from the engine.
This is where high contrast marks come in. A high contrast mark left by a laser marking machine offers increased readability, as the mark will contrast with the surface, or the area around the mark will be coloured in a way to make the mark stand out, often referred to as black/white marking.
This makes it far easier for people and scanners to read and scan the codes and numbers quickly, reducing the impact on productivity.
Another great use of laser marking in the automotive industry is for creating day/night marking.
Day/night marking is used where illuminated plastic is required in the vehicle, such as on buttons, dials and switches. As the name suggests, the marking makes it so that the button can be seen clearly in the day, with a bright marking, and then can be backlit to be clearly seen when dark during the night. The light allowed through only illuminates to the desired level, not letting through too much light so as to cause an issue for the driver of the car.
Laser marking is ideally suited for this, as it can strip away layers of a plastic surface to expose the desired colour and translucent surface underneath. Day/night laser marking has become the industry standard for this use, replacing two-part injection moulding which is more costly and less efficient, precise and flexible.
As the UK’s sole authorised distributor for Lasit laser marking machinery, we can provide expert advice to help you identify the perfect machine for your needs.
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