QRCode, Barcode and DataMatrix: the use of the Laser for Traceability
The issue of traceability is becoming increasingly important in world trade and in particular for those particularly large companies that have to entrust part of their production processes to third parties.
Therefore, it is essential for these companies to monitor their products and ensure the complete traceability of each production phase.
Laser marking systems allow excellent results to be obtained in this area, creating indelible codes, signs and engravings quickly and at low cost, and that is why the laser is now the preferred tool in the field of traceability.
What is Traceability?
Traceability is an identification system that combines a set of information and is able to verify:
- the location,
- the origin,
- the batch number,
- the date,
- moving the product or part by means of recorded information.
Traceability is a requirement imposed by national or international regulations for many industrial sectors or specific types of products.
Due to strict government regulations on the safety of food, medicine, defense, automobiles and minerals, product tracking and traceability have become an integral part of manufacturing processes.
The concept of traceability applies both to the manufacturing industry, which produces products such as cars, and to process production, which includes, for example, chemicals.
Traceability allows movements to be traced one step back and one step forward at any point in the supply chain and production processes and therefore represents a sort of product assurance and guarantee.
Laser marking for traceabilityCompanies today are looking for the best tools to ensure the traceability of their products and that is why they choose laser applications. Traceability is a key concept that allows to improve the positioning of the brand and the perception of its quality in the eyes of the final consumer.
To be able to trace a product or component it is essential to mark it with an identification code. In this way each piece becomes unique and it is easier to manage any malfunction problems or to trace a defective batch to the supplier.
Traceability begins when we use laser equipment to directly mark parts with unique identifiers or other information. The factory collects and stores this information in a secure database, so that parts can be monitored throughout the manufacturing process. From point A to point Z, the intelligent software records the complete history of the part's life.
Types of Codes: Barcode, QRCode and DataMatrixBarcodes or barcodes are the most classic example of alphanumeric serial codes used for decades as they are simple and easily readable.
In the 90s, two-dimensional codes were then introduced to the market to meet the needs of large industrial productions that need to identify much more information related to their products and components.
There are many types of two-dimensional or 2D codes that can be laser marked, among all the QRCode and the DataMatrix code stand out. The latter is mainly used in the automotive and medical sectors for its ability to store a huge amount of data and information within a tiny space. Another feature is the fact that it is indelible and highly resistant, so it is almost impossible to erase.Another type of code that can be applied thanks to the laser is the unique UDI alphanumeric identification code, from English Unique Device Identification. This system is intended to provide a unique and globally harmonized positive identification of medical devices for distribution and use, requiring the device label to bear a unique device identifier.
For further information read -> Laser Marking of Plates and Labels for codes, texts and logos
ApplicationsThe application of UDI codes on medical devices is done by laser, which is the most requested technology in this area both for the quality of processing and for the safety it offers.
Laser marking on metal or plastic medical instruments does not damage the instruments in the least, ensures maximum hygiene and is resistant to both sterilization and corrosion. The laser allows medical instruments to be marked very quickly with tiny but perfectly legible Datamatrix codes, with dimensions up to 0.5 × 0.5 mm.
Another field of application of laser technology is the automotive sector, where laser marking is used to clearly mark the various components that make-up a vehicle with 2D codes, Datamatrix, serial numbers, etc. In recent decades, vehicle safety and reliability have become key issues and the automotive industry therefore needs to improve its traceability methods, so the use of lasers has become massive.Laser marking is also used in various areas as an antidote to counterfeiting. They range from the most curious cases, such as the oyster producer Gillardeau who marks his oysters with a laser, passing through the marking of products related to the military, electronic components, jewelry and diamonds, up to passports. In the latter case, the use of a laser marking with a unique and original sequence to mark the document makes counterfeiting impossible.
For further information read -> Laser Engraving on Jewels: speed, precision and efficiency
Advantages of Laser Marking for Traceability
- Duration: Laser marking has the advantage of placing the code inside the component at a certain level of depth, thus eliminating any risk of damage that makes the code unusable. Laser marking is therefore practically impossible to damage and creates indelible codes.
- High quality: The spot on which the laser beam is focused is very small and at the same time the processing guarantees very high precision even when it comes to tracing complex shapes or symbols such as logos.
- Total automation: Laser marking for traceability is integrated into systems configured according to production needs and connected to advanced software, which allow you to constantly monitor information at every stage of the process in what is known as data dynamism. This makes counterfeiting increasingly difficult, if not impossible.
- Speed and cost savings: Laser marking is the most economically advantageous system for product traceability. This processing technique is fast, does not need to use additional materials, does not produce waste and does not require maintenance costs.
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