Differences Between Laser Processes

Differences Between Laser Processes: laser engraving, etching & marking

Several industries, such as automobile, aerospace, and construction companies, rely on lasers for accurate cuts and designs. The food and drugs administration has passed a rule for every distributor to include a unique device identifier on medical devices. This has further increased the need for laser processes even in the health sector.  

Lately, there needs to be some clarification between the different laser processes due to the similarity in function. Although there are similarities, there is also a difference between each process. People now find the need to distinguish them because even though they are all a marking process, they serve different purposes and work perfectly on other materials. 

The difference between these laser processes is mostly seen in the marks’ depth. While laser engraving penetrates deeply with a greater wavelength, laser etching does not penetrate deeply. We will map out each process’s differences, benefits, disadvantages, and more. This is to ensure you have a smooth ride on your next project. Without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

What is laser marking?

Laser marking is a broad umbrella term that covers the process of marking various materials permanently. It includes various types, including etching and engraving, which we will give details on later in this article. This process involves using laser beams to alter a specified area on the surface of a material. 

Materials that undergo laser marking

The various types of laser marking can give fine and permanent markings to different materials, such as:

  • Aluminium
  • Steel
  • Metal
  • Plastic
  • Glass
  • Paper
  • Wood

Types of laser marking

  1. Laser engraving
  2. Laser etching
  3. Annealing
  4. Discolouration
  5. Carbon migration

Application of laser marking

Laser marking can be used to create:
  • Logos
  • QR codes
  • Barcodes

What is laser engraving?

Laser engraving is the most commonly used type of laser marking as it can give accurate marks and designs to various materials such as plastics, wood, metals, etc.

This is a form of laser marking that requires vapour to create designs on materials. Solid is turned to gas to engrave designs here (vapourization). It simply involves adjusting a laser at a required power level, placing it on the surface of a material, and then leaving it for the required time (usually very fast) to vapourize the material. In this process, a portion of the material is removed.

Advantages of laser engraving

Some of the benefits of using a laser engraver to design materials include the following;

Durability

With a depth of about 500 microns, the markings done by the process of engraving are usually permanent. Hence, these designs can last for a long time without wearing off. 

Speed

This process occurs in minutes. So, a lot can be done within a short period. And, of course, with great accuracy too.

Environmentally friendly

With its speed and accuracy, one thinks it will involve a lot of noise. But no, the process is void of noise. Hence, there is no damage or noise pollution involved in this process. 

Disadvantages

The downside to this marking process is usually the cost. Compared to other marking processes, its purchase cost is usually on the high side. Also, the cost of maintenance is expensive.

What Is Laser Engraving

What is laser etching?

This is a form of laser marking that uses heat to melt the surface of a material, thereby creating designs. Solid is turned into the liquid to create designs here (melting).

This process involves less energy than engraving. Hence, it has the benefit of more speed. Also, the depth of laser etching is usually lower than engraving.

Advantages of laser etching

It is cost-effective

Since it requires less energy, it doesn’t require so much to operate.

It can be used on various materials.

Laser etching can be used on metals and non-metals, paper, wood, etc.

Disadvantages of laser etching

The downside to this is due to the depth of the markings. Because they are not cut in-depth, the markings aren’t permanent. And hence, are not considered durable.

Types of Laser machines

The three major types of laser machines used for markings and designing are,

  1. Fibre laser: This is the only type of laser that can carry out laser etching. They also have the highest cost of purchase but also the least maintenance cost. They are majorly used for metals at a wavelength of 1.064 micrometres. 
  2. Co2 laser: Works pretty well with non-metals. It operates with a mixture of gases at a wavelength of 1.06 micrometres. 
  3. UV laser marking machine

Organisations that require laser engraving, etching, and marking

  • Automobile industries
  • Aerospace
  • Hospitals
  • Military

Which is the best option for you?

This is generally dependent on the type of project you are embarking on. An expert is in the right position to understand your needs and give you the most suitable option. Notwithstanding, In picking an option for any project, the amount of depth needed and the material must be considered.

We hope you found this helpful and that the difference between laser engraving, etching, and marking is now clear. Laser engraving processes all work to create designs and markings on several types of materials. But they differ in depth and the variety of materials they work on. If you have any more questions, do not hesitate to contact us at DDK engineering. We are here to help.

Check out our previous article on A Quick Guide to Laser Engraving Ideas. Please remember to like, share, and subscribe so we can always bring you helpful tips like this. Thanks!

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