Laser Bonding Technology
What is Laser Bonding?
Laser Bonding is a marking process that produces permanent marks on a variety of surfaces including metals, glass, ceramic, and stone without damaging the surface. Typically performed with a CO2, fiber, Nd: YAG, or DPSS laser systems, laser bonding technology has enabled manufacturers to automate their marking operations.
It is the most robust technology that is being widely used to personalize or serialize countless physical items with logos, bar codes, labels, patterns, images, and much more.
Founded in the mid-1990s by Paul W. Harrison, laser bonding technology has come a long way in offering a reliable marking solution to laser owners and manufacturers. It differs from conventional marking methods such as laser engraving and etching in a way that it adds material to the surface instead of removing it.
So, whether it’s for product tracking, branding, coding, or adhering to the quality control standards, it all comes down to laser bonding technology.
The Evolution & History of Laser Bonding
Here are some of the major milestones that led to the invention of laser bonding:
1917 – Laser technology started with Albert Einstein who proposed the concept of “stimulated emission”- a process in which an incident photon when hits the excited atoms, causes the release of energy.
1950s – Based on Einstein’s Quantum theory of Radiation, Charles Townes experimented with microwaves and put forward his discovery called “maser” (microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) in 1954, which is the predecessor of laser. He postulated that maser radiates at a wavelength greater than 1 cm.
1960 – Theodore H. Maiman constructed the first working laser using a synthetic ruby crystal to emit light.
1964 – The first CO2 laser invented by Kumar Patel successfully appeared on the market. Another major event in the same year was the discovery of Nd: YAG (neodymium-doped YAG) laser by Joseph E. Geusic and Richard G. Smith.
Since then, many metals and other substrates have been cut, welded, drilled, or marked. However, the laser marking machines you see today are much more advanced than their primitive forms.
1970s – Continued improvements in CO2 lasers resulted in the establishment of the first 2-axis laser system in 1975.
With the introduction of bar code scanners and laser printers, lasers started to gain traction, especially in the automobile and aircraft industries.
1980-1990s – With technological advancements, computers were directly integrated into the laser marking systems.
Mid-1990 – Paul Harrison, the Founder of Thermark pioneered laser bonding technology. It is the most versatile marking technology to get around as it has not only resolved the issue of non-permanent markings but has also streamlined product identification and traceability.
How Does Laser Bonding Technology Work?
The laser bonding process creates durable markings by using a coherent laser beam together with a laser bond additive material, which could either be a laser marking aerosol spray, ink, or any other product commercially available on the market.
When a laser system is used, it emits a high-energy laser beam that interacts with the additive marking agent to leave a solid, black mark. This laser-material interaction essentially produces localized heat around the small area of the material called the focal point.
Due to this laser-induced heating reaction, the marking agent absorbs the laser energy which results in its permanent addition to the substrate surface. This fusion is aided by a strong covalent bond between the two and the laser-bonded marks have shown to be as durable as the substrate itself.
Having said that, laser bonding is an additive process which is giving manufacturers and operators a new level of control in marking any part or component with ultimate precision, speed, and clarity.
It's noteworthy that the laser-material interaction and the mark quality depend on two major factors: material composition and the laser settings. Choosing an efficient marking system may seem a challenge but laser bonding technology has made it possible to embrace high-quality marks.
This is primarily because it is compatible with all commercially available laser systems including CO2, Fiber, Nd: YAG, and DPSS. Moreover, these systems can be easily integrated into the production line, thereby simplifying the marking process for many industries such as medical, automotive, aerospace, decorative, electronics, etc.
Why Prefer Laser Bonding Technology?
While there are many marking methods available for leaving dark marks on the desired products, laser bonding is dominating the industry for over 30 years. The traditional marking methods such as laser engraving and ablation are often time-consuming as they involve part removal for marking purposes. This in turn affects the structural integrity of the substrate and marks produced are less likely to be precise and consistent.
Alternatively, laser bonding is much more adaptable and efficient as it eliminates the need for removing or altering the part and reveals the finest details within seconds.
Following attributes are at the forefront of laser bonding technology:
Mark permanence & durability
Low maintenance and operational costs
Twice as fast as laser engraving and etching
Efficient & eco-friendly
In addition to these, laser bonding helps ensure that bulk parts or items when marked are replicas of each other. This repeatability feature best describes mark precision and accuracy and makes it perfect for marking both small and large batch sizes.
Most notably, laser bonded marks have been rigorously tested against extreme chemical, mechanical, and environmental conditions. Interestingly, they have proven to be 100% resistant to:
Extreme heat (as in sterilization processes used in the healthcare sector)
Extreme cold (as in cases of heavy rainfall or snowfall)
Strong acids, bases, and other organic solvents (as in cleanup procedures of dental and surgical tools)
Sheer mechanical force or abrasion (as in manufacturing processes such as sandblasting)
To achieve the best marking results, you must take into consideration a couple of variables that include material composition, laser power and type, marking system and speed, coating thickness, lens, and size of the focal point.
Through tight control of the laser parameters, even the smallest fonts or geometries can be made highly visible and readable. However, poor control can result in inefficient markings that are much likely to come off with scratching. Using optimized laser marking spray and ink formulations can save you from the hassle.
Which is the Best Laser Bonding Product on the Market?
When it’s about laser marking, there are a lot of products you can choose from. Paul from Tool Metrix is your go-to guy if you want to figure out which product performs the best.
He’s done in-depth testing with CO2 240W laser and compared the results of the five most popular marking products – Cermark, Thermark, Enduramark, LaserBond 100, and Dry Moly Lube. He performed a series of tests on stainless steel, copper, brass, and aluminum.
Through experimentation, Paul concluded that marks created with LaserBond 100 didn’t fade away when scrubbed with chemical substances such as denatured alcohol, ammonia, etc. Also, he demonstrated that LBT 100 leaves a quick, decent mark using a high-speed laser.
Across all metals and laser marking parameters, LaserBond 100 stood out from the rest in terms of product quality, mark durability, and darkness as shown in the table below: