Its a frequently asked question and often the terminology is gets mixed in conversation, but there really is a difference between Laser Engraving, Laser Marking and Laser Etching. Each type of process has its own attributes and applications, depending on what is required by our customers.
Before describing what each type is, lets start at the beginning…with the laser itself. The term “Laser” is an acronym, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. If you think about the key word amplification, we begin to understand what a laser is doing. A beam of light is being amplified in some manner to produce a very small and intense focal point. There are different methods to amplify the light which gets to the types of lasers that exist in the market today. Common examples are CO2, YAG, and Fiber. Each of these types have attributes that allow them to work better with some materials and not so great with others. Each of these laser types can perform Laser Marking, Laser Engraving or Laser Etching, the material type will drive most decisions on the type of laser to use.
Laser Marking Services
Laser Marking is where the beam is interacting with the surface of the material and slightly altering its properties or appearance. the 4 common types of Laser Marking are annealing, carbon migration, foaming and coloring. Accubeam Laser Marking has the capability to perform all 4 types. Laser Marking is a great option for bar coding, UID codes, QR Codes, Logos and other identification needs.
Laser Engraving Services
Laser Engraving is where the laser’s beam is physically removing the surface material to expose a cavity which at eye level reveals an image. There are 3 types of Laser Engraving; etching, deep laser engraving and laser ablation. Each type is removing or vaporizing the surface material, the only difference is what’s being removed and the depth you are going down into the material. Laser Etching is a more shallow type mark, .001″ for example. Deep Laser Engraving is a deep mark, often a requirement for either regulatory reasons or for parts that will be exposed to harsh conditions either physically or environmental, for example identification marks on parts exposed to corrosive chemicals. Laser Ablation is engraving where we remove a surface coat, like paint or anodizing, to expose either another layer underneath or the bare surface material. This is a process common on ID Tags and Plates, automotive parts, switches, knobs and backlit buttons.
If you look at the images below you can easily see the difference between a Laser Mark shown above and the result of Laser Engraving an item. Contact us today to inquire about your Laser Marking and Engraving needs.