How Does Laser Engraving Work?
Date Posted: 13 December 2021
Laser (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) engraving is a method of etching permanent, deep marks by vaporising materials into fumes.
A powerful laser beam or a laser light acts as a chisel, removing layers and incising patterns on the material surface. Heat for vaporisation comes from the powerful laser light that hits localised areas with high energy.
Laser engraving, laser marking, or laser etching?
Laser engraving, laser etching, and laser marking are similar processes. However, there are subtle differences.
Laser engraving, sometimes known as laser cutting, is a procedure in which a high powered laser beam physically erases the surface by engraving an image.
Laser marking uses a lower-powered laser beam to make high-contrast markings on the surface without causing damage to the material. It means the surface is discoloured but not removed.
Laser etching is a technique that involves melting the surface using a high-heat laser beam. The melted material expands, revealing the desired image through a slightly elevated mark.
How Laser Engraving Works
A laser engraving system is a machine that transfers data from a design file to a physical object. Laser engraving machines comprise of a laser, surface, and controller.
The laser is similar to a pen/pencil in that it is the object that generates the design by focusing high-powered laser light onto the surface or engraving area. The engraving area is the material surface you engrave on.
The focal plane of the laser optical system is the place where the laser makes contact with the surface. It is known as the focal point.
The laser enables precise engraving of fine details, is resistant to wear, and allows for precision throughout the marking process.
The controller directs the laser power according to the design instructions. It is the arm that manipulates the pen. It moves it over the surface and directs the laser power according to the design instructions. The data in the design file controls the controller movements as well as the laser power.
The laser beam is then guided to the laser head and focused on the surface using mirrors and lenses. The head moves by electric motors and cuts or engraves the required shape into the material. An input file, which might be a vector or raster image, defines the shape.
Steps in the laser engraving process
Ideation and design
In this stage, the artist/engraver decides what design to engrave and the material they would like to engrave on. Laser engraving is a versatile method. You can engrave on different materials such as glass, stone, coated or uncoated metals, plastics, and natural substrates like wood.
Serial numbers and logos are engraved using laser marks; however, you must ensure that the machine you are using is compatible with the files generated by the design software.
Some laser cutting machines have software, while others work with existing software, such as Adobe Illustrator. Once you have created your design, use the printer dialogue to send it to the laser engraver.
Choose your settings
Next, load the material into the machine and select the desired settings. Adjust the laser strength, speed, depth of cut, line thickness, number of passes, and other variables depending on the software. After deciding the settings, place the materials in the laser machine, and then press the start button.
It is a good idea to test your materials under a wide range of conditions to see which settings give you the best results.
Laser engraving on wood
Laser engraving on a wood material is a similar process to laser engraving work on other materials such as glass, stone, metal, etc.
The key difference is the sublimation process that occurs on wood. Sublimation involves the substance transforming to a gaseous state via burning as the high-powered laser beam passes over it.
Types of laser engraving machines
Laser cutters come in a variety of styles. Crystal or fibre laser systems, for example, are commonly used in industrial applications. The CO2 laser system can cut and engrave non-metallic materials like wood, paper, fabrics, etc. The laser beam forms in a tube filled with CO2 gas in a CO2 laser cutting system.
The most common method of laser engraving is raster engraving. Here, a graphic made from thousands of pixels (the design) is carved point by point, line by line. The image in vector engraving is made up of curves and lines that are traced one by one, vector by vector, and etched simultaneously. Vector engraving is referred to as scoring.
Benefits of laser engraving your products
Engraving is ideal for products that are designed to last for a long time. Engraving generally does not fade over time.
Laser engravings are used to mark product identification numbers, logos, serial numbers. However, we often see engraving utilised in a personal context– engraving text or initials on keepsake items, such as jewellery and woodwork. Engraving is also used in the sports industry to add a premium personalised element and trophies and medals.
Here at Mecca Sports, we have also engraved custom mugs and glasses for our clients.
Engraving at Mecca Sports
Mecca Sports offer laser engraving services for all of your trophy and medal needs.
If you are looking for custom team wear for your sports club, banners or custom marquees in Perth for your next sports event, get in contact with us by calling 1300 652 195.
Alternatively, send us an enquiry with your requirements and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.