Electrochemical marking and etching – easy and convenient way to mark / etch stainless steel

Metal Marking and Etching – Is there a difference?

Marking and etching are often used interchangeably to describe two similar metal branding operations.

However, there is a slight difference between the two processes. This should be taken into consideration when choosing the proper equipment for your application.

  • Marking creates a dark imprint on the metal surface without changing its upper layer. Thus, the darkened color tone of the surface is the only change that occurs as a result of this process.
  • Etching produces a small incision on the surface of the metal and actually removes some of the material. The resulting mark has a light/whitish appearance.

Metal parts and machines are marked and etched for traceability and enhanced branding. This includes logos, QR codes, serial numbers, dates and other information relevant to industrial production.

Part tracking and identification are also prescribed by law in a growing number of industries.

Cougartron logo marked on a metal surface
Cougartron logo marked on a metal surface

Marking / etching methods and techniques

There are several different marking and etching methods and techniques available to industrial professionals. Here are the main ones:

  • LASER MARKING AND ETCHING

This method includes emission of focused light beams artificially amplified to provide desired results on the metal surface.

Laser marking and etching machines differ in terms of size and type – Fiber, Carbon-dioxide (CO2) and Ultraviolet (UV) are just some of the variations.

They all provide fast, clear and consistent results on metal surfaces. However, you also have to be ready for a substantial capital investment due to high price of most quality models.

  • DOT PEEN(ING) is primarily an engraving process done through a specialized stylus which creates a dotted pattern/design on the surface of the metal.

The stylus is controlled pneumatically or electromechanically. Dot Peen method is mostly applied on thicker metal surfaces where a contact with the stylus will not cause deformation.

The method will provide permanent marks but should not be used where clear and precise results are expected.

  • Inkjet marking

Inkjet marking is a printing process that creates semi-permanent marks on the metal surface.

Pressurized ink is applied to the surface through dedicated print nozzles that are controlled and positioned precisely to deliver proper marking results in terms of resolution and size.  

Depending on their quality, Inkjet marking machines will provide fast and pleasing results. However, printed marks are prone to fading and are not as durable as those produced by other methods.

  • Electrochemical marking and etching

Electrochemical marking and etching are done exclusively on conductive metal surfaces.

A marking head is used to release a weak current to the metal surface through a marking stencil/mask soaked in the electrolyte fluid.

Dark marking and white etching results are achieved by switching between Alternating (AC) and Direct (DC) electric current – and through the use of appropriate marking stencils.

Compared to other methods, electrolytic marking / etching is far more flexible and is mostly done with highly portable and affordable equipment.

Electrochemical marking and etching are especially effective on stainless steel surfaces.

Stainless steel is widely used in modern industry due to its anti-corrosion properties and attractive appearance. Machine parts, cutlery and kitchen appliances are just some of the evident examples.

Electrolytic etching and marking will provide fast and clear results on stainless steel parts and finished products. No surface distortion occurs – even on very thin metal plates.

Electrochemical Marking / Etching Process

Etching / marking with electrochemical machines is extremely simple and consists of only a few short stages:

  • 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

How To Choose The Right Marking and Etching Equipment?

When choosing equipment for marking and etching, there are several important factors to be taken into account:

  • Equipment portability and usage – Will you require a portable machine that can be moved around easily and used on-site?
  • Material type – Do you need to mark/etch metal only?
  • Cost How much money are you ready to invest in the equipment?
  • Functionality– Do you need to etch, mark or both?
  • Quality– Are high-resolution mark and etch results desirable in your line of work?
  • Speed – Is speed a relevant factor to your production?

Here is an overview of different marking and etching equipment types with the most prominent characteristics.

Marking and etching methods - comparison table

Electro marking and etching machines are ideal for workshops where extra work space and increased flexibility are an absolute necessity.

Portable and lightweight – electrochemical systems can be easily moved around the workshop area and even used on-site where needed.

The process provides fast, clear and high-resolution results on conductive metal surfaces – stainless steel especially.

Recommended Electrochemical Marking and Etching Equipment

MK12 marking and etching machine
MK12 marking and etching machine

MK12 is a lightweight and portable electrochemical system for fast, safe and consistent marking/etching results.
The machine weighs only 5.47 lbs and comes packed in a practical carrying case – ideal for on-the-go work.
MK12 is great for permanent marking and etching of logos, model numbers, codes and names on all of your metal parts and components.

See the content of the MK12 starter pack here.

Cougartron ProPlus marking and etching set
Cougartron ProPlus marking and etching set

Cougartron ProPlus has created a name for itself as a fast and reliable system for weld cleaning and passivation.

However – with the addition of a marking head and specialized consumables – ProPlus is transformed to a powerful marking and etching machine.

ProPlus provides unmatched multi-functionality to its users – Effective weld cleaning, polishing, marking and etching, all done with a single machine.

SEE MORE ABOUT PROPLUS | CHECK THE CONTENT OF THE PROPLUS MARKING/ETCHING SET

Cougartron Plus marking and etching set
Cougartron Plus marking and etching set

Similar to ProPlus, Cougartron Plus is primarily a weld cleaning system.

By adding a marking head and few additional consumables, you can use the machine to mark and etch part codes and logos on your metal parts.

All components are conveniently packed in a recognizable carrying case for on-the-go operations.

LEARN MORE ABOUT COUGARTRON PLUS | SEE THE CONTENT OF THE MARKING/ETCHING SET

Marking/Etching stencils and printers

TTP-245C thermal printer w/ full cutter installed
TTP-245C thermal printer w/ full cutter installed

This high-performance thermal printer will produce 4-inch-wide labels at a rate of 6 ips (inches per second).

Ethernet and USB connectivity included.

PT-D600VP Brother Label Printer

PT-D600VP is a fast and reliable printer for 18-24mm single-use custom stencils. Use the full-color display and user-friendly software to easily prepare logo and QR code stencils for your metal parts and components.

Handheld stencil printer for electrochemical marking
PT-E550WVP Brother Handheld Label Printer

PT-E550WVP is a handheld printer for 12-24mm stencils.

The printer is easily connected to your PC, smartphone and tablet and will provide a printing speed of 30mm (+ 7 lines) per second.

Automatic cutter included.

PT-800W Brother Label Printer 18-36mm tape
PT-800W Brother Label Printer 18-36mm tape

PT-800W produces clear 360dpi resolution stencils at an amazing speed of 60mm per second. The printer is equipped with a convenient user-friendly keyword for more effective work.
USB and Wi-Fi connectivity are included so you can print stencils directly from your PC/laptop and smart devices.

Multi-use reusable stencils

Electrochemical marking/etching stencils are usually disposed after a single use. This is because they contain information unique to the metal part they are used on – Serial number is just one of the examples.

However, if you need to mark hundreds of metal parts with a standardized design and information – Cougartron can supply durable stencils that can be used up to 500 times.

The high-resolution stencils are produced according to your custom-design and project requirements.

multi use stencil for electrochemical marking

Marking/etching fluids

Electrolyte fluids are essential for clear and high-resolution marking and etching results.

Cougartron has developed several electrolyte solutions for different metal surfaces.

stainless steel marking fluid

 

  • Cougartron CGT-S1 etching/marking fluid for stainless steel
  • Cougartron CGT-AL etching/marking fluid for aluminum
  • Cougartron CGT-MS etching/marking fluid for mild steel
  • Cougartron CGT-BR etching/marking fluid for brass
  • Cougartron CGT-CO etching/marking fluid for copper & zinc
Neutralising fluid for etching marking
CGT-N1 neutralizing fluid

Cougartron CGT-N1 removes all acid residues after marking/etching and restores the pH neutrality of the metal surface.
CGT-N1 is compatible with all our marking & etching fluids and can be used on various metal types.

Overview

Metal marking and etching are two closely-related branding processes.

Marking produces a dark imprint on the metal surface while etching is used to remove some of the upper metal layer and expose a frosty white mark.

Both marking and etching are widely used in modern industry for proper branding, identification and traceability of metal parts and components.

Several marking and etching methods and techniques are being used by professionals today.

The main methods – laser, dot peen, inkjet and electrochemical – all provide significant benefits for the user.

We have paid special attention to stainless steel – a material that is widely used in modern industry and construction due to its aesthetic and anti-corrosive properties.

The electrochemical method stands out as the most flexible. It also provides a great number of other benefits for marking and etching professionals:

  • Portable and affordable equipment
  • Impeccable results on thin and thicksheet metal
  • Low Capital Investment
  • Fastand easy process
  • Clearand high-resolution results
  • Excellent with both markingand etching
  • Extraordinary results on stainless steelsurfaces
  • Ideal for smaller production areas and workshops

As is the case with all metalworking methods, the use of the right tools is crucial for the entire process.

Cougartron has developed a line of highly-effective marking & etching machines for flawless results on stainless steel and other metal surfaces.

DO YOU WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT STAINLESS STEEL WELD CLEANING & MARKING?

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Marking & Etching Q&A

How hard should I press when etching?

It’s not necessary to press hard. Use a firm touch so that the current can pass through the fluid over the entire surface area of the marking electrode.

Read More Answers

Etching Stencils and Printers

Etching

Marking

Marking Fluids