How to pick the right etching machine

How to pick the right etching machine

One of the key considerations for many manufacturing industries is traceability marking. Etching machines, also known as dot peen marking machines or engraving machines, offer a practical and affordable solution for marking metals and hard plastics. The process involves a product’s parts being etched or engraved with logos, serial numbers, barcodes or DataMatrix codes for identification purposes.

However, choosing which machine to buy can be challenging. Initially, it is important to recognise that there are cheap products available on the internet but they are not necessarily going to be robust or reliable, and may not offer a consistent quality of marking. Pick a reliable supplier, one that clearly has expertise in the marking industry and will be able to offer you choices and advice that will align with your marking requirements.

What is dot peen marking?

Before looking at the different options available, it is perhaps important to clarify exactly what dot peen marking is. Dot peen marking machines or etching machines indent small dots into metal or hard plastic, by a pneumatically or electromagnetically driven stylus pen. It is a high-speed technology that produces a permanent mark. It can sometimes be confused with laser etching. However, this technology uses a laser beam to mark onto the part.

Purchasing considerations

1. Type of material

Before selecting your dot peen marking machine, it is important to check that the material you want to mark is suitable. Dot peen marking is best used on hard plastics and metals such as aluminium and stainless steel. It is not suited to marking on glass, brittle plastic or ceramic. If you are wanting to mark on these materials, please refer to our guide for other marking solutions.

an example of dot peen marking on metal

2. Marking location and portability

Look at the location of where you are marking. If you are marking smaller parts that you can take to a machine, then a benchtop machine will be preferable. These machines are robust and easy to use, and can be operated by different people. If marking large parts that are difficult to move or in remote areas, such as oil pipe yards, then a handheld portable machine will be a better option. The more sophisticated machines have easy to use touch screen technology and long battery life.

an operator using a portable etching machine

3. Cost of the machine

Good quality machines do not vary that considerably in price. It is important to research all avenues but never compromise quality over price. A good quality machine whether it is handheld or benchtop will cost around £5,000.

4. Machine quality

Ensuring that the machine that you select offers a high-quality marking solution is extremely important. One clear indicator is how integrated your machine is. Look for a fully integrated machine with touchscreen technology. Arranging for someone to come in and demonstrate the use of the machine prior to purchasing is also a very good idea and any reputable company will offer this service.

5. Understanding the technology

Again, a good quality machine will offer an easy-to-use software package that comes with the machine. Good quality machines will include the ability to mark using a rotary third axis drive, have the ability to mark datamatrix 2D codes and import data from CSV files. Prior to purchasing the machine, it is again a good idea to have a demonstration so you have a clear understanding of how it works. Many companies will also offer user manuals and will be contactable for any issues when learning to use the product. However, a quality machine will be simple to operate.

an operator using the touchscreen on a Propen marking machine

Conclusion and checklist:

Before purchasing a dot peen marking machine, it is important to factor in the following considerations:

  • How durable and high-quality is the machine that you are looking at?
  • What is the price of the machine?
  • How easy is the machine to operate?
  • Is the machine fully integrated with touch screen technology?
  • Has someone offered to demonstrate the machine?
  • Is the machine portable or benchtop? What is preferable for your requirement?
  • What after-sales support are you being offered?
  • If your machine needs servicing, can this be done in your country?

For further information on dot peen marking or other traceability marking solutions, please contact us.