Laser engraving is the process of using laser beams to create permanent markings on various objects or materials. The beam acts like a chisel, and it creates these deep, permanent marks by vaporizing the exposed surface. The laser beams use high levels of energy to produce the adequate heat required to vaporize the localized, target areas.
This post explains everything about laser engraving, including how it works and how to choose the ideal laser engraving machine for your projects.
Laser Engraving vs. Laser Etching – Is There a Difference?
Laser engraving and laser etching are similar permanent marking solutions. The only major difference between these two processes is the depth of the markings. Laser engraving creates deeper marks without melting the surface.
Here are a few factors that you need to consider when choosing between laser engraving and laser etching.
The essence of using a laser marking machine is to create identifiers that are legible even under harsh conditions. Laser engraving is preferred to laser etching as it can engrave 2D codes that remain highly readable even after the material undergoes various surface treatments like e-coating, shot blasting, and heat treatments.
The marking speed is an important factor to consider especially when handling large-scale projects. A fast laser marking machine will prevent downtime and avert production bottlenecks. Laser etching is the most preferred technology in terms of marking speed since it is the fastest and most efficient laser marking technology.
Laser engraving works with a limited range of materials, including steel aluminum and anodized aluminum while laser etching is ideal for nearly all types of materials like steel, lead, aluminum, zinc, magnesium, and anodized aluminum. Many experts recommend laser engraving for materials that will be exposed to extreme wear or subjected to various surface treatments.
How Laser Engraving Sublimates Materials
Laser engraving vaporizes the surface of the material from solid to gas, resulting in deep cavities in the localized area. The process uses extreme heat to sublimate the material surface from solid to gas without changing into liquid within milliseconds.
The vaporization temperature depends on the type of material being engraved as highlighted below:
Once the vaporization temperature is reached, the material hit by the laser beams will turn into fumes without ever changing into liquid. For this reason, you should make sure that the laser engraver that you buy comes equipped with a fume extraction system for added safety. The engraver machine should also consist of an air knife to protect the laser’s lens from damage.
How to Engrave High-Contrast Marks?
Laser engraving always produces darker, permanent marks given that light is trapped inside the cavities. The crevices can go up to 0.5mm deep hence their dark appearance. Here are two different ways you can create high-contrast marks using a laser engraving machine.
The first method involves using a pale, bare material to create high contrast marks. The material must have a pale color for the marks to become legible since this method is usually faster.
The second method involves creating black and white marks for higher contrasts. The method is a bit longer but it produces high-quality contrasts. Besides, it uses both laser engraving and laser etching techniques to create the black and white marks respectively.
Finding a Laser Engraving Machine
Finding a suitable custom laser engraving machine does not have to be hard as long as you understand how it works and you have the right information with you.
Whether you are looking for an automated or semi-automated laser engraver or you need custom laser solutions, you can always consult a laser expert for guidance.