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will hold contaminants. A really good mark can barely be felt, while a poorly done one will feel rough from a bit of melting, particularly at the stop/start positions.” Burdel at Trumpf compares this kind of mark to the dark corrosion that can be found on well-used exhaust pipes. “That dark color is oxidation brought up to the surface of the exhaust by heat,” he said. “The difference with laser marking is that the beam is narrow enough and fast enough that you can get a clean mark with no melting.”


“The main reason people like the fiber laser—and I’ve heard this time and again—is we ship them out to the customer, they plug them in, push the button, and it works.”


“The challenge is that it’s a slow


process,” IPG’s Hoult explained. “If you hit it too hard or use too high a pulse energy, it becomes uneven. You want to enhance the oxide, chromium oxide layer, that’s native to stainless. If you do overheat it too much you get chromium diffusion that depletes the subsurface area of chromium and you can get corrosion. Of course, the subcontract laser marking guys want to bang it through as quickly as possible through their shop— and that’s caused problems in the past,” Hoult remembered. “Some materials are more dif-


fi cult to dark-mark without corro- sion than others,” Hoult noted. “The basic stainlesses, the 304s, are fairly easy; 316 is marginally more diffi -


cult. The most challenging one is 17–4PH steel. It’s a low-temperature precipitation hardening [PH] steel. It’s a high-strength steel but with a low-temperature heat treatment to bring up the full strength. To get a good dark mark on it that doesn’t corrode takes a slow process to allow the oxide to grow.”


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