Our CO2 lasers can be used to mark a wide range of plastic products, from packaging films and bottles to medical devices. The appearance of the mark depends strongly on the type of plastic used.
In many cases, the laser induces no colour change in the plastic, resulting in an engraved mark which is unobtrusive and does not spoil the appearance of the product. Special additives can be used when a more visible mark with high contrast is required. This also happens with many pearlised plastics, as well as PVC.
CO2 laser cutting of plastics is a very efficient process; high absorption and low thermal conductivity means that little energy is wasted. However, plastics are a diverse group of materials, and the results depend strongly on the type and chemical composition of the plastic in question.
Thermoplastic materials can generally be cut cleanly – these include acrylic, polyethylene, polystyrene, polypropylene, PET, polyurethane and ABS. Thermosetting materials such as epoxy and phenolic resins and polyimide are difficult to cut without discolouration or charring, on the other hand.
Laser perforation of plastic packaging films can increase the shelf life of certain fruits and vegetables, compared with unperforated packaging. So-called modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) technology uses laser-perforated holes to regulate the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and other gases inside the pack, maintaining the freshness of the produce inside.
Our CO2 lasers are used to perforate holes at regular intervals across the plastic packaging film. The optimum conditions vary according to product type, so the hole size and spacing must be precisely controlled. The laser process is flexible – hole size can be monitored and adjusted on the fly, and hole spacing can be changed very easily.
Plastic bottles are widely used in the soft drinks industry, and are most often made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a clear, strong, lightweight and food-safe plastic. CO2 laser codes applied to PET bottles are indelible and tamper-proof. Coding directly on the plastic bottles means that the information is preserved, even if the label is removed.
PET responds particularly well to the 9.3µm wavelength, which makes marks with enhanced contrast and higher visibility. Best before dates, batch codes and other information can be applied on the fly, using a high speed galvo system to track the products on the production line.
Our lasers can cut acrylic with a perfect flame-polished finish, eliminating the need for post-processing. The laser vaporises the plastic, leaving clean, sharp edges as it cuts.
Laser cutting is ideal for applications where appearance is paramount. Acrylic is available in a wide range of colours, and can be used for signage, point of sale displays, costume jewellery, trophies and awards, ornamental items, lighting… the creative possibilities are endless. Complex shapes can be cut out with ease, and acrylic can also be laser engraved to apply text and graphics to the surface if required.