How Fiber Laser Engraving Works
Laser engraving is one of many laser-based processes but is undoubtedly one of the most useful. It is used to leave a clear and visible engraving on a material.
There are many reasons that one may use this process, perhaps for aesthetic reasons by engraving jewellery, or it may be for more industrial reasons, such as for creating barcodes or tracking labels.
Regardless of the reason for the process, the aim remains the same; to create a permanent mark that can be easily seen by either a human or a machine. For this reason, laser engraving has become one of the most widely used processes for achieving this aim. Below, we have explained more on how laser engraving works.
What is the process?
As we touched on above, laser engraving is the process of leaving a clear and readable engraving in a material. This is done by removing a section of a material using the beam, leaving the engraved mark in its place.
It can be used on many materials, such as ceramic, plastic and rubber. The most common material that you’ll find being laser engraved is metal, where a wide range of types can be worked with, such as brass, steel, pewter and aluminium. The depth of the engraving that is left can vary, thanks to the control that is offered to users by modern laser setups.
What is the difference between engraving and marking?
You may often find that engraving with lasers is talked about in relation to laser marking, and the two processes are similar in many ways. They essentially work in the same way, with the difference being that laser marking aims to leave a mark at the surface level without removing any of the material. Whereas, laser engraving equipment leaves this mark below the surface layer by removing material. Therefore, engraving is deeper than marking.
It is a process that is used across various industries, including the semi-conductor, aerospace, automotive (including e-mobility), medical and electronics industry, for a range of applications and uses. For example, it is used to create serial numbers, part numbers, VINs in cars, logos, dies, moulds, stamps or for personalisation reasons, such as with jewellery.
How does it work?
Now that you’ve gained a bit more understanding of the process and how it’s used, we want to look more specifically at how it works. Several types of laser can be used for this process, so we will be talking about laser engraving equipment in general. We have covered more information on fiber lasers specifically, the type that we manufacture, below.
At the beginning of the process, you first decide the kind of design or engraving that you wish to create. You then create this design using a CAD graphic programme on a computer, which is linked to the laser system you are using.
By inputting commands into the computer, the system will begin to engrave the material that you are working with based on your CAD design. It will work over your material row by row, removing only the layers where the laser is aimed at the material. Various levels of depth can be engraved, one laser engraver machine setup can engrave stainless steel to as thin as 0.2mm, or as deep as 1.5mm.
As it is a non-contact process this is safer for the laser operative and also has the benefit that none of the rest of the surrounding area of the material is affected. This means traditional processes such as cleaning are not required as there are no “rough edges” following the laser application.
Melting and vapourising of the material
The laser beam, full of energy and heat, will melt and vaporise the area that it is being aimed at. It will leave no wear and tear damage around the rest of the material, and it is highly environmentally friendly as the little waste that is left behind isn’t harmful.
Engraving mark displays
A clearly noticed contrast will be left behind, as the colour beneath appears with multi-layered material. The more power that you use with your laser, the deeper the engraving that will be left behind. It’s a quick and efficient process, as the material is vaporised with each pulse.
What are the similarities with laser etching, marking and ablation?
As with laser marking, engraving also has many similarities to laser etching and ablation too which we thought would be important to note. The main difference between the processes is how much of the material is removed.
Marking, as we have already examined, is the marking at surface layer, and no material is removed. Etching does remove some of the material, but it’ll be 0.001” or less. Laser ablation is extremely similar to laser-based engraving, except it is a process that is used to remove a material from a substrate. For example, removing paint, rust, dirt, grime, grease, etc. from the surface of a material.
The depths that can be achieved can vary depending on the needs of the user.
What are the benefits of laser engraving?
There are many benefits lasers deliver to engraving over other more traditional engraving methods. Firstly, it is a much quicker and more efficient process and leaves a more legible engraving. It reduces the risk of material deformity too.
It is a more cost-effective approach, can work with a range of materials, offers its users more font options, and is an environmentally friendly process too. Additionally, the engraving can be completed on one laser engraving machine and leaves a burr free finish, so there is no need for a follow-up cleaning/ablation procedure. It is easy to see why it has become such a popular process in so many industries around the world!
How SPI Lasers can help with this process
As we mentioned earlier, there is more than one type of laser that can complete this process. Here at SPI Lasers, we only manufacture fiber lasers, which we believe offer the most advantages to their users.
Our most popular product used as a laser engraver machine is the redENERGY® G4 Pulsed Fiber Laser, which offers further advantages for control and cost-effectiveness. It is a powerful, versatile fiber laser built with the latest innovative technology. This includes ‘Fit & Forget’ technology, which results in no maintenance for the user.
Engraving is an important laser process, it’s crucial that you have equipment that can produce the high-quality results required. That’s why our fiber lasers are often the preferred choice for many industries.
Related content for additional reading
We strongly recommend reading the additional engraving content from SPI Lasers:
Contacting SPI Lasers
If you have any questions about the laser engraving machine process or our fiber lasers in more detail, please get in contact with us here. To receive regular updates from SPI Lasers, click here.
REGISTER FOR UPDATES
If you enjoyed reading this article, why not register for future articles?