Printing on Metal and Steel Parts

Printing and Coding on Metal Parts

Machined or formed metal parts can require a range of codes for either internal or external traceability. Working with a partner that offers a wide variety of coding solutions and integration expertise can be beneficial when specifying the optimal solutions for a range of material properties and application challenges.

Laser and continuous inkjet (CIJ) remain two of the more common marking technologies for metal components. Videojet’s laser wavelength options provide greater flexibility in matching the given material. CIJ printers offer easy integration for printing on a wide variety of metals and are an ideal solution to print on curved or indented surfaces. Videojet also offers MIL SPEC inks to meet specific military and aerospace requirements.


Various types of laser marking systems are used to print or etch marks on metal surfaces. These permanent codes are essential to ensuring that genuine products and parts can be quickly identified. They are used in aerospace and automotive industries, as well as on consumer packaging such as beverage containers and pharmaceutical product packaging.

Laser etching machines include a variety of CO2, infrared, UV, and fiber laser systems. Since metals are heat-resistant materials, marking metals originally required high-density laser irradiation. These systems mark surfaces in three ways: laser marking, laser etching, or laser engraving.

Typical metals for laser printing include:

  • Anodized aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Coated metals

Fiber laser marking is the most often used for placing critical marks or codes on stainless steel surfaces. These higher power systems mark identification codes directly on stainless steel parts and on larger products by etching or engraving the surface. These codes may be numeric, alphanumeric, 2D or conventional bar codes.

CO2 laser marking systems using shorter wavelengths than the traditional CO2 laser wavelengths can be used to create marks on metal surfaces such as anodized aluminum. The process removes the color from the aluminum surface, exposing the bare metal surface beneath, creating precise characters for coding.

Laser systems are also used to mark surfaces that have been previously prepared by being coated with enamel paints, removing the paint surface to create alphanumeric characters and 2D codes in the exposed metal surface. This process has the advantage of using very low power lasers, reducing costs and speeding production. It also, because of its low power usage, produces little or no fumes or residues, creating a safe environment for workers.

Pre-coated and spray-coated surfaces have also been developed for use in laser engraving metals. These coatings apply a coating that is visible to the laser beam, which fuses the coating to the substrate as the beam passes. These coatings, when touched by the laser beam, change the surface of the metal to a different color (often black, brown, or grey) to create the desired mark.

The Videojet Advantage

Mark quality and permanence, high uptime, and simplified maintenance are but some of the reasons to select laser marking technology for your operations. But not all lasers and not all laser suppliers are the same. Specifying a successful solution starts by working with the right partner – one who brings the broadest range of tools, application knowledge, and field support. Since 1985, Videojet has been working continuously on laser innovation to bring the broadest substrate and application coverage possible to the packaging industry.

Metal Laser Printing is an ideal solution for:
Aerospace & Automotive
Pharmaceutical & Medical
Food & Beverage
Electrical & Electronic

Stainless Steel Laser Marking

Fiber laser marking machines are the preferred systems for placing critical marking on stainless steel surfaces. These systems are used to mark identification codes directly on stainless steel parts and on stainless steel plates that are attached to larger products. These codes may be numeric, alphanumeric, 2D or conventional bar codes.

The laser marking process alters precisely targeted areas of material on the stainless steel surface to create a highly visible code in the material. Fiber lasers are compact compared with solid state or gas lasers of comparable power, and their high peak power and nanosecond pulses produce superior engraved results. Their higher power and better beam quality provide cleaner cut edges and faster speeds. The laser marking process eliminates the possibility of important identification information being blurred or obscured during or after application and becoming unreadable, since it is a permanent part of the product. Stainless steel laser marking has become increasingly important in industries where the authentication and traceability of individual parts has become more critical, such as aerospace and automotive, as well as the production of medical devices.

Stainless steel laser marking engraves codes on parts and products at the high speeds required by industrial production. Many are capable of engraving up to 900 marks per minute. The lasers are also capable of directing their beams to mark targets as they move among production lines, supporting higher productivity. The process creates permanent codes that ensure identification is possible throughout the life of the product.

Laser marking is the only coding technology that will successfully permanently mark stainless steel. Companies that have used inkjet and thermal transfer codes have found that those codes are quickly erased. As the ability to trace parts and products has become increasingly necessary to companies, the permanence has increased in importance.