Engraving With Today’s Lasers

Last Updated: June 8, 2020

Engraving adds something special to a product or gift that almost nothing else can accomplish; a personal touch. It’s not the same as laser marking, although the two are similar. Laser marking or etching must be done using a machine while engraving can be done with hand tools or machines.

Laser beams are tiny and focused. They superheat a point on a substrate removing a part of the surface to create a permanent engraving. Early laser engravers were dangerous to the operator and needed specific safety barriers to offer protection. Today’s machines have become so advanced that it is nearly impossible to direct the beam anywhere else than where the operator intends it to go, making today’s machines both versatile and safe to use.


Industry developments

Laser engraving is used in many industries. The simplest use is to etch a company name or logo onto consumer products or creating a watermark to appear on documents. As their use gained popularity, design changes began to be made to make laser engravers more proficient and easier to handle.

A laser engraver is a complex device using a dynamic autofocusing system similar to those used in cameras to allow the machine to calculate the exact depth needed on a particular substrate and allow the machine to engrave it precisely as intended.


The materials

Laser engraving machines can be used on a number of different types of materials. These include the following:


Natural products

Wood is the most common natural product used today for laser etching. It is naturally soft and can be easily engraved resulting in an attractive burnt surface that can be the perfect gift. Hardwoods are the best candidate for laser etching although softwoods can also provide a nice result if the user is careful not to set the wood ablaze.

Plastics are also excellent candidates for laser engraving. Acrylic plastic items can be easily engraved; however some plastic formulations will melt during the process creating an undesirable fuzzy image.

Metals were originally difficult to engrave well with early lasers but the process has become refined over the years and today nearly all metals can be engraved successfully. Anodized Aluminum can be an excellent metal for the laser engraving process.

Glass and stone are more difficult to engrave with a laser but good results can be produced if the machine is set up properly.
Laser marking has become a much cheaper alternative to engraving than more traditional methods. The highly focused laser beam provides a higher definition and can be done faster than ever before, and having the process controlled by a state-of-the-art computer program makes it comparatively easy to successfully engrave almost any item possible today.

Today, laser engraving can add a personal touch that would have been almost impossible to achieve as recently as a half-century ago, and at a considerably lower cost and user effort. Today’s laser etching machines are safe and practical to use, making them the perfect choice for today’s resourceful engravers.

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