Nanostructures and barcodes
imZERT barcodes are made using accurately defined nanostructures, with feature sizes of ca. 0,500 µm ± 0,1 µm. These nanostructures have contrast, and also enable light diffraction (rainbow effect). The nanostructures are placed on a steel surface, and designed so ”black” pixels of the desired barcode have nanostructures, while ”white” pixels are smooth. The imZERT method enables custom design of the actual nanostructures.
Sizes of barcodes
imZERT barcode design ensures accuracy, making barcode pixel sizes below 0,1 mm feasible. Our manufacturing methods allow barcodes having physical sizes from 1×1 to 10×10 mm2, however, there are possibilities to make smaller and larger barcodes. The smallest Datamatrix barcode demonstrated so far in injection moulding was 1×1 mm2 (10×10 Datamatrix) and 2×2 mm2 (20×20 Datamatrix). The image shows a 16×16 Datamatrix of 1.5×1.5 mm2 area, encoding “99570100356700089”.
Barcodes in manufacturing tools
The imZERT barcodes comprise nanostructured surfaces, which are “engraved” in the surface of a steel tool insert, by means of a proprietary hardness coating (patented). This approach enhances nanostructure replication during injection moulding and provides high release. imZERT has been optimized for tool steel, but can be delivered on other materials for other purposes than tooling.
The imZERT manufacturing method allows freedom in design, enabling all barcode standards, including Datamatrix and QR Code. Barcodes have built-in error correction, permitting parts of the barcode to be damaged without disrupting scannability.
Works with injection moulding and other methods
The imZERT method was developed for injection moulding, focussing on compatibility with this highly demanding production method. However, simple trials have been made with injection blow moulding (success), extrusion blow moulding (moderate), thermal embossing (success), thermoset casting (success).
Polymers that work for injection moulding
Most common plastics were tested in injection moulding trials and so far all have successfully replicated the barcodes (incl. PP, PE, POM, PA, ABS, COC, PC, PS). All barcode trials showed replication at normal moulding parameters, so imZERT is likely to work for all polymers. Also moulding with elastomers, including TPU, TPE and LSR, was tested successfully. Pending tests include glass-filled polymers and foams.
Mould integration and available geometries
imZERT is provided as nanostructured steel inserts with standard geometries (catalogue available upon request). The geometries include round, rounded square, and a method for integrating very small footprint barcodes. The inserts can all be exchanged in the mould, allowing for marking of individual production batches.
Mould integration strengthens complex systems
Multi-cavity moulds with identical cavities can receive different numbers (as barcodes). The individual cavities of a family mould can include the mould number. Mould numbers can be linked to Product, Supplier, Assembly component, Liquid filled content, Sales Region, and Sorting streams. Revision upgrades are no longer tainted by old part versions. As barcodes are strongly embedded in the part and applied during moulding, there is no doubt about provenance.
Durability of barcode inserts: at least 160.000 cycles
imZERT is provided on pre-hardened steel with nanostructures in a proprietary hardness coating. Durability moulding trials were performed with ABS plastic, achieving 160.000 shots with no detectable change in replicated structures, at which point the trial was ended.
Durability of barcodes on plastic parts
imZERT nanostructures are somewhat sensitive to touch, which can transfer grease to the nanostructures. This makes them duller, although removal of grease re-enables the barcode. It is therefore advisable to secure optimal positioning on the part where the barcode will not be scratched or interfered with during the intended service time of the barcode. We recommend placing barcodes in a recess or a physical frame. Barcodes can be placed on the “opposite side” in a transparent part. Barcodes become very durable and bright with vacuum metallization.
Scan devices and lighting
imZERT barcodes are scannable by common optical scanning devices. Tested so far are Vision cameras, inline barcode scanners, handscanners, smartphones with apps, microscope optics, 3D scanners and PCB board scanners. All have worked, in few cases with some adjustment. In general, sensors must have high resolution and a suitable magnification compatible with barcode pixel size. The lighting conditions during scanning should be considered. The barcode interpretation must comply with the chosen barcode standard.
GS-1 compatible. Mark your parts and components with production and registration information. For example, imZERT can be used to mark UDI-DI and UDI-PI information on the components that have escaped marking until now, but note that for the time being, the imZERT type of nanostructured DPM does not comply with existing DPM verifiers, so it may be necessary to establish an internal verification standard (any adjusted Vision-based solution can be used as Verifier).