tech.day 2022: Laser texturing adds hidden information to silicone
In the same way that metallic traces must be avoided in a medical device, many companies regard the marking of their products with counterfeit protection as essential. Both tasks are realised with the unique expertise of Reichle Technologiezentrum GmbH in Bissingen/Teck, Germany. Together with Starlim Spritzguss GmbH, the liquid silicone specialist from Marchtrenk in Austria, Reichle has, for the first time anywhere, now even succeeded in engineering a silicone mold so that more than concealed information can be illustrated in a component.
The femto (ultrashort pulse) laser technique is a key technology that allows a silicone mold to be engineered with the precision that achieves radii of only 0.02 mm, generates sharp-edged or vertical geometries or can even create tribological properties. Reichle Technologiezentrum GmbH has used this technology in its company for around two years and, since the middle of the year, even operates the world’s largest femto laser system with which tools and molds weighing up to 1,700 kg can be processed. Through the use of femto laser technology, Reichle enables its customers to create molds with holograms, colour effects, engravings without depth and particularly high surface qualities. An ideal example of what can be achieved with innovative laser technology is the white 120 x 160 mm and 2.7 mm thick silicone sample plate exhibited during the tech.day on 23 June 2022. The plate contains a variety of structures, a functional surface that does not attract dust and a vanilla blossom relief depicted as a hologram and with a shimmering iridescent surface.
The plate also conceals a digital watermark indiscernible to the naked eye, but the perfect medium for differentiating the original component from a counterfeit after appropriate reading using a smartphone or tablet. A variety of prints can also be identified on the plate. Added to this is an area that generates a vanilla fragrance when it comes into contact with moisture. Reichle and starlim cooperated with Silcos GmbH, the digital printing specialist, and Digimarc GmbH, the inventor of the digital watermark to develop these additional characteristics.
The sample plate exhibited demonstrates impressively what innovative companies with innovative machine technology can achieve today. Visual, haptic and functional areas can be realised in every component, regardless of whether a QR code in a medical device or the zero-level mold or cavity number in an O-ring for the automotive industry is involved. No longer restricted to thermoplastics, all these options can now also be realised with silicone.
As a trained master engraver, Volker Reichle established his own company, Reichle Technologiezentrum GmbH, 40 years ago in Bissingen/Teck, Germany. With 80 personnel and 45 laser systems today, the company has since become the global market and technology leader and, in addition to continually growing, is also in the second family generation. The children, Marina and Marco Reichle, have headed the tool and mold engineering provider since 2021 and supply over 1,000 customers in a variety of sectors such as the automotive, food and medicine industries, aerospace, cosmetics and packaging. With innovative ideas and enormous energy, Volker Reichle is still involved in the family enterprise in this exciting area.