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CO2 laser marking for the packaging industry

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CO2 laser marking for the packaging industry

Laser marking is one of the most widely used laser processes in the industrial sector. It is typically used to apply information to packaging: expiry dates, traceability codes, production batches, logos and other graphics. The fundamental advantages of laser marking over traditional methods are the very high processing speeds and the high levels of precision that can be achieved.

How does laser marking work?

Laser marking is a processing technique in which a laser is used to produce an engraving on the surface of a product. As with all laser-based processes, this technique exploits the laser's ability to concentrate large amounts of energy on one spot with a diameter of a tenth of a millimetre. At the site where the laser touches the material, very high energy densities are reached, which cause the temperature to rise within a few seconds, triggering physical and chemical transformations.

A key feature of laser processing is the high degree of control. It is possible to decide with great precision how deep the laser’s action should go. With laser marking, the mark is only produced superficially, on a layer that goes from a few microns to one or two millimetres. Past this depth, one no longer speaks of laser marking but of laser engraving. The two processes, although similar, differ in the depth of the laser marking which in turn changes its perception. Laser engraving creates marks that are more visible and perceptible to the touch. In laser engraving, the mark is visible but not very perceptible to the touch.

Laser marking and packaging

In all laser processing, the type of power used depends on two factors: the material one wants to process and the speed one wants to reach. As you may already know, every laser emits a beam of polarised light at a defined wavelength. Some materials absorb certain wavelengths well but not others. In the packaging sector, the CO2 laser is the one that gives the best results. Its 10.6 micrometer wavelength belongs to the far infrared region which is very well absorbed by the organic materials most frequently used for packaging (e.i: paper, cardboard, thermoplastic polymers, glass).

Advantages of laser marking

Traditionally, the following methods are used to mark information on packaging:

    1.inkjet printing

    2.thermal transfer printing

    3.stamping stamping

    5.mechanical engraving

These techniques are always based on contact between the tool and the workpiece. Compared to them, the laser has several advantages:

    1.reduced cost: the information is engraved directly on the product, which eliminates the need for any other material, such as ink and labels

    2.indelibility: it is resistant to wear, solvents, scratches, light and counterfeiting attempts.

    3.automation: the process is fully automatable.

    4.flexibility: laser marking can imprint any type of information, however complex. materials are not subjected to mechanical stress.

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