Laser Annealing

Laser annealing is a common marking method that uses a powerful laser to create controlled heat on the surface of a material. Unlike traditional engraving which removes the surface’s material, laser annealing changes the surface color, without removing or damaging any material.

This creates a permanent, high-contrast mark that is resistant to fading. In addition, it does not engrave deep or raise the surface layer, so this works well on parts that need to remain extremely smooth. Because of these features and benefits, many industries, such as the medical and aerospace industries, utilize a laser annealing process for its precision and durable marking abilities.

So, let’s take a deeper look at laser annealing and how it is being utilized in the medical and aerospace industries specifically.

Laser Annealing For Marking

As mentioned, laser annealing is used for marking because it creates a dark high-contrast mark that doesn’t add any texture or change to the internal metal. Using the laser annealing process for marking also requires no extra materials like ink or labeling paper.

The laser annealing machine creates logos, barcodes, serial numbers, and 2D codes from the material itself. Fiber lasers are the most common laser used as a laser annealing machine. These lasers use a 1090 nm wavelength produced by passing a laser through an optical fiber.

Laser annealing marking works by uploading a design into computer numerical control (CNC) software for the laser to imitate. Using annealing for marking is particularly popular for 2D codes because of the high contrast.

Medical bolts

Carbide tool

Precision tools

Laser Annealing For Traceability

Traceability marks are 2D codes, barcodes, logos, or numbers identifying a part or component. This practice is used across industries to track a part or component through a supply chain. The medical, aerospace, and automotive industry use laser annealing because it is easily readable for traceability, doesn’t damage parts, and doesn’t collect contaminants.

Laser Annealing in the Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry has strict requirements for traceability set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). 14 CFR part 45.11 states that aircraft manufacturers must mark aircraft with fireproof ID plates.

ID plates require builder name, model designation, and builder serial number. Some aircraft also require the type certificate number and the production certificate number on these plates. With all this necessary information stored on the plate for traceability, the plate and markings must withstand both normal use and an aircraft accident.

Using laser annealing for FAA compliance is a popular method among aerospace manufacturers. Not only is annealing permanent and can easily design these marks, but it also doesn’t damage the aircraft or its components. Instead, it leaves behind a damage-free and high-contrast finish.

Laser Annealing in the Medical Device Industry

Like the aerospace industry, the medical device industry also has strict federal traceability regulations. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) requires a unique device identifier (UDI) on all medical devices except for consumer health products. These UDIs are usually 2D codes that store a device’s product code, lot number, expiration date, serial number, and manufacturing date. These codes must be easily read by machines and humans and be completely permanent and not susceptible to contamination.

Laser annealing is frequently used for adding UDIs because of the high contrast and permanent mark it leaves without any change to the surface. While other methods like etching or engraving are also permanent and high contrast, the textured surface is dangerous for medical devices. Engraved or etched marks can trap contaminants that harm patients, but the laser annealing smooth surface finish does not.

Add Laser Annealing to Your Toolbox

If you need a reliable and accurate marking process, adding laser annealing or a laser annealing machine to your toolbox is an easy way to stay compliant with FDA and FAA requirements or to achieve your desired results. The best part? All industries using laser annealing can use the same high-powered fiber laser machine. Contact KEYENCE today to learn more about annealing solutions for you.

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