Upgrade to Laser Marking
In our last blog post, we talked about our capabilities as a contract manufacturer and the use of pad printing as a viable solution for printing logos, markings and other designation points on a medical device. What if we told you there was an alternative to pad printing that could provide other benefits to your medical device project? As you know, Biomerics recently introduced our Advanced Laser division, and their ability to support and service your Laser needs. Our hope in this article it to outline some of the benefits of Laser Marking (one of the manufacturing capabilities that our Advanced Laser division offers) and compare them to some of the aspects of Pad Printing. Is Pad Printing on the way out? The verdict isn’t out yet, but as the technology for lasers continues to expand in capabilities, we’ll see greater advances in Laser technologies that support the process of medical device development.
Technology continues to advance and with computer processing speeds doubling every 18 months, we are more connected than we have ever been. Technology is enabling us to find new ways of doing things and our Biomerics Advanced Laser division has begun working with clients to implement Laser Marking as an alternative practice to marking medical devices with laser marked bar codes, UID codes, QR codes and other identification needs.
Laser marking has tremendous abilities to help speed up a process while at the same cutting down on expenses (time and materials). With Pad printing, a technician needs time to configure and set-up the Pad Printing machine in order to position the print accurately on a medical device. Often times, a technician can use up a lot of product, in just the set-up alone. Alternatively, Laser Marking eliminates many human errors from the overall process. In most cases, with a few hours of set-up, the exact specifications of your design can be configured to a computer software program and then you’re “off to the races”. A minimal amount of materials are needed during any set-up phase, thereby, cutting down on material costs.
Lasers, at least for now, haven’t been configured to print in color yet, so if any your requirements call for a color accent, you may have to resort to Pad Printing. As mentioned in our previous blog post, pad printing enables you to process multiple colors. Color certainly does add to the look and feel of the product and enables a brand to present its products look and feel to the end buyer or user. Laser marking is limited in color but is capable of printing various shades of blacks, greys and light greys, on to a product.
Laser marking is a more permanent solution when it comes to printing on your device, where Pad Printing inks have the potential to fade over time or rub off. This is because of the way the Laser marking occurs. When a laser beam interacts with the surface of a material, it slightly alters its properties or appearance. This is accomplished by moving a low-powered beam slowly across the material using a method called discoloration, which creates high-contrast marks without disrupting the material. The Laser then heats the material, causing oxidation under the surface and turning the material black. It applies low temperatures to metal to anneal the surface while leaving the surface intact.1 As opposed to pad printing, where the stamp touches the top of the material, dropping the print in place, and then you have waiting for the imprinted inks to adhere and dry to your components before they can be used. Thereby, leaving your product susceptible to potential fading and abrasion over time. Whereas with Laser marking, there is generally no wait time to handle the product once it’s been marked.
Laser machines can stop and start at any time. With the quick press of a button, a job can be stopped for a lunch break, the end of a work day or a change in work orders. When you go back to the machine, it can resume quickly to its previous programming. Should slight changes to the design, size, and location of the marking change, it is an easier process to make through the software. Using pad printing, it may be necessary to keep your project running longer so that your inks maintain consistency and don’t dry up. This could increase operating costs and delay project timelines. Shutting down a pad printing machines involves clean-up, and possibly recalibration prior to starting your project back up.
As mentioned earlier, time is definitely on your side when using laser marking, mainly because of the speed in which lasers are able to process commands. There are different types of lasers that can be used and each one can processes materials in their own unique way and function. These functions only enhances your throughput by pushing more materials through the marking process. Using the “rotary” pad printing machine, time could be against you as you consider set-up times and product quantities. Most often, rotary pad printers can only handle between 1 to 12 clichés and involve operators to switch product in and out. Where Lasers can mass produce at faster rates and minimize operator involvement.
It really depends on your needs and requirements that would dictate which type of marking you would apply to your device and how that process will assist in accomplishing the end-goal. As our customer, you control the project, and with the help of our expert engineers, we will guide through the process and help you make the necessary decisions needed to make your project a success.
For more information on our Laser division and our capabilities, please check out our new Laser web pages and see for yourself.