What is Laser Etching & Engraving?| MECCO

Laser Etching & Engraving Applications and Machines

What is Laser Etching & Engraving?

Both laser etching and engraving fall under the general category of laser marking. Laser etching and engraving are similar in that they produce permanent marks created when a laser removes material from the surface of an object. 

These versatile part marking methods can be used on almost any material, making them an ideal solution for a variety of industries that require permanent marks for part identification and traceability. There is also a range of industrial applications where manufacturers can use laser etching and engraving to mark logos, date or time stamps, serial numbers, barcodes, 2D Data Matrix codes, and other important manufacturing information. 

What is the Difference between Laser Etching and Laser Engraving?

The terms laser etching and laser engraving are often used interchangeably, but there are some important distinctions between them.

The key difference between these techniques is the depth of the mark. As the depth of the laser etched mark increases, it is often considered engraving followed by deep engraving

The method you select is dependent on the type of mark you want to achieve. For instance, some post-processing applications such as galvanizing require greater mark depth to ensure mark quality and readability. Certain industries also require particular marking depths to meet regulatory standards.

Laser Etching 0.0001 in. Depth
Laser Engraving 0.0001 - 0.005 in. Depth
Deep Laser Engraving > 0.005 in. Depth
 

How do Laser Etching and Engraving Work?

  • To create permanent marks, laser etching and engraving processes start with a beam of concentrated light energy.

  • The laser beam targets a small area of the material, known as the focal point.

  • The heat generated by the light energy allows the laser machine to alter the material's surface, while the focal point ensures it affects only a specified part of the surface.

  • The result is a smooth, high-contrast, lasting mark, which can be human readable (serial number) or machine readable (barcode), etched or engraved into the part's surface. 

In the laser etching process, this mark will reach a depth of about 0.0001 inches. In the laser engraving process, the mark depth is typically up to 0.005 inches.

A subset of this process, known as deep laser engraving, is characterized by a mark that is greater than 0.005 inches deep. These marks are extremely durable and beneficial for industries where marks need to withstand harsh conditions.
 

What Types of Laser Engraving Technology will Make These Marks?


Beyond the marking process, another critical factor in getting the final mark you need is the laser engraving technology. While many variables affect your choice in laser engraving machine, there are a few common technologies used for laser etching and engraving:
 

Materials and applications best suited for laser etching & engraving:

  • Metals: Steel, aluminum, brass, etc.
  • Wood
  • Ceramics
  • Glass
  • Polymers
 

Laser Engraving is used in a variety of industrial applications

Automotive:
  • Etch barcodes and serialized part identification onto mirrors
  • Engrave barcodes into various components and sub-assemblies
  • Etch barcodes onto wheels for traceability and NHTSA compliance 
  • Laser etch logos and icons on various plastic components and buttons
  • Engrave VIN numbers
Electronics:
  • Surface etching product information on circuit boards, plastic housings, and semi-conductor parts
  • Replace labels for permanent traceability
  • Laser etch small barcodes to help protect against counterfeiting

Laser Engraving Demonstrations

Videos of Laser Engravers in Action

  • Fiber Laser Marking Capabilities on Aluminum

    Fiber Laser Marking Capabilities on Aluminum

    Watch a marking demonstration of laser engraving, dark marks, and other etching capabilities on aluminum.

  • Fiber Laser Marking Capabilities on Brass

    Fiber Laser Marking Capabilities on Brass

    Watch MECCO's SMARTmark 20W Fiber Laser as it marks on brass. See how various settings create different marks, such as frost marks, dark marks, and engraving.

  • Fiber Laser Marking on Stainless Steel

    Fiber Laser Marking on Stainless Steel

    Watch as a 20W fiber laser marks stainless steel: This video demonstrates laser engraving, carbon migration and other laser marking capabilities.

NEED HELP? TALK TO THE LASER EXPERTS

Marking solutions are not one-size-fits-all. Our team works with you to discover the best solution -- a solution based on your application, your material, your goals, and your operation. Get in touch with us and experience the MECCO difference today.

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Laser etching a barcode