1998-02-23

New Options in Laser Marking Automotive Components 980985

Automotive design engineers consistently are presented with challenges in the decorating, labeling, marking, and/or coding of automotive components made from thermoplastic and thermoset polymer materials. Exterior components, such as fascias; interior components, like plastic console buttons and radio panels; and underhood components, such as covers for fuse busses and fluid reservoirs, can present production and performance challenges because of the difficulties associated with making decorative or informational marks on them that maintain durability during the expected life of a vehicle. Many of these parts are small, yet represent a disproportionate design and production cost, incurred through the development and implementation of procedures used for marking them. The automotive industry has used improved techniques, such as laser marking technology, in its attempts to inscribe more permanent and comprehensive markings on critical parts.
Now research into interactions between laser energy and custom-additive technology has produced a patent-pending system of colorant additives that offers the advantages of conventional laser marking for plastic materials yet avoids many of its limitations. These new color additive formulations offer significant improvements in the ability to mark a wide range of plastic materials using a broad color pallet. In turn, this technology can help enhance the quality and durability of markings for automotive components, while reducing design and production difficulties. Additionally, the new system offers the option for significant systems cost savings and increased speed over more traditional printing-based methods. This paper will discuss the new technology and several automotive applications where the technology can be applied to solve marking challenges for plastic automotive components.

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