Marking & Etching | Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Terms such as ‘marking’ and ‘etching’ are often used as synonyms to describe several related branding processes.

For the purpose of accuracy, we will make a distinction and define these activities as follows:

  • The end-result of marking is a dark imprint on the metal surface
  • Etching removes a small portion of the surface to reveal the desired (whitish) pattern.

When it comes to the electrochemical method, both operations are performed using a weak electrical current (AC/DC) and mild electrolytic acids. The results are clear and permanent.

Being that marking and etching are in essence very similar, we can safely conclude that the below-mentioned benefits pertain to both activities.

The reason for listing these benefits is to shed more light on some of the common misconceptions surrounding the electrochemical process.

Without further ado, here are 3 practical benefits of electrolytic marking/etching to consider when choosing equipment for your production.

1. Affordability and cost-effectiveness

The costs associated with the purchase and maintenance of equipment are probably high on the list of your concerns when considering different marking methods, and rightfully so. For a long time, even the simplest of tasks required the use of expensive and complex equipment. Not anymore.

Contrary to the acquisition of laser and inkjet machines, the purchase of electrolytic equipment is considered a low investment. Recurring expenses are also minimal as they generally include only the inexpensive marking/etching fluids.

The prices of other consumables and spare parts are also negligible.

As an emerging method, electrolytic marking is no exception in the case of pervasive suspicion in the quality of cheaper production solutions. However, the results obtained by utilizing this method are by no means inferior to the results achieved through other methods. Just the opposite, they often surpass them in terms of quality and consistency.

All this essentially boils down to the production model. Electrolytic marking is a manual process and is therefore not tailored to automated production that requires the use of extremely expensive equipment. It is better suited to a more flexible way of working.

The method is therefore ideal for hobbyists, not just industrial professionals. Sculptors, bladesmiths, and other craftsmen can now brand their work without investing in expensive machinery and struggling with ineffective DIY solutions. All this without sacrificing any of the output quality.

Opportunity and training costs are another important factor to consider. Namely, more complex computer-navigated systems are harder to operate so you have to count in the cost of educating the personnel as well. With electrochemical marking systems, this is not necessary which leads us to our next point.

2. Process simplicity and ease of use

In addition to a weak electrical current and mild non-dangerous acids, marking is performed using disposable and/or reusable stencils. Preparation of single-use stencils is a simple activity that most often involves the use of standard label printers.

Before you start marking, it is important that the metal surface is cleaned of grease and other impurities so you don’t encounter any complications while working.

The next step involves dispensing the appropriate liquid and placing the stencil in the desired position. Different metal surfaces require the use of suitable and specially developed marking fluids for optimal results. For example, we would use our CGT-S1 marking fluid when working with stainless steel.

With the stencil in place, we can start using the marking head to apply pressure and conduct electricity to the workpiece.

Once this is complete, the only thing left is to properly neutralize the surface so its pH neutrality is restored.

The process is incredibly simple, even absolute beginners can quickly master its fundamentals. We demonstrate the described steps in the video below:

To support the video, here are the steps of the process divided into 5 simple points:

  • Stencil/mask printing
  • Surface preparation (quick cleaning)
  • Fluid application and stencil positioning
  • Actual marking/etching with the use of the electrode head
  • Surface neutralization after marking/etching is done

3. Increased work flexibility

The beauty of using electrochemical marking equipment is that you are not tied to your workstation.

Since it contains only a few components, the entire setup is lightweight and easily portable to any location. You can use it off- and on-site, wherever you have access to a stable power supply.

This includes professional workshops, garages, and even your own backyard.

The video below shows all the components of the MK12 Starter Set, including a practical carrying case that allows you to easily move your machine from one workplace to another.

MK12 is our fast, practical, and effective marking and etching machine for stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and other metal surfaces.

Note: You can also use your Cougartron weld cleaner to mark by upgrading it with one of our marking sets. See how you can do it here.

Need more info?

If you require further information on these points or any other aspect of electrochemical marking and etching, please feel free to contact us at any time.
Tel: 404-591-8920

You can also click below to check all our machines, etching sets, and other parts of the equipment.