By Eric Janes, Laser Product Manager We all know that bigger is better and we all want more. It’s what we do, right? If 10 of something is good, then getting 20 of it is great, and 30 of it is fantastic! Well that is up until we have to pay for it anyway. When cost becomes the focus of our attention, it’s safe to say that less is more. Regardless of what we are buying, we need to look at what we need, and this tampers down all the enthusiasm for bigger is better. A Bugatti Veyron could get me to the office faster than almost any other car on the road, but with a growing family that spends its time in the Suburbs and semi-rural areas, a minivan with a bunch of cup holders ranks higher on the “needs” list. With laser coding we should take needs into consideration in each application, and power may or may not factor into it. Yes, lasers can really power up if you want to go looking for power. While much of the technology has consolidated, choices in power ratings seem to keep increasing. In some respects it’s almost as if there is a nuclear arms race in laser power rating. Sure you have 10 watt lasers in your widget plant, but the guy on the other side of the business park just got 50 watt lasers on his bottling lines. You might be missing something, and need to upgrade, right? Probably not, and here are some straight forward concepts to keep in mind with laser coding and power ratings. First, you are going to pay for power. No if and or buts about it, regardless of laser type, as the power rating goes up, so will your cost of equipment. Economically, it’s in your interest to get the lowest power laser possible. Second, what power really gets you is speed on production lines. Often power is thought of as “burning harder” into materials and while there is truth to that, the reason we burn harder is most likely to keep up with production rates. Low power lasers can mark most product and packaging materials…if we give them enough time. We are talking seconds for some materials, whereas for many coding operations a typical message might code in the range of 100 milliseconds, or even less for high speed lines. So the bottom line becomes, what material are we marking and how fast is it moving through production? When we dial in on these factors with testing and sample codes, we can narrow it down to the lowest power option. This will help make the project justification and keep your line operators from slicing open the new plastic bottles on your brand new conveyors. If you are near the top of the chosen lasers output, there is a question left to ask and it might make the case for tweaking up the power. So, what does your crystal ball say? If your line speeds and production might increase, or your materials might change, a power upgrade might be sensible. Typically, lasers last a long time without much intervention. So while some coding technology can get cycled on a regular basis, you want to plan ahead with lasers. At Diagraph Marking & Coding, we’ve got the people and experience to work with you, in your plant and with your crystal ball, to work out the best, but not necessarily the biggest, solution. We’ll focus on coding for cost, letting you manage your business.