Choosing the Right Laser Engraving Machine

An engraving machine is an automatic or manual machine used to make engravings or markings by removing material. There are several types of engraving machines including laser and mechanical. In this guide, we’ll concentrate on laser engraving machines.

A laser engraving machine is different from a mechanical engraving machine. Mechanical engraving machines use extremely hard materials to engrave other materials, while laser engraving machines use the concentrated energy of a laser beam to vaporize or fracture the material.

Laser engraving is a process that can be used on most materials, and doesn’t require handling of the object being engraved. The engraving is precise and fast. Laser engraving is used in a wide range of sectors, including the automotive, aeronautics, and medical industries.

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  • Why choose a laser engraving machine?

    Laser marking has several advantages:

    • It’s inalterable: Because laser marking is done on the material itself, it is inalterable and resistant to time and wear.
    • It’s fast: Engraving takes just a few seconds.
    • It’s precise: Laser marking offers the highest engraving precision. Laser marking is also sharper and more aesthetically pleasing.
    • It’s compatible with a wide range of materials: Marking can be carried out on paper, metals, and plastics, including the most fragile materials.
  • How to choose a laser engraving machine

    Satisloh laser engraving machine

    Here are the criteria to consider to help you choose the right laser engraving machine:

    • Choice of material: Laser marking can be carried out on a wide range of materials, but the type of material that will be engraved will impact other selection criteria, such as laser power.
    • Power: You need to choose a machine with the right power for the materials you want to mark. For hard materials, for example, choose a high-powered laser to obtain a good-quality finish.
    • Laser source: Laser marking can be carried out using a CO2, fiber, diode, or crystal laser beam. The latter is preferable for fragile and delicate materials.
    • Size of the object to be engraved.
    • Type of marking: Do you want to make deep markings? Do you want high contrasts? Depending on how you want the marking to look on your final product, you can choose a marking technology for darker or lighter marks.
    • The type of information to be engraved: Do you want to engrave alphanumeric characters? Texts? Barcodes? QR codes? Logos? Images? Symbols?
    • Graphic design software: To carry out your laser marking, you’ll need computer software to draw out your design. Some machines come with software. If you already have a software, make sure your machine is compatible with it.
    • Safety: Consider the location of your machine. If you plan to install it in an open workshop, you’ll need to take appropriate safety measures by including laser safety lights, blackout panels, safety goggles for personnel, etc. Depending on the power of your laser, you may even need to install your machine in a separate room.
  • What type of laser source should I choose?

    Gravotech CO2 laser engraving machine

    There are many different laser sources available.

    • CO2 lasers: Carbon dioxide laser beams are used to engrave materials.
      • These are recommended for marking organic materials (wood, paper, rubber, etc.).
      • With its non-contrast markings, this laser is ideal for engraving codes, dates, and serial numbers on packaging, for example.
      • With a wavelength of 10.6 microns, this type of laser can be used in workshops with Plexiglas shielding for added safety.
    • Fiber laser: The fiber laser engraves materials using a fiber optic cable.
      • It is recommended for engraving non-organic materials (metal, plastic, ceramic).
      • It offers high contrast.
      • In addition to barcodes and QR codes, it can also engrave high-quality graphics.
      • With a wavelength of 1 micron, fiber laser machines must be installed behind protective partitions or in a separate room.
    • The Nd:YAG laser: This type of laser is three times more powerful than fiber lasers.
      • It is recommended for marking plastics and anodized aluminum with a high-contrast mark.
      • It delivers short pulses to create sharper marks that are easier to read by scanners, thus improving traceability.
      • It is ideal for marking delicate materials, especially crystal.
  • What materials are suitable for laser engraving?

    TAMPOPRINT AG laser engraving machine

    The vast majority of materials are compatible with laser marking.

    • All metals (aluminum, steel, stainless steel, bronze, etc.)
    • Most plastics (polyamide, polypropylene, etc.)
    • Organic materials (wood, paper, cardboard), except for leather

    Please note that there are still some materials that are incompatible with laser marking, such as:

    • Leather
    • Carbon fibers
    • Beryllium oxide
  • What laser power do I need?

    Power is the most important factor to consider when choosing a laser engraver. The higher it is, the faster the work is completed. Power is measured in Watts (W) and must be adapted to the type of material being used. The thicker the material, the higher the laser power required for good marking quality. Therefore, you’ll need less power to engrave paper than wood.

  • What can a laser engraving machine be used for?

    Laser engraving machines are used in a wide variety of industrial sectors to facilitate product traceability.

    • Key industries include the automotive, aerospace, energy, metallurgy, and medical industries.
    • They are also used in other industries such as agriculture, food processing, defense, electronics, railways, roadwork, etc.

    They can be used to engrave a wide range of visual elements: alphanumeric characters, text, barcodes, QR codes, logos, images, and symbols. Engraving can be in black and white, color, or 2D, with varying degrees of contrast.

  • What other specifications need to be taken into account?

    There are other factors to consider when choosing a laser engraving machine:

    • Marking depth (mm)
    • Engraving speed
    • Engraving resolution (contrast, sharpness)
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