Laser Engraving

Laser engraving has been utilised for decades, as many businesses and industries rely on the technology for various applications. The process of engraving logos, text, barcodes, and other identifying marks is used on metal, wood, acrylic, glass, leather, cardboard, and more. Although the versatility of laser engraving is attractive for many, there are some drawbacks and disadvantages that should be carefully considered.

To help you make an informed decision for your particular needs, we’ll take a look at those considerations and common engraving applications. We will also discuss the characteristics of laser engraving versus other methods, such as laser marking, as well as the best machines for the job.

Metal engraving

Plastic engraving

Wood engraving

What is Laser Engraving?

Laser engraving is the process of cutting deep marks into metal, wood, plastic, and various substances by removing material through vaporisation. This process creates depth as it displaces the material being used.

Laser engraving is a popular technique used in manufacturing and other business applications for a number of reasons. For one, it allows for quick marking on a wide range of materials. In addition, there is a low initial cost for implementing laser engraving, whether it is needed for one item or thousands. Lastly, the ability to deeply mark engraved characters that do not fade makes engraving an attractive option for some.

However, there are numerous drawbacks to laser engraving that must be considered. These often steer users away and to different options, such as laser marking. For example, engraving does not work on rough and curved surfaces, which parts from many industries contain. Engraving is also not sufficient for use with small parts or when small characters and fine detailing are required.

Laser Engraving Systems

Laser engraving systems combine machines, software, and staff for various applications and within many industries. These systems are widely used and come in many configurations. In fact, some laser engraving systems, or laser marking systems, have over 1,000,000 configurations, allowing for precision marking for a myriad of projects.

For businesses, high-quality engraving systems and machines make it easy to customise things to their particular needs. These systems often make it easier to operate and learn. Some systems also allow for multiple laser processes to occur without needing more than one unit. For example, the machine may have the ability to handle multiple processes, such as engraving and laser marking.

Laser Engraving Applications

Laser engraving is an efficient, precise process that is used for a variety of manufacturing applications. One common use case is for product marking and identification. This includes serial numbers, barcodes, QR codes, and other identifying information. As a result, products can be tracked throughout the manufacturing process and supply chain.

Manufacturers also use laser engraving to add numbers to components and parts. This simplifies inventory management and ensures accurate assembly. For those who are looking to add logos, names, and other branding elements to products, laser engraving can enhance product recognition.

Various materials used for labeling, signage, and other purposes often get engraved with text and graphics. In the medical industry, medical instruments and devices are engraved with identification information. This ensures companies are compliant with regulatory standards.

Another use case for laser engraving is for automotive parts. Manufacturers mark engine components, chassis, transmissions, and many other parts that make up cars and trucks. This process aids in both quality control and helps prevent costly recalls.

Laser engraving is also helpful when it comes to tool and die-making. This process is used to create moulds, dies, and tooling with intricate designs and fine details. The precision of lasers ensures accuracy in the final products.

Lastly, electronic manufacturing commonly uses laser engraving for marking electronic components, circuit boards, and connectors. By doing so, a permanent and high-contrast mark provides lasting and consistent results.

Beyond these few examples, laser engraving is being used across industries for many useful purposes. Regardless of your particular manufacturing needs or application, choosing the right laser engraving machine has many considerations.

Laser Engraving Machines

Laser engraving machines combine software and laser beam technology to add desired markings to materials. This equipment is commonly used due to the low initial cost and ability to create your desired engraving quickly.

3-Axis Hybrid Laser Marker MD-X Series

The 3-Axis Hybrid Laser Marker MD-X Series combines the strengths of a conventional fibre laser with those of a YVO4 system. Fibre lasers are designed for long service life and high output power for high-speed marking and deep engraving applications. YVO4 lasers are designed for high quality, delicate marking and increased depth of focus for flexibility. Together, these lasers create the MD-X with high peak power and a short pulse laser.

Combining these two marking methods creates a laser that is powerful enough to meet stringent cycle time requirements but also robust enough to achieve quality engravings on any metal. Paired with KEYENCE's 3-Axis control, full field auto-focus, and automatic position adjustment, the MD-X Series is ideal for any metal engraving need.

3-Axis Fibre Laser Marker MD-F Series

The 3-Axis Fibre Laser Marker MD-F Series delivers extremely high output power in a compact and rugged design. Fibre lasers are designed for long service life and high output power, which excel at high-speed marking and deep engraving applications. The robust design of the MD-F leads to an IP-64 rating, ensuring that it can be installed and last in any environment.

The combination of the high output power and 3-Axis technology makes the MD-F Series exceedingly proficient when it comes to deep engraving. With a feature referred to as "Deep Dig", the MD-F can use its 3-Axis technology to stay focused on the engraving surface, even as it is reaching new depths.

Here is the common process for laser engraving machines:

  • A design is created and added to an engraving computer software program.
  • The item that is going to be engraved is placed inside the machine’s tray.
  • The machine is focused and calibrated to the desired parameters for the project.
  • Once started, the machine’s laser continually passes over the specified area and marks the surface.

FAQs about Laser Engraving

Why use laser engraving?

Laser is utilised in a variety of industries and applications to ensure tracking and traceability. An increased focus on tracking and traceability has been realised by manufacturing companies since the dawn of the information era. Laser engraving provides superior mark longevity, and repeatability compared to the alternative methods in the market.

What type of laser is best for engraving?

The best laser for engraving depends on the target material of interaction. For metals, a fibre laser is industry standard for high quality engraving. When considering plastic and resin components, CO2 and UV lasers enter the discussion. There are a lot of variables that contribute to a quality interaction between a laser and its target material. Free onsite testing provided by KEYENCE will help you identify the solution of best fit.

How does laser engraving differ from mechanical engraving?

Laser engraving provides superior reliability, speed, and precision in comparison to its mechanical engraving alternatives. Mechanical solutions are prone to tool wear and require consistent preventative maintenance to ensure reliable performance. Laser engraving solutions typically have a higher upfront cost, but once justified present lucrative ROI opportunities.

What are the different types of laser engravers available in the market?

There are a few different classifications when it comes to laser engravers. Gantry v.s Galvo refers to how the laser beam is presented to the intended target. Gantry lasers have a laser head with x and y movement, Galvo lasers utilise mirrors and a stationary head to redirect the beam to the desired location. Secondly, you'll need to consider the wavelength. Deep infrared (CO2) , infrared (Fibre), green, and ultra-violet (UV) lasers are industry standard. Finally, there is the pulse duration. Nanosecond lasers are the most common, but femto, and pico second lasers have started to enter the market.

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