We are investigating a system, using 2-D matrix code, that will identify and track every PCB throughout our factory, starting from bare board. As a low-medium volume manufacturer, would labels or laser marking be more cost-effective? How difficult is it to integrate a tracking system into an existing production line? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Please let me know of any experiences with this type of project.
We use both labels and lasers to mark our boards. Since implementing the lasers, the downtime attributed to bar code labels on those lines have dropped to virtually nothing. We still have problems with the labels wrinkling during reflow making reading difficult if not impossible. So for problems associated with each method, the laser is far less a pain.
Capital cost for the equipment is heavily weighted on the laser side. I don't purchase equipment, but I believe our systems are roughly 65K for laser as opposed to 20 - 35K for labellers. Course the labeller requires constant purchase of the labels themselves. As a high volume manufacturer, the laser bar code is worth the difference in price due to down time. One of our lines went from an average of 4 hours a week down to zero.