Laser engraving is the practice of using lasers to engrave an object. On the other hand, laser marking is a broader category of methods that leaves marks on an object, especially designs. Also, it includes changes in color due to chemical/molecular alterations, ablation, melting, foaming, charring, etc. To clear it here, laser engraving does not use inks. Also, it does not use any kind of tools that contact the engraving surface or wear out.
Laser engraving technology gives it an advantage over other marking or engraving technologies. In traditional engraving techniques, the engraving heads need to e replaced regularly. The hobby of laser engraving is due to the increased demand in the crafting community.
Your next hobby could be laser engraving. It has risen due to the growing demand among the craft community. You can have a CO2 laser engraver to start your laser engraving projects with materials of your choice. With the advancement in technology, it has been easier for hobbyists to adopt laser engraving. The machines used in laser engraving are not affordable and portable.
Laser Engraving Techniques
The marking or engraving technique of the laser machine includes the X-Y table, the cylindrical technique, and the galvo mirror technique.
The X-Y table
The most common technique in laser engraving is the X-Y table. Most of the models have a stationary surface and the laser optics move around in the X and Y directions. It draws vectors on the surface. Some other models are having a variation where the laser is stationary and the surface moves. In another case, the surface moves on X-axis, and the laser moves on the Y-axis, and vice versa. This is known as vector mode.
Cylindrical Laser Marking
This technique concerns cylindrical parts such as pipes or the flat parts are mounted around a cylinder. In this technique, the laser passes through a thin helix, usually over a rotating cylinder where the laser goes on/off producing the desired image.
In the third method, the laser and the workpiece are fixed. A reflective mechanism is used through galvo mirrors. They move the laser beam across the surface. This technique allows the laser engravers to work in vector or raster mode.
Laser Engraving Machines
A laser engraving machine consists of three main parts: a laser, a controller, and a surface. A laser is a drawing tool. The beam emitting from the head allows you to control the draw patterns on the surface. The controller determines the speed of movement, intensity, direction, and propagation of the laser beam towards the surface. The surface is chosen to match the material type on which the laser engraving will be done.
Correct Laser Marking Speed
Before you opt for a laser engraving hobby, you should understand the laser marking speed. If you already know about it, then it will help you to decide between buying a laser engraving machine right for your projects.
Moving or Stationary Marking Surfaces
If you need a machine to be included in a processing line for continuous part processing, the different machines can provide you with moving part marking at a predetermined speed. These machines offer you a high process efficiency.
Due to the different properties of laser power and wavelengths, the different systems will provide you different results. It can depend on the speed at which laser engraving is produced. If you opt for high-speed production lines, then they will consume a high-power marker. But you will get an effective mark on all the parts in the process.
Material To Be Marked
Laser engravers work on a wide variety of surfaces. The market you use will depend on the marked materials you will be working on. For example, fiber lasers are great on metals, whereas, CO2 lasers are great on non-metals.
Laser engraving machines are sensitive to working environments. They have a high propensity for shock, dust, and vibration. The rugged engraving machines can withstand these environmental conditions.
As above-mentioned, the speed of the laser engraving machines can vary. It can be slow or high speed. If you are having a slow-speed laser engraving machine, then it will not perform well under a heavy workload. For example, when engraving metals, it might be more cost-effective in the long run to use fiber lasers than CO2 lasers.
Types Of Laser Engraving Machines
Fiber laser engraving technology has grown in recent times to become one of the most sought-after direct part marking technologies in the world. The power levels of the fiber laser can range from 20 to 50 watts. Hence, it makes the powerful laser engraving machine in the market.
These machines are ideal for deep engraving or etching. It gives the best results on hard metals. Also, where the high-power systems with a smaller dot size are required to achieve high resolution. For small component batch laser engraving or very thin metal cutting applications, the high beam quality and small spot sizes with larger lenses makes it the perfect fit
Green laser engraving machines are designed to mark the highly reflective materials. They work on sensitive substrates such as silicon wafers. Hence, it provides perfect handling and high precision. They operate in the near IR visible green light spectrum such as 532nm and the power ranges from 5 to 10 watts.
The green laser engraving machine is ideal for printed circuit boards, flexible plastics, integrated circuit chips. Also, it is great for marking solar cells composed of various materials.
Ultraviolet (UV) represents a band of the electromagnetic spectrum with a wavelength of 10nm to 400nm. They are longer than X-rays but shorter than visible light. The long-wavelength ultraviolet radiation is not considered ionizing radiation because its photons are not having the energy to ionize the atoms. However, it causes a chemical reaction to make the substances glow.
UV laser engraving machines are a manifestation of the technology. They are designed on the 366 UV laser wavelength. Hence, it can easily engrave a wide range of materials. It is ideal for cold stamp applications because heat-producing lasers are not applicable. The UV engraving machine can easily engrave microelectronic components, chips, or circuit boards.
CO2 laser engraving machines are typically galvanized beam sealed tube laser marking systems. They are designed to mark non-metallic surfaces such as ceramics, quartz, glass, wood, etc. Also, the CO2 laser can be used to laser engrave the organic materials or tissues where it operates at a wavelength of 10,600nm. These machines are used to laser engrave the logos, serial numbers, barcodes on metals or any other surface.
CO2 laser engraving machines are one of the oldest types of engravers that are fast and affordable. They are operated from a wide range of applications such as Linus and Windows. Hence, it is easy to operate them for your laser engraving hobby.
MOPA laser engraving machines are similar in appearance and design to fiber laser markers. However, the internal technology, functions, and capabilities are different. They use a laser oscillator power amplifier approach that provides a high-energy efficiency. MO produces a highly coherent laser and an optical A increases the power of the laser while preserving the main properties. While operational, it can reach an amplitude of 2700KHZ, whereas, the fiber optics reaches the only 500KHZ.
MOPA laser engraving machines provide the best results with repeatable multi-color laser engraving on stainless steel. Also, it provides high contrast laser engraving on plastics or anodized aluminum.
Laser Engraving – What Is Laser Engraving
Laser engraving as a hobby can help you to earn money. As a hobby, you can start giving your services to local businesses or brands. You can laser engrave a name, design, pattern, serial number, QR code, etc. on different types of materials. It can depend on their requirements.
Different types of laser beams and laser engraving machines are perfect for different tasks. Laser engraving has evolved over the years and now you can engrave anything on metal, wood, or glass.