Laser etching vs laser engraving is both processes that use lasers to create markings on an object. However, the two methods differ regarding the depth of the markings they make. Laser etching creates shallow markings and only goes a few micrometers into the surface of the material.
On the other hand, laser engraving creates markings that are much deeper and can go up to several millimeters into the surface of the object. In this article, Byboe will show you the difference between them.
What is Laser Etching?
Laser etching refers to a laser machine burning metal and creating deep marks. Laser etching uses a beam of laser energy that emits a lot of energy onto a tiny area.
Laser-etched designs have a raised appearance because the surface of the material melts and expands. The etched surface may appear black, white, or grey.
The material absorbs the energy released by the laser beam and turns it into heat once it hits the object’s surface. The material surface must absorb the correct amount of energy to melt the surface at a micro-level and cause it to expand during the laser etching process.
The increased temperature enhances the material’s malleability due to the conversion of heat into energy. In a matter of milliseconds, the heated material will begin to cool down. Surface changes can create permanent markings.
Permanent markings are usually created using etching, such as logos, serial numbers, and data matrix codes.
What Materials Can Be Laser Etched?
Laser etching is most popular with metals as the preferred material. Anodized aluminum and lead, magnesium, steels, stainless steels, and zinc are all metals that can be laser etched.
An etching machine is possible on all metallic surfaces, including bare, anodized, and plate. The etching Machine is also possible for non-metallic materials like glass, polymers, and ceramics.
This is a non-exhaustive list. Some materials might yield better results than others. It is recommended that you consult a laser etching specialist to determine if this material is suitable for your project.
Laser etching produces exact results: This process is ideal for designing with tiny details.
It is swift: This speedy etching process is excellent for items that need to be mass-produced or with short deadlines.
It can be used in a variety of applications, including metals, paper, and wood, as well as some acrylics.
It is effective for both thick and thin materials. This allows for greater material efficiency and flexibility in metal fabrication. For industrial applications, etching can identify large metal parts or inscribe artistic designs.
Laser etching is ideal for mass production. It produces long-lasting results quickly and efficiently. Industries often incorporate laser etching into large-scale production.
It is cost-effective because the laser required for etching uses less power. Therefore, running costs are lower.
Laser Marking/Engraving is more durable, but the laser etching process produces less stable results.
Only the fiber laser can achieve the best results. This restricts laser etching in smaller metal fabrication shops.
What is Laser Engraving?
Laser engraving involves using a laser beam to vaporize a material and create fumes that, in turn, are used to etch permanent and deep marks on an object.
The laser acts like a chisel and creates spots by removing layers of material. The laser engraving process is dependent on vaporization. The laser must focus its energy on a tiny area to generate heat.
Laser engraver allows for deep, permanent designs to be carved into the surface of the material. Laser engraving is the best laser marking method for metal workpieces susceptible to wear and other harsh surface treatments.
Laser Marking/Engraving on stainless steel is one of the most popular uses of this technology. However, other steel and aluminum components can also be engraved using laser engraving.
2D codes can also be laser engraved, maintaining high readability after post laser engraving process treatment such as e-coating or shot blasting.
Traditional Laser Marking/Engraving can be modified to include color compounds and engraving layered materials for a 2-tone effect.
What Materials Can Be Laser Engraved?
Laser engraving is most common on metals, especially stainless steel. However, a coating or pigment must first be applied before engraving. Laser engraving can also be done on other metals like brass and titanium.
Other than metals, tiles, fiberglass, wood, and paper can also be laser-engraved. These materials require various equipment, so many metal fabrication shops will specialize in one particular material.
If you want to know more about these Laser engraves machines, let’s check out our compile right now:
The design of engravings can be felt by touching the surface.
Repeated passes can be used to create deep engraving and 3D designs.
Designs are more durable than designs that have been reworked.
The laser engraving process is faster and more efficient than manual engraving. This is especially true for mass-produced components.
Limitation of applications: While laser engraving is most commonly used for stainless steel, it can also etch plastic and some types of wood.
the laser marking process is less efficient than etching in terms of materials efficiency. Vaporization means that laser engraving uses fewer resources at scale.
It takes longer to complete and requires more energy.
For engraving metals such as stainless steel, laser technology with a higher intensity and longer duration is required.
What is the Difference Between Laser Etching and Engraving?
Etching Vs Engraving Laser: Material Effect
Understanding the workings of the laser process and its effects on your materials, depending on how you use them, is the first step in understanding the differences between laser engraving and etching. Each process has its unique effects on the material it is applied to.
The laser marking process creates a cone-shaped indentation on the material’s surface. Laser etching creates a high-contrast marking on the material’s surface by vaporizing only the top layer.
Laser marking can create high-contrast markings on the surface of materials without destroying the fabric using a technique called discoloration.
Engraving Vs Laser Etching: Cut Depth
It’s easy to distinguish between laser engraving, laser marking, and laser etching work by looking under a microscope. Each laser method corresponds to a different cut depth.
the laser marking process is more efficient than laser etching or laser marking because it removes more material. Laser engraving can create cone-shaped indentations that can be enlarged by repeating the laser engraving process.
Laser engraving machines are more adept at cutting through soft materials like graphite than stainless steel. The maximum depth of engraving depends on the fabric.
Metals have a maximum engraving depth of 0.020 inches, while soft materials can reach 0.125 inches or 1/8 inches.
Laser etching can make much more minor cuts in material because the laser evaporates the material’s surface layer. Laser etchings are usually less than 0.001 inches or one-thousandths of an inch deep.
The material at the surface may melt and expand, which results in a raised etching instead of an indentation. Laser marking heats the material, oxidizes sub-surface material, and changes the material’s color. The cut depth is virtually zero because the surface is not affected.
Laser Engraving Vs Etching: Laser Power
How can markers and engravers achieve different cutting depths and effects with the same laser machines, and how do they know? Special software allows users to adjust the settings of laser engraving machines.
You can customize everything from the speed at which the laser moves to how many passes it makes on the material. Laser experts can change the power setting to switch between laser engraving, marking, and etching.
Laser engraving can make the most intricate cuts and vaporize any material in its path. Laser engraving is done with a high-heat laser.
Engravers will usually dial up their laser’s power to achieve the best results when engraving steel or aluminum.
the laser creates high heat to melt the surface of the material, creating a slightly raised pattern.
Laser marking can be achieved by slowly moving a low-powered laser beam across the surface of the material. This discolors the fabric and leaves the desired mark.
Low-powered lasers produce enough heat to turn the material black and oxidize it under the surface. This creates distinct, high-contrast prints that are easy to recognize.
Laser Etching Vs Engraving: Durability
You want your laser markings to last a long time, no matter if you are creating art for sale or attaching traceability marking to a plane propeller or life-saving medical device. This is just one reason you need to select a laser marking method that suits your purpose.
Laser engraving is a great way to mark parts or items that will be exposed to high wear. Laser engraving can cause jewelry to fade quickly because it is only 0.001 inches deep.
Laser engraving’s deeper cuts make it possible to create long-lasting markings on many materials. Safety-critical parts are not recommended for laser engraving. The engraving process can cause structural damage to the region.
Laser-etched markings are less durable and best suited for surfaces likely to experience low wear.
Laser marking is the most popular method for marking traceability on aerospace and medical parts. Laser marking scratches the surface of the material. It does not melt or vaporize any material. This preserves safety and ensures that the details are safe.
Laser Engraving Vs Laser Etching: Versatility
Laser engraving, etching, and marking can all be used with a wide variety of materials and have many applications.
Laser engraving can be applied to almost any material you choose, metals, plastics and leather, acrylic, glass, and soft materials such as paper. Laser etching alters the surface of the material and enhances the contract.
Laser etching is best used with bare or aluminum, plated metals, and stainless steel, as well as polymers, ceramics, and other polymers.
Laser marking can be used in many industries to create permanent markings that don’t harm materials. Laser marking can be used to generate UID codes and QR codes, and logos for many products.
Which Is More Expensive?
Laser engraving generally costs more. Laser engraving is more expensive because it takes more time and uses more technology. However, there will be cost differences depending on these factors.
Material: It is more difficult to etch or engrave more complex materials, which increases their cost.
Dimensions and depth of design/character: The size and depth of a character or design will determine how complex the process is.
The cost of a mark or procedure that is more complicated will be higher.
Production volume: This will affect both the price and the importance of orders.
Which is Best for Metal?
There is no one best method for laser marking metals. The details of each project will determine the best option. Laser engraving and laser etching are used to keep metal surfaces and objects. However, the process may vary depending on the metal.
Because of its simplicity, speed, and precision, laser etching can be used on many materials. Aluminum, aluminum, lead, magnesium, and steel are the most commonly etched metals.
Laser engraving can also be used for metal surfaces. Laser engraving is standard for aluminum, brass, and stainless steel.
What Are They Used For?
Both Etching and laser engraving can be used for similar purposes. They are suitable for various uses, from artistic work to industrial or manufacturing needs.
Which method is best depends on the specifications of your project and the wear that the engraved parts will experience.
Etching and engraving are mainly used in the personalization or manufacturing sphere for artistic and commercial purposes. These include metal cards holders, office nameplates, wedding rings, and other jewelry.
Etching and engraving have many applications in heavy industries like aerospace, automotive, and transport. They are used to mark thick metal parts with codes or other details.
Laser etching can be used in various environments, but it is durable and long-lasting. This makes etching a cost-effective method to mark metal parts, especially on a large scale.
Laser engraving is more efficient but also takes up more power. It is best for objects subject to wear and tear or other post-processings. Laser engraving is used frequently in the automotive, energy, defense, and transportation industries.
Etching and laser engraving are both types of laser cutting, but they produce different results. Laser etching is a process that uses a laser to remove material from the surface of an object, while laser engraving is a process that uses a laser to create a raised surface of the material. We hope that our comparison was helpful for you.