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