September 12, 2019

Plastic Part Marking using Pad Printing and Laser Engraving

By Protolabs

When designing parts for injection molding, you may need to consider finishing options, which can help improve a part’s mechanical properties, enhance surface finishes, facilitate the final assembly process, or just further customize your part or parts.

A common finishing option that seems to be popular with our customers are the services of part marking, through using either pad printing or laser engraving.

Part Marking
Part marking using pad printing is a common finishing option, as seen here on a Quantra blood analysis machine made by HemoSonics.

Pad Printing on Plastic Parts

Pad printing transfers a two-dimensional image, such as a company logo, onto a three-dimensional object. Examples abound. You’ll see items marked with pad printing everywhere: household appliances, consumer electronics, buttons and keys on computer keyboards, toys, golf balls, and so on. All images are reviewed for size, color, and complexity restrictions. In addition, images for printing should be provided with locations clearly marked in reference to part geometry. PM-TI and MT11010 are the most aggressive textures we can pad print. Required lead time for pad printing at Protolabs typically adds three-plus business days to your parts order.

Laser Engraving for Serialization and Part Numbers

Laser engraving is another option for part marking. Laser engraving, which is applied to the mold or directly onto the parts, is frequently used for information such as logos, serialization, or part numbers. Laser engraving ensures crisp, consistent information on each part. Acetals, and high temperature materials are not suitable for laser engraving. Lead time typically adds four-plus business days to your parts order and, nine-plus business days to your mold order.

Required Inputs for Part Marking

So, what are the required inputs for these part marking options?

For pad printing, we’ll need a CAD/part link, 2D drawing that notes the location of the graphics, an Adobe Illustrator file noting the size of the graphics, the quantity of the part, a color specification (Pantone #), and the material of the part (only ABS, PC, ABS/PC are available for now at Protolabs for this option).

For laser engraving, we will need a drawing or CAD identifying size; the location and depth of the engraving; the part quantity, if applicable; and the material.

The part marking services of pad printing and laser engraving are part of a wide selection of finishing options for injection molding that we offer at Protolabs, which provide a number of benefits: strengthening parts, improving cosmetic appearance, providing customization, and so on. Beyond part marking, these include: mold texturing, custom color matching, threaded inserts, and basic assembly. These finishing options add to our capabilities as a single-supplier manufacturer with in-house tooling and part production. You can use us from start to finish for your parts: from early development and prototyping, through on-demand production of end-use parts, and secondary options and finishing.

For additional help, feel free to contact us at 877-479-3680 or [email protected]. To get your next design project started today, simply upload a 3D CAD model for an interactive quote within hours.