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Laser marking systems in machine vision

Marcatura laser

Machine vision is a set of processes that allows the three-dimensional reproduction of a context or an object, starting from a two-dimensional image. Technically, it aims at reproducing what is seen by the human eye.

However, the elaborations that are made by computers operating in the field of machine vision are not carried out only by reproducing what is seen in the two dimensions, but also by interpreting the contents to better represent the image in 3D.

As you can easily understand, to create a machine vision system, it is necessary to create a machine characterized by mechanical, electronic and optical components, which allow to carry out the different phases of image acquisition and processing.

It should be emphasized that in addition to seeing what can be seen by the human eye, machine vision systems are also capable of operating beyond the spectrum of visible light, thanks to sensors that 'see' in infra-red, X-rays, ultraviolet and in the whole spectrum of light.

In this way, machine vision systems become expendable in many contexts, particularly in industries where they are used to render the various product controls automatic.

What is a laser marking system and what is it for

The distinction of industrial products takes place through a marking system, which makes use of different technologies, such as inkjet, micro-percussion and laser. This last type of marking represents the most modern solution. It is very convenient because it allows a series of advantages, including product traceability. Laser marking allows greater automation of product control operations, improving the speed of execution and safety.

How a laser marking system works

The operation of a laser marking system can be summarized in a series of apparently simple steps which, as you can imagine, are supported by very advanced technology. First of all, it is the marking that takes place. Marking means the engraving by a beam of light, generated by a laser source.

The precision and strength of the laser are amplified thanks to a series of mirrors on which the laser bounces until it reaches the object to be engraved. The next step is that of annealing, which leads to a change in the color tones of the object to be engraved: this allows to increase the contrast of the object itself.

The third step that completes the etching phase is foaming, which creates a new coating in the object just engraved.

Even if the engraving methods are very similar to each other, the lasers that are used can instead be different, depending on the type of object to be marked: a marking on glass, for example, can make use of carbon dioxide lasers; solid state lasers, instead, made with yttrium and aluminum crystals and known as YAG lasers, are more suitable for marking on metals. Finally, fiber lasers are the most suitable choice for quick and precise marking both on metals and plastic elements.

The markings can have different depths, according to the type of laser used and the needs. Usually, they have a depth of up to 0.5 mm, guaranteeing a simple and difficult-to-erase reading mode.

The advantages of laser marking

In a short time, laser marking has been able to replace a series of different marking methods, such as screen printing or hot stamping, punching or micro-percussion. The reason why the laser has been so successful is certainly due to a number of advantages it offers, which includes versatility, high definition, or the great variety of materials on which it can be used.

Going into more detail, it can be said that the laser can be used on a large number of materials, both metallic and plastic and characterized by different shapes and hardnesses. Furthermore, the laser guarantees a high definition of the marked elements, thanks to a beam with a diameter of the size of hundredths of a millimeter.

This feature allows you to create defined and precise markings and furthermore, thanks to the annealing and foaming of the material, removing the marked layer is impossible. The millimeter size of the radius allows for the creation of a large number of engravings, from alpha-numeric characters to logos, barcodes and actual drawings.

Furthermore, it should be emphasized that laser marking systems have a further advantage, namely that of not requiring contact between a possible marker and the surface to be marked: this means having the guarantee of intact surfaces, never damaged by any marking tool.

Machine and laser marking

In this article, two technologies have been presented which, although apparently distant, are instead used together in different sectors, from food to pharmaceuticals, up to product packaging.

Machine vision, in fact, allows us to acquire certain images and, through specific software, to analyze these images to proceed with the recognition of the same. This means that it is possible to allow automatic recognition of laser-marked elements viewed by systems that use machine vision tools.

Furthermore, according to the cases and needs, it will be possible to carry out checks and classifications, focusing on the recognition of the remote marking, through machine vision systems.

By using such advanced tools and technologies it is, therefore, possible to speed up a series of processes, in particular those related to the control and recognition of products.