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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0:00 welcome back to another Rdworks

0:03 Learning Lab today I’ve been distracted

0:06 onto a slightly different subject it’s

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

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

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

0:18 surface of metal because there’s just

0:20 not enough power so this is this is

0:23 proper laser etching where you’re able

0:26 to cut into the surface of stainless

0:28 steel but you need a very powerful

0:31 machine to do this now this has been

0:33 done with a nitrogen assist gas which

0:36 means that you get a nice clean finish

0:39 oxygen will burn that surface and make

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

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

0:47 do is a sort of a pseudo etch I’m

0:50 reluctant to call it itching or

0:52 engraving because it’s certainly not

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

0:56 paint a substance onto the surface of

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

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

1:05 the laser to produce the very accurate

1:07 shapes to produce a bonding action

1:10 between the steel and the chemical that

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

1:14 not really itching and it’s certainly

1:16 not engraving but at the end result we

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

1:23 a couple of experiments that I did

1:25 earlier just to test out something that

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

1:31 with this product apart from these two

1:33 little test items which I’ve checked

1:35 I’ve done some fairly serious scratching

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

1:40 a piece of stainless steel

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

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

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

1:56 got any problem with durability we’re

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

1:59 powers that we need and what sort of

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

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

2:03 we did carry out this process now told

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

2:07 this marketing product it’s not that

2:09 expensive until I start to checking it

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

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

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

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

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

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

2:28 still quite an expensive product this

2:30 spray-can product has got some flammable

2:33 chemicals in it and consequently that’s

2:36 part of the reason for this excessive

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

2:40 hazardous chemical via an aeroplane so

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

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

2:49 States because it has to go UPS or

2:51 something like that as a hazardous

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

2:55 the website and found that they make a

2:57 non hazardous chemical version now which

3:01 is basically a water-based version of

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

3:06 non hazardous material and this is an LM

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

3:13 did a little bit more research and found

3:16 out from various sources that you can in

3:20 fact achieve nearly the same result a

3:23 much cheaper way this is the cheaper way

3:28 it’s a molybdenum disulfide dry

3:32 lubricant

3:33 this has got some ceramic material in it

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

3:39 having said that a lot of the material

3:42 in this product is molybdenum and of

3:46 course the main product in this is

3:48 molybdenum as well so we stand these

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

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

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

4:01 around about 60 pounds courtesy of a

4:05 friend in the States and I bought this

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

4:13 for less than a tenth of the price

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

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

4:19 to carry out a comparison test between

4:23 these two products because this is an

4:24 aerosol can we should take a quick look

4:26 at the safety precautions there are no

4:29 specific safety precautions or chemical

4:31 hazards in here apart from those that

4:33 you would normally expect to find on a

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

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

4:38 temperatures exceeding 50 degrees C may

4:41 cause irritation to skin and eyes

4:43 repeated exposure may cause skin dryness

4:46 and cracking wear suitable gloves okay

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

4:55 small print on the bottom of the bottle

4:57 here and decided I ought to probably

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

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

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

5:09 to protect my clothing and I must keep

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

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

5:21 just wondering whether I should even

5:22 open the bottle and this is the safe

5:24 product

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5:59 paintbrush

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

6:00 now they recommend that you use a foam

6:02 brush rather than a head paint brush but

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

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

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

6:13 coating as even as I can with a

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

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

6:21 leave that for around about 20 minutes

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

6:26 so we put the cap on

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

6:30 very dangerous chemical away now because

6:32 we painted this surface here with an

6:34 acetone mixture it’s already sort of

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

6:40 any risk of contamination on this

6:43 surface here I would just make sure I

6:44 clean the surface with acetone and in my

6:52 carefully constructed spray booth which

6:56 will try product number two number two

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

7:02 truly shaken because it has it has it

7:05 does settle out so this product is much

7:11 easier to

7:14 apply just a thin coat everywhere okay

7:24 here are the two products now bear in

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

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

7:33 the hell rules are made to be broken

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

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

7:47 this one not yet

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

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

7:58 the wrong way around will we use this

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

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

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

8:06 leave that to carry on baking nice and

8:08 dry but that one is I do

8:12 just check the focus on that which i

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

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

8:20 be very careful about throwing the fumes

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

8:25 off like this and then unusually for me

8:28 I’m going to close the lid

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

8:37 even though the fumes are being

8:39 extracted backwards I can still smell

8:41 here just a little bit a strange almost

8:46 like burning matches smell it’s

8:48 something different but it’s that sort

8:50 of smelly get when you strike matches

8:53 when I did my first number two samples

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

9:00 this strange smell and I decided that I

9:03 really ought to check out what happens

9:06 when you burn molybdenum because bearing

9:10 in mind this is a molybdenum spray that

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

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

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

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

9:21 high molybdenum content and what happens

9:24 is when you heat molybdenum it produces

9:27 something called molybdenum trioxide

9:30 because the molybdenum combines with the

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

9:35 dye trioxide is actually a hazardous

9:38 substance if I can point you towards the

9:40 New Jersey Department of Health and

9:43 their hazardous substance fact sheet

9:45 about molybdenum trioxide you can see

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

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

9:55 of this stuff because it says it can

9:57 affect you when breathed in eye and skin

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

10:00 contact can cause irritation the dust or

10:03 mist can irritate the nose throat and

10:04 lungs causing cough and or tightness in

10:07 the chest

10:08 molybdenum trioxide can cause weight

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

10:12 diarrhea for muscle coordination while

10:15 I’ve already got that headache and

10:18 muscle or joint aching repeated exposure

10:21 can reduce red blood cell count anemia

10:24 and molybdenum trioxide can affect the

10:28 liver and kidneys

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

10:32 cheap or the expensive version of this

10:34 product I urge you to take adequate

10:37 ventilation precautions I know I might

10:40 have joked about the safety aspect of it

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

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

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

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

10:50 on because look at that doing very much

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

10:55 chemical off the surface by the look

11:00 now I would suppose it’s fairly

11:02 excusable why there’s no warnings on

11:04 here about burning this product because

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

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

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

11:16 there should be some warnings on there

11:18 but when this product is burnt it could

11:20 produce further have hazardous chemicals

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

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

11:27 or not these two stack up against each

11:29 other this might be cheaper nasty this

11:32 might be expensive and fantastic

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

11:38 get our other panel underway

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

11:47 take a a look this is like magic

11:50 painting in Reverse because hopefully

11:52 what this will tell us

11:55 how good various speeds are and feeds

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

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

12:02 and eleven percent power which is ten

12:04 watts for at 13.5 percent which is 20

12:09 watts for at

12:12 30 watts and for at forty watts

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

12:20 fifty hundred hundred and fifty and two

12:22 hundred millimeters a second so we’ve

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

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

12:31 should be able to do with it

12:34 with some acetone

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

12:43 and then what we should be left with

12:49 for the parameters that work 50

12:51 millimeters a second that one is just

12:54 barely etched into the surface this one

12:57 at 20 watts has marked the surface but

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

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

13:07 second but once you start getting up to

13:10 100 millimeters a second it’s not very

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

13:16 well and even at 100 millimetres second

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

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

13:23 speed is the controlling factor and that

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

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

13:33 very powerful hit very powerful amount

13:37 of energy density but provided I keep

13:39 the high energy in one spot for long

13:41 enough it will burn this chemical into

13:43 the surface but as soon as I start

13:45 moving across quickly there’s not enough

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

13:50 chemical into the surface so this makes

13:53 perfectly logical sense that we need to

13:55 run at a reasonably medium to high power

13:58 30 40 50 watts but in a fairly slow

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

14:01 speed that’s an entirely acceptable

14:04 black mark and the end result of our

14:07 expensive product I think we should do

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

14:10 with acetone

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

14:21 daylight comparison I think you can see

14:25 you get what you pay for

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

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

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

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

14:44 speed then yes it works extremely well

14:48 and that was 30 watts 50 millimeters a

14:51 second that was definitely the best one

14:52 because when you start going 40 watts

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

14:58 buildup and there’s a bit more

15:04 distortion in the surface this one has

15:08 got a small amount of distortion in the

15:11 surface these have got the same sort of

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

15:19 speed it’s actually causing a slight

15:21 distortion in this one point two

15:23 millimeter thick stainless whereas in

15:25 fact when we start running a bit faster

15:27 at 30 Watts hundred millimetres a second

15:32 100 millimetres 150 millimetres a second

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

15:38 little bit here for some reason over but

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

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

15:45 off but it still leaves a nice mark

15:50 behind even if it scratched off what can

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

15:56 probably still go for this product here

15:58 because at that sweet spot it gives a

Transcript for Laser Marking Metal (Cont…)

16:01 good result if I have a very delicate

16:04 product to mark then this is undoubtedly

16:08 the right product to go for because look

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

16:13 millimeters a second you get a good

16:17 H on the surface without causing any

16:21 distortion to the product in the

16:23 background so with this product we’ve

16:26 only got one good sweet spot whereas

16:31 this one there are quite a few sweet

16:33 spots depending on what thickness of

16:35 material you’re working on but generally

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

16:42 tell you any more than that other than

16:43 whichever one of these products you use

16:46 be careful with the ventilation you pays

16:49 your money and you takes your pick thank

16:54 you very much for watching

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Last updated April 25, 2024


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