Last Updated on April 10, 2021 by Jason
Once seen as a tool for industrial-based projects, laser engravers are now serving small businesses, DIY hobbyists, and ambitious crafters. With the right laser engraving machine and a lot of practice, you can master the art of laser engraving different materials.
Whether you want to add more versatility to your DIY projects or need an affordable idea to start your small business, this blog is just for you.
If you’re interested in starting your laser engraving journey, you might ask yourself, “Well, how does laser engraving work?” We’ll answer this fundamental question and explore the benefits of laser engraving, different laser methods, and the go-to machines for your engraving needs.
How Does it Work?
A laser beam from a laser-engraving machine serves as a chisel to make marks or cuts as it removes layers from a material’s surface. The laser hits specified areas with intense energy levels to generate the heat required to vaporize the material’s surface into fumes.
What Is The Difference Between Laser Engraving, Etching, and Marking?
We often use these terms interchangeably. But, there are several differences between laser etching, laser marking, and laser engraving. Let’s find out how they are different from each other.
Laser Engraving: When the laser beam physically removes a portion of the surface area. Laser engraving works best on materials such as leather and wood. A CO2 laser is the best type of laser for engraving these materials.
Laser marking: When the laser beam interacts with a material’s surface to slightly alter its appearance or properties. A CO2 laser can mark organic materials like wood, textiles, or cardboard. However, if you want to mark metals or hard plastics, a fiber laser machine is the best choice.
Laser Etching: The process in which the laser beam heats a material, resulting in melting of the material’s surface. Laser etching is the best option for working on glass and acrylic objects, and using a CO2 laser will guarantee excellent performance.
Each technique has specific attributes that make it perfect for hobbyists, small businesses, and industrial projects, making it a versatile machine for all users.
Benefits of Laser Engraving
One of the best advantages of laser engraving is that the process involves no contact. That means the laser beam doesn’t touch the material physically but uses heat to accomplish results.
That makes laser engraving more efficient than conventional engraving methods because there is no abrasion damage to the surface. The laser beam vaporizes the targeted area only and does not touch the surrounding area.
Laser engraving replaces conventional methods that relied on using harmful chemicals. Wearing laser safety eyewear will protect your eyes from any harmful effects and risks that lasers can pose.
The best part is that you can use laser systems in conjunction with computers, which means you can operate them for a distance. Using computers and eye protection is essential for fiber laser machines, which can be harmful to the user without necessary precaution.
Laser engravers are capable of working on a variety of materials. Hence, DIY hobbyists and small businesses can significantly benefit from this versatility.
You can engrave different materials, including plastic, metals, glass, ceramic, and leather. Changing the laser speed settings can also deliver different results. For instance, lower engraving speeds allow prolonged laser beam exposure, making them better for cutting or deeper engravings.
Precision and Accuracy
Whether you want to create personalized engravings or intricate patterns, you will never have to compromise on the engraving quality if you have an innovative laser-engraving machine. Since the laser beam works only on the targeted surface area, you get 100% accuracy and precision.
Used Across Multiple Industries
Thanks to its versatility and precision, the process is now popular around the world. Hundreds of industries utilize laser engraving to create personalized gifts, corporate souvenirs, customized jewelry, etc. Small businesses also rely on these efficient machines to label automotive parts, surgical tools and create nameplates.
What are the Different Types of Laser Machines?
Here are the two most commonly used laser engraving machines.
CO2 Laser Engraving Machines
These lasers are based on an electrically stimulated carbon dioxide mixture. Generally, they have a wavelength of 10.6 micrometers and are best for working on most types of plastics and non-metallic materials such as wood, leather, glass, and acrylic. High-tech CO2 lasers are widely used in the laser engraving industry.
Here are a few of the many benefits of using CO2 laser engraving machines.
- CO2 laser engravers guarantee ultimate accuracy and precision when working on wood, leather, plywood, thin textiles, and paper.
- If you are engraving intricate or multi-faceted designs, choosing a CO2 laser engraver is a better option.
- CO2 laser engraving machines are environmentally friendly and low-maintenance.
- You get a high yield and faster results, without any pollution.
Fiber Laser Marking Machines
Fiber laser markers produce a laser beam through the so-called seed laser, amplifying it in specially engineered glass fibers. These laser-engraving machines use a minimal focal diameter, thanks to a wavelength of 1.064 micrometers. The outcome is a high-intensity laser beam that is much higher than that of CO2 lasers.
Fiber laser engravers work great for engraving metals and high-contrast plastic markings. Investing in a good-quality fiber laser engraving machine means you have a low-maintenance engraver capable of delivering at least 25,000 laser hours.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Laser Engraver
Whenever you are buying a laser engraving machine to tailor to your engraving needs, here are some of the factors that you must consider.
Every laser-engraving machine has certain limits in terms of the size of the patterns or designs users want to engrave on a given surface. Don’t forget to check the engraver’s specifications, such as laser wattage, workbed size (or engraving area), maximum cutting thicknesses, etc. Some larger machines even have pass-through doors for engraving oversized materials.
When buying a high-quality laser engraver, remember to look for valuable features to make laser engraving more convenient. Some helpful features to consider are:
- Air Assist: Some machines come with in-built air assist, improving efficiency and increasing safety during application.
- Control Panels: Look for digital displays with convenient push-button controls and intuitive operation interfaces.
- Pass-Through Doors: Users can work on bulky and longer materials using the pass-through doors.
- Connectivity: Most machines offer USB connectivity, but some products also connect via a 2.4GHz wireless interface or Bluetooth.
While protective eyewear can prevent you from any harmful effects, buying a safe-to-use laser engraver is also essential. Check for safety certifications like FDA, CE, UL, IEC, etc.
The machine you buy must come with a reliable warranty for at least one year. You need to choose products with good warranty terms, so you have dependable after-sales protection.
Thanks to the internet, buying a laser engraving machine is now easier than ever. But that also means there are many retailers online that sell fake or cheap products.
If you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money on a cheap laser machine, always buy it from a reputed and trusted online store. You can learn more about trusted brands and products from other users through social media groups such as Facebook and online forums.
We hope that we answered the universal question of, “How does laser engraving work?” Thanks to the many benefits of laser engravers, DIY hobbyists, crafters, and small businesses are already investing in their laser engraving machines.
You can explore a wide range of high-performance laser engraving machines through companies like OMTech. They are a one-stop solution for all your engraving needs. You can also find a wide range of devices, as well as software and accessories for high-quality engraving.
If you are new to the laser-engraving world, get in touch with OMTech, as they offer friendly technical support and training resources.