BlueScope Steel has been manufacturing Colorbond steel building material for more than 40 years.
This iconic Australian product is used across roofing, guttering, shedding, walling and fencing.
BlueScope had been branding most of its product range for many years — except fencing sheets. These "infill sheets" were problematic to brand: both sides are coated, which is a benefit for consumers, but meant there was no ideal position to place an inkjet brand that would suit all end customers.
Colorbond is a premium product, with high recognition and desirability among end users. There are several products that look similar, so BlueScope wanted to protect its brand integrity. The company also offers a 10-year guarantee on Colorbond, and wanted to ensure Colorbond could be easily identified and differentiated from other me-too products in the market with permanent branding that me-too products could not replicate making it easier for customers to avail the guarantee if needed.
Overt, easy-to-see branding identifies the product specifically as Colorbond, but is not desired in a finished residential (or commercial) fence. While customers want to know they have a Colorbond product, they don't want it prominently displayed on their fences.
BlueScope needed a way to brand its Colorbond fencing sheets that matched the product's professional appearance. The branding needed to be easily identifiable, yet non-intrusive for the end user.
BlueScope wanted to code the registered Colorbond mark in its proprietary font. The coding solution, therefore, needed to be customisable.
Colorbond is made from a special steel base that has an anti-corrosion zinc and aluminium alloy coating. Specialised coatings on top give Colorbond its resistance to chipping, peeling and cracking. The branding needed to be indelible and legible without damaging the specialised product and the coatings.
BlueScope produces Colorbond fencing in 14 colours, so the branding needed to be equally visible on each colour.
Speed and integration
The coding solution needed to match the production line's high speed and be integrated into the overall production.
BlueScope researched different technologies, and identified laser coding as the way to apply a permanent, yet non-intrusive brand mark.
It chose to work with Matthews because of the specialist's portfolio of lasers, ability to integrate equipment and its ability to provide proof-of-concept by sample marking the real product. The decision was made easier due to the quality of the Matthews' laser mark and the lasers' overall capabilities.
Since this was the first time lasers had been used in this type of application, Matthews worked closely with BlueScope, installing two of its heavy-duty, 55W lasers on a fencing production line. The IP66-rated, water-cooled lasers run at lines speeds of up to 180m/min.
Matthews ran extensive testing to ensure the lasers marked, rather than "injured", the paint.
Integration capabilities — both of Matthews and the lasers — were also high on BlueScope's shopping list. The integrated lasers are turned on and off remotely, which maximises uptime.
Colorbond fencing steel is branded with a subtle laser engraving, on both sides, at least three times on each 2.4m fencing section. The laser coding does not affect the fence's quality, hence will not rust around the mark.
Lasers have a standard Helvetica font, but Matthews customised this to maintain brand consistency for the Colorbond font (a proprietary BlueScope font). This customisation was important in the project.
BlueScope says the laser branding has reinforced its position as a premium supplier of fencing materials. The lasers' print reliability, print quality and customisation, along with Matthews' integration capabilities, have contributed to this.
The laser branding allows consumers who place superior value on Colorbond to verify they have a Colorbond fence, yet the branding does not affect the finished fence's appearance.
Originally published on the Matthews blog