Laser marking technology offers a semi-permanent and versatile identification solution suitable for nearly any labware type. Whether you need to mark a unique material, an oddly shaped container, or just a standard piece of labware, a laser marking strategy is worth considering.
While it’s undoubtedly a versatile and durable technology, laser marking isn’t for every application. Let’s dive deeper into what laser marking is, and what features may or may not make it a great fit for your lab.
How does Laser Marking Technology work?
In the simplest terms, Laser Marking is what its name implies, a technology that utilizes a laser to create a marking. It can be applied to various surfaces including plastic, glass, metal and wood.
However, it’s not quite as simple as that. There are multiple laser marking methods capable of meeting a range of marking requirements. We use two different methods that are suitable for our purposes of applying barcodes and other markings to plastic or glass labware.
Plastic labware will have the image burned into it directly. Typically, the container will have a patch of foil, or otherwise laser compatible material on the side or bottom. The laser will apply the right combination of heat and pressure to the marking area to achieve the desired image.
Glass labware generally has a coating pre-applied which the laser will etch away in the shape of the desired image. Usually, the coating will be a layer of white or black ink, but there are a variety of different coatings available.
Different materials, coatings and foils will react differently, so it’s critical to source the right labware and test to make sure the results align with expectations.
If you’re seeking laser marking through our Pre-barcoded Labware service, we’ll work with you to ensure we’re procuring labware that’s compatible with both your laboratory practices and our laser marking technology.
Advantages of Using Laser Marking Technology
The laser application process creates a near-permanent mark capable of withstanding harsh chemical baths, extreme temperatures, and long-term storage.
The lack of adhesive and media layer also eliminates the risk of your marking peeling off like a traditional label might. However, rough and consistent abrasion, such as filing, can damage or potentially remove your mark.
Add functional markings and adapt to odd shapes
The ability to directly mark the surface of the labware, without the need for an opaque layer of media makes it possible to include functional markings like grad-lines or fill lines.
Another benefit stemming from the lack of media is the ability of laser marking to adapt to unique shapes. With the mark being directly on the surface, it will stay true to the form of irregular-shaped labware items that may be difficult to accommodate with pressure sensitive labels—like conical tubes.
Additionally, laser marking has little to no effect on the diameter of the tube, making it especially suitable for applications where tubes need to be able to fit into trays.
Can support stable tare weighing
Adhesives and porous label materials can absorb humidity from the air or dry out over time causing subtle fluctuations in weight. This can interfere with your tare weight records.
If tare weighing is an important part of your processes, particularly over longer periods of time, a directly applied marking technology such as Laser Marking could improve stability in your results.
How to know if Laser Marking suits your laboratory?
You require black and white printing
Typically, our laser process results in a primarily black image, though some materials and coatings will burn other colors. If you require color or logo marks on your barcode labels, you may want to reconsider pressure sensitive options or look into Cured Ink technology.
It’s also possible you might want to consider a combination strategy. For example, you might want to apply a 2D code to the bottom of a tube using laser technology but use Cured Ink on the sides in order to accommodate your logo.
You’re interested in outsourcing your labeling
In addition to the space and labor required in it’s operation, the capital expense necessary to invest in the machinery for Laser Marking isn’t justifiable for the average laboratory.
Luckily, pre-marked labware featuring laser technology isn’t hard to find. At Computype, we offer Laser Marking through our Pre-Barcoded Labware service.
While our service does include custom sequencing, we aren’t always able to capture certain types of information – such as patient or sample information that becomes available upon collection. In cases like these we will always recommend pressure sensitive labeling. If you are struggling with your current pressure sensitive solution, seek out suppliers who provide labels capable of accommodating processes similar to yours, or custom engineering.
You have flexibility on ANSI grading
Laser Marking is normally unable to achieve the contrast necessary to grade well. If you require a minimum ANSI grade, you may want to consider a different marking technology such as pressure sensitive, cured ink, fused or ceramic.
Check out this blog to learn more about ANSI barcode scores and why it might be okay for your bar codes not to grade very high.
Sourcing laser marked labware through pre-barcoded labware services
Laser Marking is a very straightforward offering within the scope of our Pre-barcoded Labware service.
Because laser marking is so versatile, it is essential that you discuss your needs in detail when working with our labeling experts. The better we understand your workflows, testing procedures, and environment, the more precisely we can meet your current needs.
Our team will discuss your specific labware, labeling and sequencing needs to ensure your labware performs to your standards. Outside of the sequence, you’ll also be able to customize the sizing, placement and type of data on your labware. You will choose whether you prefer a custom or generic sequence, linear or 2D bar codes – or both. Human readable data, functional marks or logomarks can also be included.
Additionally, with our Pre-barcoded Labware service, you can take advantage of a range of optional services, including tare weighing and custom packaging.
Overall, laser is a marking technology that offers durability and adaptability to unique shapes compared to pressure sensitive labels. It’s a perfect match for laboratories that need a more robust solution than pressure-sensitive, labels but don’t require the color capabilities of cured ink, or the permanency of ceramic or fused IDs.