What do DVD players, checkout lines at the grocery store, and industrial marking machines all have in common? Lasers.
But not all lasers are the same.
L.A.S.E.R. stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In simpler terms, it’s a highly concentrated beam of light. Lasers consist of a:
Gain medium: a material that works in tandem with electrical currents to stimulate the photons of light as it passes through
Energy supply: Energy supply for lasers usually comes in the form of electrical currents. These currents are “pumped” through the grain medium to stimulate the atom as light passes through. The pumping of electrical currents causes the light to bounce faster through the grain medium.
A material to provide optical feedback: The materials chosen for optical feedback have one primary job: steering. the way the beam of light is directed
Industry codes are used for a number of processes in the manufacturing industry, but perhaps the most critical application is part marking. Part marking can be used to identify and track parts within production systems and supply chains, and there are many different types of industry codes that can be used for this purpose.
DataMatrix is one of the most popular direct part marking codes, and it’s used extensively in government and military applications due to its high-security level. The code consists of two-dimensional symbols embedded with information about the product or part being marked. This code is also resistant to environmental hazards such as UV light or chemicals, making it well-suited for harsh work environments.
Metal part marking is one of the oldest and most reliable methods for identifying components in manufacturing processes. The process involves using laser engraving technology to mark metals with various symbols or text-based codes that help identify the component being marked. Metal part marking can be done quickly and accurately, making it an ideal solution for businesses looking for an efficient way to label their parts or products.
5 Common Code Types
Metal part marking using certain code types is highly accurate, making it a reliable way to identify components for various manufacturing applications. Examples of those code types include serial numbers, which provide a way to quickly identify parts in manufacturing processes, while QR codes and DataMatrix codes offer more detailed information such as product specifications or assembly instructions.
They can also be used to track products through the supply chain or store other types of data like part or product expiration dates. These are among the most common code types used in manufacturing:
1. Serial Numbers
Serial numbers are a popular type of code used in metal part marking. Serial numbers provide a means of tracking individual components, allowing manufacturing companies to monitor and control production lines more effectively.
They also allow for increased traceability and accountability, as each component can be easily identified at any time during the manufacturing process. Additionally, serial numbers allow for easy inventory management, ensuring that components are properly tracked from procurement to delivery. With serial numbers, businesses can better manage their stock levels and reduce waste by proactively addressing potential issues before they become problems.
Barcodes are commonly used to provide identification for individual components manufactured by businesses. Much like serial numbers, barcodes provide a means of tracking components, allowing companies to monitor and control production lines more effectively. In addition to traceability and accountability, barcodes also provide an efficient solution for inventory management.
Businesses can easily scan barcodes to keep accurate records of their stock levels with minimal effort. Barcodes are most commonly used in the retail industry where they are scanned at the point of sale in order to easily record and manage the sale of items. They are also widely used in many other industries such as manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution operations.
3. QR codes
QR codes are similar to barcodes but with the added benefit of storing more information. They can easily be scanned by most smartphones, making them a popular tool for marketing, product tracking, and customer engagement. QR codes are typically used for product labeling and tracking in supply chain operations. Businesses also commonly use them as a form of digital identification for their products, allowing customers to retrieve information about the item they are looking at quickly.
QR codes provide an efficient way for companies to track their products and keep accurate records while providing customers with an easy-to-use tool to access additional information about their purchases. Additionally, many consumer products are now marked with a unique QR code which allows companies to better track individual items through their entire lifecycle.
4. UID marking (Unique Identification)
UID marking, also known as Unique Identification, is an alternative to QR codes typically used in industrial and manufacturing applications. UIDs are encoded with a unique string of information that can be used to identify individual items or components within a larger production process.
This allows manufacturers to quickly and accurately track the lifecycle of their product during production, shipping, and ultimately in retail stores. In addition to providing accurate tracking of products throughout their lifespan, UID marking also offers companies the ability to access valuable data such as production date, batch code, expiration date and more. This information can then be used by companies for quality assurance purposes or for other analytics purposes.
5. DataMatrix codes
DataMatrix codes are a popular type of UID technology used in industrial and manufacturing applications. They are two-dimensional barcodes that contain encoded information regarding the product, such as production date, batch code, and expiration date.
DataMatrix codes can hold much more data than traditional linear bar codes, making it possible to identify individual items or components within a larger production process with greater accuracy. Additionally, these codes are significantly smaller than other UID types and can be read quickly, making them ideal for high-speed scanning operations.
DataMatrix codes are composed of two distinct components: the data and the error correction. The data component is a string of characters that contain information relevant to the product or item that it is associated with. This information can range from production date, to batch code and expiration date.
The error correction component, known as Error Correction Code or ECC, is used to detect any errors in the DataMatrix code, which makes it possible for scanners and other readers to still accurately read and interpret the code even if portions of it have been damaged or altered. The code is also capable of encoding a range of different data types such as numbers, text, URLs, images, and binary data.
This combination of data and error correction makes DataMatrix codes an ideal choice for UID technology in industrial and manufacturing applications. Their small size makes them easy to store while their ability to hold large amounts of data enables them to track complex production processes with greater accuracy than traditional linear bar codes. Furthermore, they can be read quickly, making them suitable for high-speed scanning operations.
DataMatrix codes are two-dimensional symbols made up of square and hexagonal modules arranged in a pattern. They can hold up to 2,335 alphanumeric characters and can be read from any direction.
DataMatrix codes are most commonly used in the automotive industry to track parts and components through the entire production process. They have also been seen in other industries such as aerospace and medical device engineering. In each of these cases, they provide detailed analytics on products throughout their lifespan and enable manufacturers to maintain accurate records of each part or component produced. The Difference Between DataMatrix Code and QR Code DataMatrix codes have unique shapes and sizes compared to standard barcodes and QR codes. While typical barcodes and QR codes are rectangular in shape, DataMatrix codes come in both square and circular designs. This makes them easy to distinguish from traditional barcodes and QR codes at a quick glance.
DataMatrix codes also offer better security than other types of industry coding systems due to their increased data capacity and ability to encode binary data. This makes it easier for malicious actors to decipher encoded information with the correct decryption key.
DataMatrix codes have numerous advantages over other types of coding systems. Their increased data capacity, unique shapes and sizes, and ability to encode binary data make them particularly secure against malicious actors attempting to access the encoded information. Their Error Correction Code (ECC) allows them to be scanned even if portions of the code are missing or damaged.
On the other hand, due to their increased complexity compared to standard barcodes and QR codes, DataMatrix codes require more specialized knowledge and technology for both encoding and decoding. This can lead to higher costs associated with the implementation and maintenance of the coding system.
In addition, DataMatrix codes are not as widely used as traditional barcodes and QR codes, which means that they may not be compatible with existing scanning hardware in many locations. Best Practices for Direct Part Marking When it comes to Direct Part Marking, proper placement and sizing of DataMatrix codes are essential for accurate scanning. In order to ensure that scanners are able to read the codes quickly and accurately, they should be placed in areas with minimal background interference.
The size of the code should be appropriate for the type of scanner being used – a code that is too small can be difficult to scan accurately. It’s important to make sure that the code is large enough so that when scanned, all of the encoded information can be captured in one pass.
It is also important to consider the durability of the code itself. DataMatrix codes are designed for applications in harsh environments, but it is still important to use a material that will resist damage from abrasion, chemicals, and extreme temperatures.
It’s also important to make sure that any direct part marking ink or other material used can withstand these conditions too. Additionally, proper application of the code is essential for readability – it must be applied correctly and completely for scanners to read it accurately. Direct Part Marking | Navigating the Options Effectively Direct part marking is a critical component of manufacturing processes, and it is important to understand the differences between various types of codes, including DataMatrix codes.
It’s essential to ensure the code size and material are appropriate for its intended environment, and that it is properly applied for accurate scanning. With these components in place, DataMatrix codes can provide a reliable means of identification and tracking in harsh environments.
Iron Out Your Part Marking Concerns with Technomark Still have questions about the right code or marking approach for your product line? Consider this resource:
If you’ve ever opened a new electronic device, tool, or home appliance, chances are you’ve seen a Data Matrix code.
While you may have thought it was a QR code, Data Matrix codes are an essential part of most manufacturing processes and act as an efficient means for component traceability. Data Matrix codes are also the only 2D barcode to have GS1 approval for regulated healthcare items.
QR codes on the other hand are larger and contain more data, such as website URLs, and are capable of encoding information not just in numeric and alphanumeric form, but also in Kanji and other multi-byte character sets.
No matter what industry, when it comes to industrial traceability for manufacturers, choosing the right type of code can leave a production run riddled with misinformation and the chance of getting lost.
Let’s break down the differences and similarities between QR and Data Matrix codes and why the latter is the preferred choice of the majority of manufacturers.
Direct Part Marking | QR vs Data Matrix Codes
While both QR and Data Matrix codes are in the public domain and can be used royalty free, Data Matrix codes have become the standard for anti-counterfeit measures, part identification, and internal tracking because they feature advanced error-correcting techniques that are more robust than QR codes.
This presents a unique benefit for manufacturers that need to ensure their products can be identified if part of the mark gets damaged or impeded.
Particularly necessary for complex and high stakes industries such as medical, aerospace, and defense, where hundreds to thousands of components are needed in order to assemble a finished product, Data Matrix codes can be read even if up to 50% of the mark gets damaged.
QR codes on the other hand have steadily been adopted in consumer-facing applications. These codes can be found everywhere from business cards to product packaging, containing links to websites, resumes, premium offers, and even restaurant menus.
QR codes have a lower level error-correcting built in, and can be rendered useless with even slight ware and tare. Just 30% of a QR code needs to be damaged before it becomes unreadable.
While these codes are perfect for consumer-forward use, marking a component or part with a QR code presents a real danger for misidentification pending the mark gets damaged.
Data Matrix vs QR Codes | Uses Cases and Applications
Supply chain traceability
Anti-counterfeiting through serialization
Additional product information
Auto-linking for spare ordering and registration
Promotions, contests, and gamification
Specifications of Data Matrix vs QR Codes
While Data Matrix codes are typically reserved for industrial use cases, both types of marks can play a role in the manufacturing industry.
Since both DataMatrix and QR codes are GS1 approved, they can carry any GS1 ID keys including:
Beyond GS1, specifications and requirements for each code are presented by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). For more about how these codes work themselves, and how to create them, you can check out the relevant ISO standard for more detail.
Direct Part Marking | Best Practices and Proven Methods
Understanding the differences between QR codes and Data Matrix codes, and choosing which is best for your application can get overwhelming. That’s why its important to consult a trusted advisor and partner.
Technomark has been operating and supplying expertise with industrial marking equipment since 2000. Since 2018, Technomark North America is the only established OEM of dot peen and laser marking systems — the primary methods for direct part marking — with a headquarters in the USA.
Technomark has been at the forefront of industrial marking innovation, developing machines for seamless integration in manufacturing processes.
Our goal is to help our customers:
Increase machine uptime
Decrease total cost of ownership
Make part marking and identification simple and cost-effective
Bring new ideas to the table to increase efficiency
Your relationship with Technomark North America shouldn’t be limited to a strict supplier-to-customer interaction. We value communication above all else, which is why our team is dedicated to finding ways to solve your traceability challenges through a consultative process.
Interested in learning more about Direct Part Marking using Laser Technology? Check out our free ebook below:
Commerce has come a long way from the bartering system. When currency became the acceptable medium of exchange, it only made sense that a better system of marking products was needed.
The first barcode was created in 1952, but they weren’t put into use in commerce and the transaction process until 1974, when a pack of Wrigley’s gum was scanned in a supermarket in the state of Ohio.
Barcodes have become widely used and have been upgraded and improved in an ongoing process. From the days when a barcode took up a significant amount of the packaging and contained limited information to today’s Data Matrix codes that are significantly smaller and can hold more data, the barcode development process has been fast and focused on efficiency.
Here we will focus on Data Matrix codes, their importance, their history, and an in-depth look at:
How they’re generated
How they differ from other marking processes
What industry these are most common in and on which type of materials and parts are they commonly found
Anyone who works in manufacturing, whether it’s automotive parts or oil and gas equipment, knows that proper traceability is key to product success.
Having proper identification information on your components isn’t just helpful for inventory and maintenance, it’s also a federal requirement for many industries.
But what are the manufacturing traceability solutions on the market for permanent identification? Well, there are a lot of options, some better than others. Here’s the rundown:
Which Manufacturing Traceability Solution Is Best for You?
The ideal product traceability solution for you will depend on your industry, processes, and applications. For example, delicate components like solar panels will benefit from laser marking, while other heavy-duty parts can use dot peen marking.
Dot peen is a direct part marking method, meaning that the marking head of the machine interacts directly with the component to achieve a permanent mark that is able to survive harsh operating environments
Dot peen machines use an impact stylus to create small indents on a part’s surface to create letters, numbers, logos, or 2D datamatrix codes. Because the mark is formed via material displacement instead of material removal, it is considered a low-stress marking technique ideal for aerospace as well as oil and gas applications.
Dot peen marking equipment is also well-suited to manual marking operations. It can mark large or hard-to-reach parts, especially if you’re using a hand-held dot peen machine. Plus, dot peen is compatible with a wide range of metal materials, including steel, iron, and aluminum.
Laser marking is one of the most widely used manufacturing traceability solutions because of its versatility. The mark is achieved by super-heating the part surface to etch, ablate, or anneal the material substrate Target applications that are ideal for laser marking include:
While dot peen marking requires the stylus to make contact with the product, laser marking is a non-contact traceability method. This makes the laser better adapted to marking complex geometries or delicate materials.
Inkjet marking functions a lot like a regular printing machine — using drops of ink to mark information on a substrate. It’s often regarded as one of the fastest marking methods, and is capable of marking on:
The downfall of inkjet marking is that it’s only semi-permanent. High levels of wear and tear or exposure to harsh environmental conditions can wear away the marking. As such, inkjet marking is usually used for consumer goods packaging, where the mark only needs to survive the short life of the product.
Impact Press Marking
Just like dot peen marking, an impact marking press indents a material with the desired identification information. However, the methods are different.
Whereas dot peen marking uses a series of cold-stamped dots to mark text, 2D data matrix codes, or logos into a material, the impact press uses a die to stamp the information instead.
The process is similar to a letterpress, where characters are arranged in a certain order and then stamped onto the substrate. But with impact marking, the tooling is applied with enough pressure to indent the material.
A mechanical impact punch is versatile, capable of other manufacturing operations like coining or bending materials. However, the process isn’t digital (meaning the information is not dynamic) and has higher tooling and maintenance costs than other methods of marking.
Chemical etching takes a completely different approach to direct part marking. This method uses chemical compounds to subtract materials from the marking surface via a process of electrolysis to create the impression.
Chemical etching is essentially an accelerated form of oxidation. A stencil is soaked in an electrolyte solution and applied to the material. A low-voltage electric current is then applied to the stencil to initiate the oxidation process.
However, chemical etching, like the impact press, is not a digital process. The information on each stencil is fixed, so you’ll need unique stencils for each different marking. On the upside, the materials involved are low cost. Chemical etching is ideal for low-volume applications such as prototyping.
This method of marking is mainly used for metal substrates like steel, aluminum, or nickel alloys. If you’re looking for marking on plastic or rubber, laser marking might be a better option.
Finding the Right Direct Part Marking Method for Your Application
A lot hinges on proper identification for manufactured parts, so finding the right manufacturing traceability solution method for your operation is critical. Many of these methods can be customized to meet your specific requirements and improve your production line.
To learn more about the benefits of dot peen and laser marking systems, contact us! We’ve provided industrial marking and traceability solutions for countless industries!
(Editor’s note: This blog was originally published in March 2021 and was updated in October 2022 to reflect current information.)
Ask anyone inside the industrial manufacturing industry – part-marking is crucial to component traceability when working with large quantities. And while several different types of part-marking exist, Dot Peen marking technology has been a preferred solution for many years.
At a high level,Dot Peen marking machines use either electromagnetic or pneumatic force to rapidly oscillate a stylus, in turn indenting the marks onto the surface of the part.
One of the advantages of Dot Peen is that it’s very flexible and can be used in either manual or fully automated production lines. A lot of the applications Dot Peen serves are manual applications, however, with modular Dot Peen systems, you can start with a portable system and later convert it to an in-line system for integration with fully automated production lines.
The Basics of Dot Peen Marking
If you took apart a Dot Peen machine, one of the most important components you would find is a carbide or diamond-tip stylus.
The Dot peen process is considered a “low-stress” marking method because the mark is generated via material displacement rather than material removal. The carbide stylus strikes the material surface to produce the mark via a series of cold-formed stamped dots. Compared to Laser Marking Systems, Dot Peen does not induce thermal shock to the part surface since the material is cold-stamped rather than super-heated to produce the mark.
Dot Peen systems are commonly used by manufacturers in the aerospace and oil & gas industries where low-stress marking is required, such as tubular and flow control products that are exposed to extreme pressure differential in the oilfield.
Dot Peen marking is viable for material hardness up to 63 HRC. Typically, when a part hardness is greater than 63 HRC, laser marking systems are recommended.
All of Technomark’s Dot Peen machines rely on an electromagnetic solenoid to actuate the marking stylus. Dots are plotted in an X/Y plane via electronic control for precise placement of the Dot pattern. Using electromagnetic force versus pneumatic also provides a greater level of control of both the depth of the mark as well as the ability to mark contoured or complex surface.
Dot Peen Marking | Component Traceability In Action
While these machines can run in-line and handle large quantities in an automated production environment, most are operated manually using a battery pack to go mobile.
The best Dot Peen marking machines utilize a fully electric design and that doesn’t require compressed air to operate. All Technomark Dot Peen marking machines feature an Intelligent Driving Impact (IDI) function that allows for marking on many different materials and finishes. The IDI function automatically adjusts and levels the stylus to the workpiece. Whether the part has a curved, wavy, or complex geometry, the stylus will follow the contour of the marking surface while maintaining a constant depth of high-quality marking throughout.
When structural integrity is crucial, Dot Peen marking provides a low-stress marking solution that removes no material during the part marking process.
Why Choose Dot Peen Marking
One of the biggest benefits of a Dot Peen Marking Machine is its ability to efficiently produce marks compared to other marking systems. Other benefits of Dot Peen machines include:
Portability: battery-operated systems are ergonomic and perfect for smaller-scale operations or marking of large, heavy parts that cannot be transported to a fixed location for marking
Versatility: state-of-the-art Dot Peen marking systems are modular and can start with a portable or manual marking system that can later be adapted to a fully automated production line
Ease of use: Dot Peen machines are easy to program and do not require any advanced computing knowledge or technical training.
Permanency: Dot Peen marking process yields a permanent, indelible mark that can withstand harsh operating environments
Economical: Compared to other marking systems, Dot Peen systems are typically less than $10,000.
Integrating a dot peen marking machine into your production line will improve the productivity and quality of the part-marking process.
Wireless connectivity between marking head and control (Network-able devices that are able to communicate to other devices through wireless communications)
On-board diagnostic tools to help the operator know when it’s time for scheduled maintenance — protecting your investment.
If you have questions regarding Dot Peen machines or any part marking machines, contact us today. At Technomark North America, we have the experience to help you get the best solutions for your industrial marking needs.
(Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in September 2021 and was updated in October 2022.)
The next step is to understand how the marking system will fit into your production process. Let’s look at 10 process considerations that will help you narrow down options when selecting a direct part marking method for your project: