The Importance of UV Laser Markability in the Wire and Cable Industry

Product recognition and identification are critical in the wire and cable industry. The traditional route to do this has been to use ink-jet printing on plastic. However, this method has serious drawbacks. To improve the process and better assist design engineers, many organizations are turning to UV laser marking as a viable and superior alternative.

The Challenges with Ink-Jet Printing for Wires and Cables

There are multiple concerns with ink-jet printing on wires and cables. First, the environmental impact of the actual ink and pretreatment of parts is growing, and many organizations want to reduce their carbon footprint. Second, ink-jet printing marks are often not permanent and can fade over time. Third, there is little flexibility in using this antiquated process.

The Advantages of UV Laser Markable Approaches

UV laser marking of wires and cables provides numerous benefits for design engineers. It does not use ink, pretreatments or solvents, so there’s no waste. It’s also an extremely fast and durable process. Users can customize with various geometries and computer controls. The result is a process that’s repeatable and provides more throughput.

How Does UV Laser Marking Work?

Several different types of lasers are usable for the process, including IR and UV. The complication with IR lasers is they emit heat, so they are not feasible for heat-sensitive materials. UV lasers, on the other hand, do not emit any heat. A high energy UV light breaks chemical or molecular bonds on the material surface, but with “zero heat.”

The process is non-contact and focuses a high-intensity beam of laser light on specific, localized areas. Mark quality is a critical requirement, and the addition of laser additives can improve it so that it’s more legible. High contrast UV laser marking is becoming more prevalent in wires and cables in aerospace and other industrial sectors.

Research on Markability in PTFE Wire Insulations

The Technetics Group conducted research to develop high contrast UV marking in PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) wire insulations. The study used a formulation of PTFE polymer and selected photo-sensitive whitening pigments and proprietary blends to create durable UV laser markings.

Researchers introduced two PTFE fine powder paste extrusion resin grades—a homopolymer (D50 ∼500 μm) and a modified PTFE (∼500-640 μm). The study also used laser additive materials, including different commercial grades of TiO2-based pigment, non-TiO2inorganic materials, and propriety blends of solid powder (10 –15 nm, ∼0.2 –14 μm) and liquid suspension.

The Results

Researchers evaluated wire samples made with three different proprietary blends of laser additives in homopolymer and modified PTFE base polymer grades. The evaluation revealed that the type of additive used does impact the contrast more than the base polymer grade.

The conclusion determined that high quality and durable UV laser marking contrast is achievable in composite films formulated with various commercially available and proprietary blends of photo-sensitive additives. Markability response factor (Mc) and background luminance (LB) threshold were experimentally determined to easily screen multiple laser additives and identify materials that offer initial contrast of over 65% and heat age contrast of over 40%. The findings support the durability of the process and that it is cost-effective for the market.

Advantages of Technetics’ UV Laser Markable Tape
  • Based on the research and use cases, design engineers can enjoy these benefits:
  • High legibility and contrast before and after thermal aging
  • Industry-leading, homogenous PTFE blends
  • Even color distribution no matter filler or additives used
  • Satisfaction of various industry requirements for initial and heat-aged contrast needs
  • Laser markable options in standard and non-standard colors
  • Success in rigorous electrical tests, such as the wet and dry arc tests
  • Excellent chemical resistance
  • RoHS/REACH compliance
  • Fire resistance
  • Multiple configurations
Explore UV Laser Markable Tape from Technetics

Learn more about the UV laser markable tape available from Technetics. View contrast examples, configurations and properties by viewing the information sheet.