Laser marking, laser etching, and laser engraving are all methods of marking the surface of metals, ceramics, and plastics for identification or logo purposes. Each has its applications and materials they work on.
So, which one do you need?
That is a common question in the industry. So, let’s take a look at each process and talk about their differences, then take a look at the reasons why you’d pick each one. Read on for the basics of laser marking, engraving, and etching!
Laser marking metal is the process of moving a low-powered laser beam over the surface of the material, creating high-contrast markings. In this case, the laser causes oxidation under the material’s surface, turning it black, but also leaving the surface intact. Laser marking is the least common of the three methods, however, it is a popular method for the medical industry for its stainless steel and titanium parts.
Laser marking machines can be used on other materials besides stainless steel or titanium. It can be used on plastics or ceramics as well. Laser marking is well-suited for bar codes, UID codes, or any type of identification mark.
In laser engraving, the laser beam vaporizes the surface of the material, leaving a cavity that forms an image at eye level. Laser engraving is fast, each pulse of the beam vaporizes the material. You can form deeper cavities by making several passes by the laser.
Laser engraving is the most common of the three used to customize or personalize an item. It is also used for engraving serial numbers and logos. Laser engraving machines can be used on most metals, plastic, wood, leather, and glass surfaces.
Laser etching happens when the beam melts the surface of the material. The melted material then expands, creating a raised mark. The resultant mark is high-contrast for easy visibility and works well for thin materials like jewelry.
Laser etching can be used on bare, anodized, and plated metal, as well as polymers and ceramics. The process changes the surface of the metal’s reflectivity, which helps the marks become high-contrast. There is very little depth to laser etching.
Which Should You Choose?
When choosing which method to use, it depends on what your needs are. The different methods work better with certain materials and work best for certain jobs.
You should choose laser etching if you’re working with any metal except stainless steel. You need the process to be fast and cost-effective. If you want a lower-power laser.
You should choose laser engraving if you are working with steel or aluminum. You want your marks to last longer. You want laser engraving if you work with more than just metals.
You want laser marking when structural integrity is important. Marking is ideal for identification marks, especially in the medical industry. It is not good for harsh or high-wear environments.
Choosing The Best
Laser marking, laser etching, and laser engraving all have the applications. You should choose based upon your specific needs for your business.
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