Can laser engraving be done in color?

Color laser marking, or color laser engraving, as it is also known, is the process of adding color to an object being marked. Color laser engraving is a laser engraving technology that adds color to engraved objects. This is usually achieved by heating the surface of the material to form an oxide layer after which visible light can be reflected on it. It is this light that creates the appearance of color.

In some cases, a color dye powder is spread on the object and then melted into the engraving with an engraving machine. To produce a relief mark, the laser beam supplies a large amount of energy to a small area. As a result, the surface of the material melts and expands. This can color the material in black, white or gray.

It can color engrave a variety of materials, including plastics, rubber, coating materials, electroplating materials, engineering plastics, ABS, Pes, PVC and epoxy resin, acrylics and metals (steel, titanium, transition metals and chrome plates). This starts with traditional engraving and then a special powder is pressed onto the engraved parts with a laser machine. To implement laser engraving on and off production lines, Laserax offers laser marking machines (for standard solutions) and OEM laser markers (for customized solutions with system integrators). In this technique, when re-solidified, each laser pulse creates an equivalent molten pool that results in a diffractive surface of the molten bath.

A good example is a blue plastic material that cannot be engraved with yellow, green or other striking colors. I have made simple acrylic nameplates with powder coating material (like the one they use on metal) and a laser diode coupled to 808 nm fiber. Through the thermal effect of the laser, it is obtained that the energy density of the laser is proportional to the thickness of the film. Unlike sublimation, this process uses common color laser toner, but not all laser toners work, so be sure to check with your dealer before buying a printer.

To maintain legibility after abrasive treatments, it is necessary to mark the workpieces with a shot peen-resistant laser engraving. Adjusting one of them will not affect other laser parameters, which are not available in Q-switch lasers. Blanks are not designed to be engraved with this internal process, as badges are printed one at a time (auto-feed systems are available). If you want to further explore the physics behind laser technology, you can also watch free educational videos produced by MIT.

Between dot blasting, inkjet printing, laser marking and printed labels, the right solution is not always obvious. Metal, especially stainless steel, is possibly the most widely used material in color laser engraving.

Shana Lall
Shana Lall

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