What’s the difference between laser engraving and laser etching? If laser technology is relatively new to you, you may be asking. However, it’s more important to know which laser you should use.
In laser etching, the surface is melted to produce raised marks; in laser engraving, material is removed to produce deep marks. Laser etching and laser engraving use high temperatures to mark metal surfaces permanently.
Traceability of parts is heavily reliant on both processes. In order to determine which process is best for each application, let’s look at each one in detail.
Process of Laser Etching
Etching involves heating and distorting the material’s micro surface with the laser. Laser etching produces a texture when the exposed surface expands.
It is the most efficient and effective way to permanently mark most types of materials because laser etching leaves a black and white mark. The laser beam needs less energy to etch than to engrave, so the process is faster.
There may be a need for laser etching in the following cases:
- Metals other than stainless steel are used for your part
- Fast laser processing is what you need
- The laser you want should consume less power and be more cost-effective
- Laser marking is necessary before non-abrasive coatings, such as powder coating and e-coating
In the following video, you can watch how fast we can etch the surface of the material using fiber lasers. You will also see how the etching results in a high contrast pattern.
Process of Laser Engraving
A tracking code is created by vaporizing thin layers of material using the engraving method. Sending a laser pulse to a location on your part accomplishes this.
With laser engraving, the material is buried instead of a microsurface raised over it. A 500 micron engraving depth is possible.
It may be necessary to laser engrave if:
- You use steel or aluminum for your part
- The marks you create should be as durable as possible
- In addition to shotblasting and sandblasting, laser marking should be integrated before abrasive treatments.
An etched white background on top of a laser engraved black mark is created in the video below.s
What are the advantages of laser engraving and laser etching?
The maintenance and consumable costs of mark technologies such as dot peening, inkjet printing, and labels are significant. A system of marking you can’t rely on has probably also resulted in inconsistent results.
These issues are solved with engraving and etching
- Laser direct part marking encodes information permanently embedded in a product for the duration of its useful life.
- Data matrix codes are especially useful for laser marking because they can encode a lot of information in a small area (especially when using laser marking).
- Low maintenance is required for laser engraving and laser etching machines.
- No consumables are required for fiber lasers or CO2 lasers.
- Lasers with pulsed fibers have a very low power consumption.
Which industries engrave and etch with lasers?
We help many of our clients achieve their traceability goals through laser etching and engraving. We help them optimize their manufacturing processes as well through this information.
In addition to barcodes, they also mark serial numbers and alphanumeric characters with these laser processes. As an alternative, some companies brand their products by stamping their logo onto the parts.
These are some of the more common industrial applications.
Industry of the automobile
Car manufacturers have required traceability of their suppliers for a long time. As early adopters of data matrix codes, they uniquely identified parts entering a final assembly. As parts move through the value chain, critical steps are scanned to ensure conformity and enforce accountability. In recent years, it has become more necessary to perform part identification early on.
Industry of primary metals
The automobile industry asked for smelters, die casting plants, hot and cold roll plants, and extruders later in the game. Consequently, they were able to optimize their internal traceability program with the information they gathered. Another use of laser marking was to differentiate themselves from their competitors by producing products that met strict environmental standards.
Manufacturers of medical devices
In order for medical devices to receive FDA approval, they must be identified. Each medical device must be given a unique identifier.
On the FDA’s website, you can learn more about the Unique Device Identification – UDI.
Laser marking for other industrial applications
Other processes are used in industrial applications besides laser etching and laser engraving. In stainless steel and chrome-plated workpieces, laser annealing is the only method of marking.
The reason is simple: it is the only method of creating permanent markings without compromising the part’s natural corrosion resistance.
An annealed metal is heated instead of engraved. In this process, black marks are created under the surface by oxidation.
In comparison to etching, annealing is a chemical reaction, which doesn’t melt the surface of the material. There is not much difference between the two.
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