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AIM Processing Small Plastic Parts Blog

Laser Etching Plastic: Leaving the Right Mark

[fa icon="calendar"] Apr 6, 2016 1:24:18 PM / by Jon Gelston

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If you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the plastics industry like us, you may have noticed a recent trend that’s picked up speed over the last few years. The utilization of lasers in plastic etching and engraving isn’t something completely new; the technology has actually been around for quite some time. It’s the recent improvements to the technology that has caught the eye of customers and plastics professionals alike.


In the past, laser etching technology lacked the desired speed, precision and affordability that was necessary to compete with other methods. But recent developments as well as advancements in products have made a huge difference. Does your part need product identity data or operating instructions that last throughout the product’s life? Etch it! Do you need two-dimensional barcodes or maybe just a detailed logo? Etch it!

Not only does this technology provide you with a higher quality finished product, it is also environmentally and fiscally responsible. Unlike ink-marking methods, laser etching doesn’t require inks, solvents or energy-intensive drying steps. The overall amount of energy needed, as well as the cost, is significantly lower.   

Depending on the type of application you are using the laser technology for, there are a variety of different laser options. The two most common used for plastics are fiber lasers and crystal lasers (Nd: YAG, Nd:YVO).

Fiber lasers: This laser is the most common choice when it comes to laser etching and engraving. The laser beam is amplified from a seed laser source into specially designed glass fibers. Energy is supplied via pump diodes. What makes fiber lasers such a popular choice is their ability to produce an extremely small focal diameter, making them perfect for high contrast etching. They are also much more powerful than other lasers and require less maintenance. A fiber laser's service life can be up to 25,000 hours.   

Crystal lasers (Nd: YAG, Nd:YVO): Nd:YAG (neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) and Nd:YVO (neodymium-doped yttrium ortho-vanadate) are named after the doping element neodymium and the carrier crystal. Unlike fiber lasers, energy for crystal lasers is supplied by more expensive pump diodes that have a tendency to wear. However, they possess the same wavelength as fiber lasers and therefore are used for many of the same purposes. Crystal lasers usually require service anywhere between 8,000 and 15,000 laser hours.   

Lasers possess incredible versatility. They can be used on a wide variety of plastics and are capable of so many different functions. From logos to barcodes or even textures, the recent advancements in laser technology are sure to satisfy your parts needs. Still unsure about the process or want to learn more about what method is best for your part? Contact one of our engineers. They would be glad to help!

Topics: Plastic Injection Molding, laser etching, laser engraving

Jon Gelston

Written by Jon Gelston