Anyone who distributes products knows the importance of tracking them from creation to final sale. As parts travel through the manufacturing process, they undergo many changes and continue to evolve as they progress down the supply chain. Mapping a part’s “genealogy,” so to speak, is especially important when it comes to individual components. This process is also known as “parts traceability” and is a job best suited for laser marking technology. But before we tell you why, let’s look at the difference between “tracking” and “traceability” as these terms are commonly confused.
Parts Tracking vs. Parts Traceability
Often confused as synonyms, “parts tracking” and “parts traceability” are entirely different concepts. Parts tracking describes the process of tracking items during manufacturing for efficiency purposes. This is achieved through barcodes or other labeling methods attached to containers. However, parts traceability aims to document the manufacturing of parts, assemblies, and sub-assemblies that contribute to a final product (such as the brake rotors on a new car). Both tracking and traceability play important roles, but tracing individual parts can get complicated – that’s where laser marking comes in.
Laser Etching , Engraving, Annealing, Foaming
Laser marking is one of many kinds of direct-part marking. By etching the product itself, it remains traceable for life, which benefits both businesses and their customers because it provides complete traceability in the event of a problem.
Laser marking makes parts tracing more efficient overall. In some cases, etching a part can be completed in under two seconds and requires minimal setup time. Additionally, as lasers have become more complex, so has their ability to pack a lot of information into small areas. For example, some bar codes, such as a 2D Datamatrix, can contain up to 2,000 characters, which allows manufacturers to capture the part’s entire history.
Laser marking is extremely versatile and customizable. As there are many types of lasers, they can be used to mark all types of materials. They can be delicate enough for medical equipment but powerful enough to etch the strongest steel.
Laser marking is the ideal direct-part marking method when it comes to traceability. Lasers are efficient, flexible and most of all, permanent. No matter what kind of part, lasers can be customized for any business’ traceability needs.
At Laser Marking Technologies, we’ve developed hundreds of traceability solutions for part manufacturers and businesses including interfacing directly with their PLCs, Robots, ERP systems, and various databases. If you are looking for a better way to trace your parts, please give us a call. We’re happy to help in any way we can.