Laser engraving may be referred to as a specific kind of laser marking where the results produced are similar to that of the traditional methods of engraving. However, this does not involve any tool bits or inks contacting the surface. Instead, low-powered laser beams are moved across the target material at very slow speed. The material gets slightly discolored by the laser beam, creating permanent and high-contrast markings on the material without compromising or damaging its structural integrity. Most importantly, the application of marking has no impact on the material.
Laser engraving, on the other hand, creates cavities on the target material by using a high-powered laser beam that vaporizes its surface. The depth of these cavities tends to vary between one-fiftieth and one eighth of an inch. This engraving technique can be used for a wide range of materials including wood, plastic, stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and glass surfaces. It is particularly useful for the marking of machine or equipment parts that are expected to go through serious levels of wear and tear throughout their lifespan.
Laser etching is another similar application where the target material’s surface is melted using high-powered laser beams. This results in the expansion of the surface, leaving visible marks on it. The process is also applicable to a wide variety of materials and surfaces.
Working Principle of Laser Engraving:
Laser engraving, laser marking, and laser etching are somewhat similar applications that can be accomplished using industrial laser cutting machines. In terms of their properties and functions, these machines can vary significantly. A CO2 laser engraver machine can fit comfortably in a desk, and emit low-powered laser beams. On the other hand, there are high-powered fiber lasers that are used in industries for high-volume laser engraving and marking applications.
Most of the laser cutting machines comprise of the laser, its control system, and the surface for marking. Software programs are used by the operators to modify the laser cutter’s settings such as laser power output and the controller responsible for directing the laser across the surface of the material. Using these settings, the cutter application can be changed between engraving, etching, and marking.
It is mandatory that a graphics editing software is used to produce the image to be engraved on any particular material surface. These vector files can be produced by all well-known applications such as Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator, AutoCAD, Adobe Photoshop, etc. These files are perfectly suited for laser marking because of their capability to maintaining their proportions and clarity regardless of the size they are adjusted to.
Any desired image contained in a vector file can be uploaded to the software of the laser cutter and transformed into numerical data. This data can be utilized by the own software of the cutter to program the controller apparatus of the machine to produce the desired image with the help of a laser.
Benefits of Laser Engraving:
- One of the most important benefits of laser engraving is that it is a completely contactless process. This means that there is no physical contact between the laser beam and the material where it needs to be applied. Instead, the desired results are achieved by relying on heat. Compared to traditional methods, this is a big advantage as it eliminates the likelihood of abrasion damage.
- Laser engraving is considered to be more useful compared to laser marking because it functions over a wide range of depths.
- Can be used effectively on many different materials
- It is incredibly efficient in terms of performance.
- A safe and environment-friendly process that always focuses on quality.
- Suitable for a wide range of industrial applications.