Engraving Metal with a Laser
While cutting and engraving are two separate laser processes, they have many similarities, and so a single cutting laser setup can also be used for laser engraving metal and other materials too.
Laser metal engraving
In the article below we explore engraving with lasers in more depth, with a particular focus on the metal engraving using a laser.
How can a cutting laser be used for laser engraving?
A cutting laser allows the user total control when it comes to beam intensity, duration and heat output, meaning that it can be manipulated to work with different materials and for different processes.
Laser cutting vs laser engraving
While the cutting and engraving processes are similar, they do have important differences. First and foremost, laser cutting involves cutting into a material, whether to trim down its size or create shapes. Laser engraving metal on the other hand, often involves leaving a deep mark on a material, often used for applications such as barcodes on items.
The difference between the actual conducting of the physical processes themselves comes down to the laser lens. For the laser engraving process, you will find that the laser lens is shorter, which provides a finer and more precise spot size. Due to this, the quality of the engraving is increased.
Laser cutting, on the other hand, uses a longer laser lens, which is better for delivering a cut, especially on thicker metals and materials. It will not be uncommon to have to perform both cutting and engraving on a single object or item, for example cutting down car pieces and then engraving serial numbers onto them.
For this reason, it is useful to have a process that can easily be switched between these different functions. All of the different types of laser cutting are capable of doing this, as are all of our fiber lasers here at SPI Lasers.
Contrasting laser etching, laser marking and laser engraving
Laser etching, marking and engraving are all different applications of a fiber laser, explained these are:
- Laser mark – this leaves a mark at the surface of the metal, but does not actually penetrate
- Laser etching – leaves a light depth mark, which penetrates the surface but only by up to 0.001”. An etching could also be called a light engraving. Laser etching metal is a commonplace application and includes laser etching stainless steel as well as various other metals and
- Laser engraving – typically a deeper engraving, usually between 0.2mm and 1.5mm
What metals can be laser cut and engraved?
As mentioned previously, the total control that a laser metal engraver provides means that it can be adapted to work with various materials, as well as with various types of metal too. Below are just some of the metals that can be laser engraved using a fiber laser:
- Aluminium and aluminium alloys
- Mild or carbon steel
- Pewter (an alloy of tin)
- Stainless steel and
- Other types of steel, such as corten or galvanised steel
Laser cutting and engraving steel has always been a relatively easy process, but it’s not the same for the other metals. Aluminium is a reflective metal, which can cause problems for other types of laser-based cutting processes, such as gas laser cutting, due to flashback damage. A fiber laser used as a metal engraver has no problem with this.
Cutting and engraving brass and copper with lasers can also pose problems too as these are two very conductive metals. This means that they suck the heat out of the laser beam effectively rendering it useless. To handle this, you simply increase the beam intensity of your laser, although this does usually mean that you are more limited with the thickness of brass and copper that you can work with.
Some applications for cutting and engraving of metal with lasers
Using a fiber laser as a metal laser engraver opens up the ability to work with a wide range of materials and means that it is useful for multiple applications. Some of these are:
- Creating aesthetically pleasing art
- Altering aircraft wings to help improve aerodynamics
- Aiding the manufacture of automotive parts
- Cutting and engraving semiconductor chips and parts
- Helping to make life-saving medical devices safer
- Remote Cutting of Coated Battery Foils
- Precision cutting of stator plates and
- The engraving of reflective metals
Metal is used in almost every single industry around the world, and a fiber laser’s cutting ability to perform other functions such as laser engraving metal, make it one of the best processes available.
What else can a laser be used for?
A laser cutting and engraving machine can also be used to engrave other materials too, for example pewter, wood and plastics (although fiber lasers aren’t used for wood and plastics engraving). Alongside this, it can be used for other laser processes, such as laser drilling and laser marking.
This high level of versatility has brought the costs to industries down dramatically, while speeding up manufacturing processes and reducing time and material wastage. These benefits are applicable to almost every industry in the world, and is why we’ve seen lasers become a staple part of industries such as the semiconductor, electronics, aerospace and automotive (including e-mobility) sectors.
Contacting SPI Lasers
Invest in a laser cutting and engraving machine, when you buy a fiber laser from SPI. Gain access to other applications too, due to our laser’s diversity. If you would like to discuss your circumstances then contact us, we would be delighted to answer your questions. You can reach one of the team at SPI Lasers here or by calling us directly on +44(0)1489 779696. Subscribe for content updates by clicking https://www.spilasers.com/register-for-more-information.
Image credits: rafamiga
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