laser etching

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Chris Passanante, GMN
By Chris Passanante | Mar 27, 2017

In part five of our plastic decorating series, we will discuss painting and laser etching. Painting is another standard plastic decorating option and is widely utilized across different industries. Painting employs multiple process methods including robotic painting and hand spray painting. The differentiator between these two options is the program volume. High volume production shifts towards automatic processes while lower volumes lean towards manual painting.

There are many benefits of painting. First, painting can achieve highly specific colors that are crucial for customers’ branding. Next, painting allows for multiple colors to be applied to a part. This process also has the ability to hide mold flow lines, knit lines and other molding imperfections that are sometimes inevitable in production. Additionally, painting can offer a textured effect with soft touch paint that provides a rubber feel, clear coat, or protective coating depending on program requirements.

As a decorative option, painting can be costly and masking can be labor intensive depending on the part. Painting requires a clean environment and sometimes the curing time is longer than for other decorative technologies.

Oftentimes, painting processes are used in collaboration with laser etching. Laser etching is a technology that uses a laser to burn away the paint in specified areas on a part. Laser etching can achieve very fine detail and can be utilized on multiple materials including silicone, hard thermoplastics, as well as metal. Along with removing paint, laser etching can permanently engrave and etch plastic. One aspect of production is to optimize cycle time by fixturing multiple parts at once during laser etching.

It is important to consider that with laser etching, the initial programming can be timely and the masking needed is labor intensive throughout the process.

Rubber keypads are a good example of the collaboration between painting and laser etching that has been utilized for years. This combination of technologies is also very popular in the automotive industry, especially in gear shift indicators, and it’s likely that these processes were utilized on a plastic piece within your vehicle.

In our final plastic decorating article, we will discuss insert mold decorating.

To learn more about the plastic decorative options offered at GMN, please visit the rest of our blog series by clicking here