Number 08 – RDWorks Learning Lab 059 – Laser Marking Metal

The Top Ten RDWorks Learning Lab Videos

These are the top ten RDWorks Learning Lab Videos ranked by average number of views per month. In this session, Russ shows us some techniques for laser marking metal with a CO2 laser.


  • Cannot etch or engrave metal with our low power
  • Marking metal by heat bonding a chemical into the surface
  • Quick test and scratching to show durability
  • High cost of Cermark
  • Low cost of Molybdenum Disulphide spray lubricant
  • Breaking all the safety rules
  • Running a matrix of tests
  • Looking at hazards of using these products.
  • Comparison of results
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Laser Marking Metal - Using Cermark
Laser Marking Metal – Using Cermark

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal

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0:00welcome back to another Rd works

0:03Learning Lab today I’ve been distracted

0:06onto a slightly different subject it’s

0:08all to do with etching but it’s not real

0:11edging because we can’t do any edging on

0:14this machine we can’t cut or scratch the

0:18surface of metal because there’s just

0:20not enough power so this is this is

0:23proper laser etching where you’re able

0:26to cut into the surface of stainless

0:28steel but you need a very powerful

0:31machine to do this now this has been

0:33done with a nitrogen assist gas which

0:36means that you get a nice clean finish

0:39oxygen will burn that surface and make

0:41it into a black edging now we can’t do

0:44that on this machine hmm but what we can

0:47do is a sort of a pseudo etch I’m

0:50reluctant to call it itching or

0:52engraving because it’s certainly not

0:53that what we’re really going to do is to

0:56paint a substance onto the surface of

0:59the stainless steel so we’re using the

1:01heat of the laser and the CNC element of

1:05the laser to produce the very accurate

1:07shapes to produce a bonding action

1:10between the steel and the chemical that

1:12we’re putting onto the surface so it’s

1:14not really itching and it’s certainly

1:16not engraving but at the end result we

1:20get quite a nice finish now this is just

1:23a couple of experiments that I did

1:25earlier just to test out something that

1:28I had I’ve not done in the test work

1:31with this product apart from these two

1:33little test items which I’ve checked

1:35I’ve done some fairly serious scratching

1:37on this part here I mean here we’ve got

1:40a piece of stainless steel

1:49and as you can see it’s well and truly

1:52Bandhu on that surface and it isn’t

1:54going to come off so I don’t think we’ve

1:56got any problem with durability we’re

1:58just going to find out now what sort of

1:59powers that we need and what sort of

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

2:01problems we’re going to come across when

2:03we did carry out this process now told

2:05my client yes I can get hold of this

2:07this marketing product it’s not that

2:09expensive until I start to checking it

2:12out and what I found was that here in

2:14the UK a can of this stuff is going to

2:17cost me over 140 pound that’s $200

2:20whereas if I bought it in the US with

2:23shipping and I lived in the US it would

2:26cost me half that price about $100 so

2:28still quite an expensive product this

2:30spray-can product has got some flammable

2:33chemicals in it and consequently that’s

2:36part of the reason for this excessive

2:38cost here it has to be carried as a

2:40hazardous chemical via an aeroplane so

2:44shipping costs an arm and a lake to get

2:46it to the UK it’s still expensive in the

2:49States because it has to go UPS or

2:51something like that as a hazardous

2:53chemical so I checked up I checked up on

2:55the website and found that they make a

2:57non hazardous chemical version now which

3:01is basically a water-based version of

3:03the same product which you can ship as a

3:06non hazardous material and this is an LM

3:09m60 60 after I’d ordered this material I

3:13did a little bit more research and found

3:16out from various sources that you can in

3:20fact achieve nearly the same result a

3:23much cheaper way this is the cheaper way

3:28it’s a molybdenum disulfide dry


3:33this has got some ceramic material in it

3:37which is why it’s called sir mark but

3:39having said that a lot of the material

3:42in this product is molybdenum and of

3:46course the main product in this is

3:48molybdenum as well so we stand these

3:53side-by-side and we find that this one

3:58even shipped to me now I bought that for

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

4:01around about 60 pounds courtesy of a

4:05friend in the States and I bought this

4:07of my local eBay for 12 pounds about $17

4:13for less than a tenth of the price

4:15I’ve probably got 10 times more material

4:17here and what we’re going to do today is

4:19to carry out a comparison test between

4:23these two products because this is an

4:24aerosol can we should take a quick look

4:26at the safety precautions there are no

4:29specific safety precautions or chemical

4:31hazards in here apart from those that

4:33you would normally expect to find on a

4:35spray can because it’s got a propellant

4:36in it it has done do not expose to

4:38temperatures exceeding 50 degrees C may

4:41cause irritation to skin and eyes

4:43repeated exposure may cause skin dryness

4:46and cracking wear suitable gloves okay

4:51well I’ve now read the very very very

4:55small print on the bottom of the bottle

4:57here and decided I ought to probably

5:00take a few precautions because I’m not

5:03allowed to swallow it I’m not allowed to

5:05snort it oh inhale it sorry and I’ve got

5:09to protect my clothing and I must keep

5:11it off my skin it could give me lung

5:15cancer it may affect my liver hmm I’m

5:21just wondering whether I should even

5:22open the bottle and this is the safe


5:31I think it’s all American legislation so

5:35let’s throw caution to the wind as you

5:44can see in here this is a very gloopy

5:46solution which I’ve stirred up now and

5:48I’ve put a small amount in there and in

5:51the ratio of about three or four to one

5:54I’ve put some acetone solution in there

5:57and given it a jolly good mix up with a


Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

6:00now they recommend that you use a foam

6:02brush rather than a head paint brush but

6:05I don’t have a foam brush so we have to

6:08make do with what I’ve got what I’ve

6:09also done now has laid on a fairly thick

6:13coating as even as I can with a

6:15paintbrush it’s not totally even but I’m

6:19sure it will work and now we’ve got to

6:21leave that for around about 20 minutes

6:23half an hour to dry I’m still not dead

6:26so we put the cap on

6:27I’m not even dizzy and we’ll put this

6:30very dangerous chemical away now because

6:32we painted this surface here with an

6:34acetone mixture it’s already sort of

6:37self cleaned itself just in case there’s

6:40any risk of contamination on this

6:43surface here I would just make sure I

6:44clean the surface with acetone and in my

6:52carefully constructed spray booth which

6:56will try product number two number two

7:00just like paint it needs to be well and

7:02truly shaken because it has it has it

7:05does settle out so this product is much

7:11easier to

7:14apply just a thin coat everywhere okay

7:24here are the two products now bear in

7:25mind we mustn’t expose this one to heat

7:27so it says I’m highly flammable but what

7:33the hell rules are made to be broken

7:41and I think you can say at a glance this

7:44one is already ready to use it’s dry

7:47this one not yet

7:53okay that’s more or less drying now and

7:56so what we’ll do we’ll do it we’ll do it

7:58the wrong way around will we use this

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

8:00one first and this one has now got a

8:03little bit of heat in the metal so I’ll

8:06leave that to carry on baking nice and

8:08dry but that one is I do

8:12just check the focus on that which i

8:14think is about right that’s not far out

8:15and we’ll run a program now I’m going to

8:20be very careful about throwing the fumes

8:22outside and we’ll just start the program

8:25off like this and then unusually for me

8:28I’m going to close the lid

8:33so as you can see it’s very unexcited

8:37even though the fumes are being

8:39extracted backwards I can still smell

8:41here just a little bit a strange almost

8:46like burning matches smell it’s

8:48something different but it’s that sort

8:50of smelly get when you strike matches

8:53when I did my first number two samples

8:56that you saw I got a bit of a hint of

9:00this strange smell and I decided that I

9:03really ought to check out what happens

9:06when you burn molybdenum because bearing

9:10in mind this is a molybdenum spray that

9:12we’re testing at the moment and the

9:14other product even though it doesn’t say

9:16on the label when I look at the contents

9:18of it on the website there’s a fairly

9:21high molybdenum content and what happens

9:24is when you heat molybdenum it produces

9:27something called molybdenum trioxide

9:30because the molybdenum combines with the

9:32oxygen that’s in the air now molybdenum

9:35dye trioxide is actually a hazardous

9:38substance if I can point you towards the

9:40New Jersey Department of Health and

9:43their hazardous substance fact sheet

9:45about molybdenum trioxide you can see

9:49for yourself just why I’m being a little

9:51bit cautious I don’t want to breathe any

9:55of this stuff because it says it can

9:57affect you when breathed in eye and skin

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

10:00contact can cause irritation the dust or

10:03mist can irritate the nose throat and

10:04lungs causing cough and or tightness in

10:07the chest

10:08molybdenum trioxide can cause weight

10:10loss or I could do with some of that

10:12diarrhea for muscle coordination while

10:15I’ve already got that headache and

10:18muscle or joint aching repeated exposure

10:21can reduce red blood cell count anemia

10:24and molybdenum trioxide can affect the

10:28liver and kidneys

10:29bear in mind whether you’re using the

10:32cheap or the expensive version of this

10:34product I urge you to take adequate

10:37ventilation precautions I know I might

10:40have joked about the safety aspect of it

10:42to start with but this part of it is not

10:45something to be joked about I don’t

10:46think now I’m going to lift the lid just

10:49for a moment so we can see what’s going

10:50on because look at that doing very much

10:53it’s just burning the bone in the

10:55chemical off the surface by the look

11:00now I would suppose it’s fairly

11:02excusable why there’s no warnings on

11:04here about burning this product because

11:08it was never designed to be used in the

11:11way that we’re using it but I’m not so

11:13sure about that product I’m fairly sure

11:16there should be some warnings on there

11:18but when this product is burnt it could

11:20produce further have hazardous chemicals

11:23or gases I’ll leave you to make up your

11:25own mind we’re yet to find out whether

11:27or not these two stack up against each

11:29other this might be cheaper nasty this

11:32might be expensive and fantastic

11:33well here’s our end product we’ll just

11:38get our other panel underway

11:43so let’s set that panel going now we’ll

11:47take a a look this is like magic

11:50painting in Reverse because hopefully

11:52what this will tell us

11:55how good various speeds are and feeds

11:59what you can see on here I’ve got four

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

12:02and eleven percent power which is ten

12:04watts for at 13.5 percent which is 20

12:09watts for at

12:1230 watts and for at forty watts

12:17and each one of these watts I’ve got

12:20fifty hundred hundred and fifty and two

12:22hundred millimeters a second so we’ve

12:24got a good matrix of data here that we

12:28can play with and this is what I hope I

12:31should be able to do with it

12:34with some acetone

12:40we should be able to get this stuff off

12:43and then what we should be left with

12:49for the parameters that work 50

12:51millimeters a second that one is just

12:54barely etched into the surface this one

12:57at 20 watts has marked the surface but

13:01it’s not very black this one at 30 watts

13:04has done a good job at 50 millimeters a

13:07second but once you start getting up to

13:10100 millimeters a second it’s not very

13:12good and this one at 40 watts is good as

13:16well and even at 100 millimetres second

13:19it’s starting to drop off so whichever

13:21way you look at it it would appear that

13:23speed is the controlling factor and that

13:27makes sense because I’ve got a one and a

13:30half inch lens on here which has got a

13:33very powerful hit very powerful amount

13:37of energy density but provided I keep

13:39the high energy in one spot for long

13:41enough it will burn this chemical into

13:43the surface but as soon as I start

13:45moving across quickly there’s not enough

13:47time to build up any heat to burn the

13:50chemical into the surface so this makes

13:53perfectly logical sense that we need to

13:55run at a reasonably medium to high power

13:5830 40 50 watts but in a fairly slow

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

14:01speed that’s an entirely acceptable

14:04black mark and the end result of our

14:07expensive product I think we should do

14:09the same thing again we’ll take it off

14:10with acetone

14:19well let’s take them out for a proper

14:21daylight comparison I think you can see

14:25you get what you pay for

14:28there’s obviously a sweet spot here for

14:30the cheap product which I think you’ll

14:39agree it’s still very very durable and

14:41if you get this one at about the right

14:44speed then yes it works extremely well

14:48and that was 30 watts 50 millimeters a

14:51second that was definitely the best one

14:52because when you start going 40 watts

14:55for some reason or other there’s not the

14:58buildup and there’s a bit more

15:04distortion in the surface this one has

15:08got a small amount of distortion in the

15:11surface these have got the same sort of

15:18thing because we’re running at the same

15:19speed it’s actually causing a slight

15:21distortion in this one point two

15:23millimeter thick stainless whereas in

15:25fact when we start running a bit faster

15:27at 30 Watts hundred millimetres a second

15:32100 millimetres 150 millimetres a second

15:35that’s still not bad we’re losing it a

15:38little bit here for some reason over but

15:42this has got more of a buildup on the

15:43surface you can see as I’m scratching it

15:45off but it still leaves a nice mark

15:50behind even if it scratched off what can

15:52I say if I had the choice I would

15:56probably still go for this product here

15:58because at that sweet spot it gives a

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

16:01good result if I have a very delicate

16:04product to mark then this is undoubtedly

16:08the right product to go for because look

16:10with as little as 10 10 watts and 50

16:13millimeters a second you get a good

16:17H on the surface without causing any

16:21distortion to the product in the

16:23background so with this product we’ve

16:26only got one good sweet spot whereas

16:31this one there are quite a few sweet

16:33spots depending on what thickness of

16:35material you’re working on but generally

16:37that one there is the best well I can’t

16:42tell you any more than that other than

16:43whichever one of these products you use

16:46be careful with the ventilation you pays

16:49your money and you takes your pick thank

16:54you very much for watching

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Last updated August 26, 2021


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