Laser Marking – Techniques & Applications

Laser marking is fast becoming the preferred means of permanent marking due to its varied applications and unique characteristics. It enables high-precision work to be carried out quickly and with consistent quality on a wide range of materials including metals, plastics, paints, foils, films, laminates, wood, leather and glass. Some materials, such as laser-sensitive polymers, have been designed specifically with laser marking in mind.

The traditional techniques of engraving, etching and marking can now all be done on one machine with a degree of precision that allows the smallest of text and graphics to be clearly legible. As there is no physical contact between machine and material, replacement of worn tools is not necessary, reducing the cost of laser marking compared to other methods.

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Specialist laser marking companies employ a range of techniques to suit different materials and finishes. Lasers can change the appearance and texture of materials in different ways. This might be through removing the surface, creating a chemical reaction or changing the structure.

Some techniques have the effect of changing the material colour. ANNEALING generates sub-surface oxidation in metals which changes the surface colour without affecting the texture. This is ideal for environments where hygiene is important, such as hospitals and kitchens, as the smooth surfaces are easier to keep clean. STAINING is a technique that causes a chemical reaction in plastics and changes the colour. The tone of the colour change depends on the chemical composition of the material.

Other methods involve removing material to either create or expose a different colour or finish. The technique of REMOVING is used on coated metals, foils, films and laminates and involves the removal of a top coat to reveal a different coloured finish underneath. This is particularly useful in the production of signs and labels. CARBONISING is used on organic materials such as leather and wood. It uses high levels of heat to burn the surface of the material leaving a permanent mark. ENGRAVING is a process used on metals where melting and evaporation leaving an impression on the surface.

FOAMING creates raised marks on the surfaces of plastics. Heat from the laser melts the plastic causing gas bubbles to form which diffuse reflected light, giving a lighter appearance.


Laser marking is still a relatively new technology but has already had an impact on many areas of our lives. It has brought new techniques to traditional crafts and been beneficial across a wide range of industries. In the manufacture and distribution of components for industry, it has provided a cost-effective way to permanently mark part numbers, codes, dates etc. Jewellers, watch makers, leather workers and glassware manufacturers have all benefited from the precise, fine detail laser markers can achieve. They are used in the manufacture of semiconductors, consumer electronics and medical products and in the packaging industry for labelling and traceability.

The laser marking industry will, no doubt, continue to develop and find new applications in the years to come.

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