Tracking components, PCB’s and final assemblies is more and more critical for products made in the US. Very low cost products do not generally need a high level of traceability but most products that are made in the US are of high value and many are mission-critical and the ability to track from component to finish product is critical.
Historically companies use printed bar-coded labels and they are applied by hand or by a robot. This requires an inventory of labels of all sizes for each part of the product, printers to print specific bar codes and other relevant data on each label, and then the manpower to apply the labels. These many steps can be a potential issue, from inventory management, to bar code printing and insuring that the serial numbers printed on the labels are applied to the correct item (component or PCB or finished assembly) and then ensuring that the labels are applied in the correct area. Companies have recognized that using a robotic laser marker can eliminate virtually all of these steps. A laser, usually a CO2 or UV type is mounted on an X-Y gantry which is programmed to move over the PCB and laser mark the PCB. This eliminates the need to purchase rolls of specific sized labels, have printers ready to pre-print each label size and eliminates the hand placement of each label.