On your mark...

Sept. 1, 2003
Marking and Engraving laser and system suppliers

Welcome to the premiere of Supplier Showcase—-a new editorial series that provides a view of companies that serve a particular segment of industrial laser technology. This first installment focuses on what is clearly one of the largest industrial laser activities—marking and engraving.

For many industries—semiconductor, electronics, automotive, medical and others—laser marking has long since become the preferred method for identifying parts. The technology offers the unrivaled combination of speed, flexibility, permanence, safety, repeatability and reliability. And anything you can print, you can laser engrave: scanned images, logos, bit maps and so on.

Simply put, laser marks are created by vaporizing, melting or annealing the material. Each has a specific effect for different applications and will dictate the proper laser to use. Vaporization produces a mark with depth in the material—engraving. Melting creates a contrasting mark through a thermal-chemical reaction—a technique often used with plastics. And annealing the surface (for example, with steel or titanium) can produce a dark mark without noticeable surface penetration.

In 2002 we estimate that approximately 12,000 industrial solid-state and CO2 lasers were integrated into either marking or engraving systems. The sales of these systems produce revenues of more than $465 million, making laser marking and engraving the second largest industrial laser application, behind laser metal cutting.

Solid-state lasers for marking (about 53 percent of all laser markers sold) are gradually shifting to diode-pumped sources (about 55 percent of the total solid-state lasers sold in 2002). Carbon dioxide lasers represent 47 percent of marking units.

Engraving, an application associated with marking, but focused on the award, novelty and gift market sectors, is an application ILS now tracks separately because of its size; more than 3000 low-power CO2 units were installed last year.

Solid-state laser markers generated more than $320 million in system revenues last year. And CO2 marking/engraving systems brought in another $140 million. So it is easy to see why this application sector was selected as the first in the Supplier Showcase series.

In our quest to provide a comprehensive database of suppliers we have identified 211 companies that offer lasers or systems for marking and engraving—further testimony to this application's widespread popularity. We e-mailed a questionnaire requesting company information and conducted numerous telephone interviews with company representatives. The result of theses efforts is presented in the following table.

Please click to download Marking and Engraving Supplier Showcase Table

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