Engraving Metal with a Laser
While laser cutting and laser engraving are two separate laser processes, they have many similarities, and so a single cutting laser setup can also be used to laser engrave materials too.
In the article below we explore laser engraving in more depth, with a particular focus on the engraving of metal 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.
While the laser cutting and laser 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, on the other hand, concerns leaving a deep mark on a material, often used for things 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 laser cutting and laser 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.
What metals can be laser cut and engraved?
As mentioned previously, the total control that a cutting laser 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
- Stainless steel
- 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 cutting process, such as gas laser cutting, due to flashback damage. A fiber laser has no problem with this.
Laser cutting and engraving brass and copper 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 the laser cutting and laser engraving of metal
The flexibility of a fiber laser and its ability to work with such a wide range of materials 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
Metal is used in almost every single industry around the world, and a fiber laser’s cutting ability to perform other functions such as engraving, make it one of the best processes at working with metal.
What else can a laser be used for?
A cutting laser 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 sectors.
Contacting SPI Lasers
If you think that a fiber laser, capable of also performing other laser processes too, may be suitable for your industry or application, then we would be happy to discuss this further with you and answer your questions. You can reach one of the team at SPI Lasers here.
Image credits: rafamiga
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