Etching directly onto a Square chip reader?

So after having seen some great ideas to add laser etched/cut material ONTO the Square chip reader to personalize/brand it for a shop, it made me wonder if anyone tried laser etching it directly?

My guess is that the plastic used for the case is not safe for either the GF or humans around it, but I’ve not found any info out there to confirm the material or that it’s been tried (found lots of other odd stuff trying to search for it though).

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If you can snap it open, virtually all injection molded consumer products will have the material code inside.


Could do the copper wire check but it would also damage the plastic card reader as well

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I found a “tear down” here:
though their emphasis was on the electronics, and don’t show the underside of the injection molded plastic. And it doesn’t mention putting it back together and it working again… Since I don’t have any static control area/tools, I’m not going to risk turning mine into a brick right now.

But my experience working with some injection molded consumer products, there would be a date code, but I have never seen a material code on a part, so it might not be an industry-wide practice…

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@eflyguy is right. You will have to google how to read those markings but you might even find a recycling mark if you’re lucky which is much easier.

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My understanding is that it’s a legal requirement for modern listed/certified products, which I assume these are. It’s just a couple of letters and numbers.

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Marking requirements for devices does vary from containers or bags, and they don’t have the recycling logo on the exterior, instead device will have the “wheelie bin”, primarily meaning whether it can go into the garbage–most electronics , especially if it has a battery, is X out since the batteries/components should not be trashed, but the device should be broken down and individual components dealt with accordingly–not something the consumer is expected to do, though.

The best I can find for a bill of materials on the device is “injection molded thermoplastic case”. There is a chance there would be the marks specific for the parts on their underside, but since I don’t have any ESD controls, I’m not going to risk taking mine apart right now, and will assume it’s NOT safe or possible on the GF.

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Nearly every consumer injection molded plastic part is ABS, ABS/Polycarbonate mix, or polycarbonate. I would guess that the square reader housing is one of the first two, with my bet on the ABS.


That makes sense–also more economical, too. But can that be etched in the GF?

I know ABS can be laser etched, and products I was last involved with laser etching was used for certain tracking info on each device–and etching logos on the brush heads–but no idea what type of lasers were used. (But in that same job learned that additives can be mixed into the material so when it is laser etched it can produce different colors…).

And since phone cases can be etched, that made me wonder why not the Square reader? I suppose I could test with one of my old mag stripe readers…

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And thanks for the input!

Thanks for the suggestions–if I ever do dismantle my unit, I’ll check for any material codes.

Thanks–if I ever do take the case apart, I’ll check for those marks… Used to seeing date codes and cavity #s, but not material codes.

Phone cases are usually a urethane based material for shock resistance. A hard plastic case wouldn’t do much for the phone.

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I’ve always been under the impression that ABS was not safe to laser?
From the ATX Hackerspace list of laser safe/not safe materials

“ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt rather than vaporize, and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt). Cutting ABS plastic emits hydrogen cyanide, which is unsafe at any concentration.

Thanks. That is a good rule for home use, for sure!

But this quote refers to cutting specifically, though etching would release the same things.

But in my last company manufacturing consumer devices, laser etching for date codes & other info was done on many parts, and I thought the were a with a blend of ABS… The marking done was very low power–just enough to produce a contrast color but not any depth to speak of.
And to check my sanity, I googled laser etching ABS components, and found this:

ABS plastic has the capabilities to be laser engraved or laser marked using a high contrast laser beam. ABS plastic engraving is ideal for adding numerous types of content to ABS plastic parts and accessories. Non-contact laser marking is very fast as well as abrasion, heat and acid resistant, and many different plastics can be marked or engraved with a laser. Even extremely small ABS plastic parts can benefit from the laser engrave ABS plastic process.

So seems it’s a NOoooo with CO2 laser, (like those referenced on the atxhackerpace and the GF) but OK with the special type of laser for marking!

Have you considered printing and cutting a piece of wood veneer and then peal and stick it onto the card reader?
I think it would it would look classy.


Hi, that’s what a few folks have done & posted sharing their versions. But just wondered about doing direct etching… But that’s off the table, so likely will be applying something over it, or incorporating it into a card holder/sign arrangement. Someday. :wink:

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