Ask Cougartron | Marking & Etching | Tuesday, 27 August 2019

How does electrolytic marking affect metal surfaces?

For many potential new users, electrolytic marking and the way in which this process affects metal surfaces can be a real enigma.

In fact, a large number of questions we receive as part of our Ask Cougartron Q/A project are related to this topic.

YOUR QUESTION: How does electrolytic marking affect metal surfaces?

Tom Baker, one of our marking experts, went deeper into the topic and, once again, prepared a useful video with all the answers.

To complement this, we also highlighted some of the key points below.


Understanding the fundamentals of electrolytic marking

In a nutshell, electrolytic marking is an imprinting process.

Weak electrical current is combined with mild liquids (also called marking fluids) to produce the chemical reaction necessary to transfer the desired pattern from the stencil onto metal surface.

In other words, the surface layer changes its color (through controlled oxidation) but the chemical composition and structure of the underlying base metal remains intact.

You will also not experience bending, indentation, or any other type of surface deformation – even when working with very thin metal parts and components.

NOTE: The process described applies to AC marking. To find out more about the difference between this method and DC etching, click here.

How deep are electrolytic marks?

Due to the specific nature of the electrolytic process, the resulting marks are almost microscopic and are only about a thousandth of an inch deep.

But is this deep enough?

The answer is yes – The electrolytic method produces marks that, although shallow, are very durable and will not come off easily unless subjected to heavy abrasion.

This also leads us to our next point.

Can electrolytic marks be removed easily?

When executed properly, electrolytic marks are fairly resistant to physical and mechanical damage.

They will withstand moderate contact with everyday workshop items and will not come off easily under normal conditions. They are also resistant to smearing and will rarely fade.

All things considered, we can freely describe the results of electrolytic marking as high-quality, resilient, and durable.

But just how durable?

Let’s put it this way – You have to try really hard to get them off the surface.

In fact, the only way to remove electrolytic marks completely is to grind them away using scotch-brite discs or similar abrasive productsas also demonstrated in our video above. 

How does electrolytic marking affect metal surfaces?

Here are the key points to remember:

  • Electrolytic marking changes the color of the metal surface through controlled oxidation – and nothing else.
  • Your metal parts will retain their physical and chemical properties.
  • Cougartron marking fluids will not cause corrosion on metal surfaces
  • Electrolytic labels are shallow but still durable and resistant to various types of damage.
  • No smearing and fading
  • Mechanical abrasion is the only way to remove electrolytic marks completely.

Need more information?

If you need more information on how electrolytic marking affects metal surfaces, or you have a similar question for our team, or you are interested in our marking products,  feel free to contact us at any time. We are always happy to help.


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