From ceramic pigments to high-strength machine-readable codes – The technology elements of CeraCode®
The CeraCode® technology concept is an integrated solution consisting of a temperature-resistant ink using drop-on-demand industrial printers and an intelligent maintenance concept. CeraCode® enables the design of efficient and quickly implementable solutions for part identification in metal processing.
Temperature resistant inks and ceramic particles for the metal printing
The core element of the CeraCode® process is the use of a high-temperature resistant ink, which was developed at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS).
The inorganic materials used in the ink are insensitive to aggressive chemical environments even at high temperatures and are compatible with various matrix materials. The CeraCode® marking can be printed as a Data Matrix Code on various materials. The current generation of inks is optimized for the use on the silicon-aluminium protective layer of press hardening sheets as components of the body-in-white in the automotive sector. Even after the furnace has passed through, it generates a high contrast and a high level of robustness against mechanical influences. The use of inorganic luminescent particles as contrasting pigments is advantageous here. Under UV excitation, for example, these particles show a clearly visible light emission and thus a high contrast. This is of advantage in the case of the formation of scaling layers, tempering colours or corrosion in the metal area, as this ensures that the marking is always machine readable.
Industrial-suited inkjet printing and code recording in the process
Industrial inkjet printers (so-called Drop-on-Demand printers or DoD printers) are used to apply the ink as a machine-readable Data Matrix Code (DMC). The print image can be created from individual dots with 16 or 32 parallel jets in the print head.
The use of DoD printers allows a simple integration of the marking systems into the production lines and a fast printing of the parts without losing time in the production process.
The marking is fixed and hardened in the furnace during the hot forming of the parts (or in further high-temperature steps) at more than 800°C.
Intelligent maintenance concept
A concept for predictive maintenance is also implemented on a controller. The code is scanned with scanners and checked for content and print quality during printing as well as along other production steps in the process chain (e.g. press hardening).
The images are recognized and analyzed with intelligent algorithms (based on machine learning) to evaluate the status of the print image and thus the print head in real time. Deviating behaviours of the print head and fluctuations in code quality are anticipated at an early stage and maintenance interventions can be tailored to the planned downtimes. This enables downtimes to be minimized.
Ceracode part marking
„in a nutshell“
Find out about the importance of Ceracode marking technology in the context of industrial digitization in this 2-minute video.