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Comparison between laser engraving and mechanical engraving

When to use each method of engraving

Laser engraving versus mechanical engraving - we compare the two technologies

The most common methods of surface engraving are laser engraving and mechanical engraving. Each technology operates differently, and is better suited to certain applications. Laser engraving is exceptionally precise, however the mechanical engraving process is better suited to deep etching/engraving. This article will discuss how the technologies can best be used for your applications.


Mechanical engraving

In mechanical engraving, a milling cutter moves over the surface of the material. The rotary motion of the milling cutter etches away the surface of the material. For example, letters or patterns are milled out of the material. Plastic layered materials can also be engraved in the same manner. Mechancal engraving is particularly suited to metals, as the deep etched areas can be paint filled for added contrast.

Advantages of mechanical engraving

  1. Deep engraving on metals.
  2. Metals can be drilled and cut.

Disadvantages of mechanical engraving

Mechanical engraving has the following limitations:

  1. Lack of detailed engraving. Intricate details are difficult to process.
  2. Wear and tear: The milling head wears down and requires frequent replacement.
  3. Clamping required: In order to secure the material, it must be clamped. This increased manual handling and processing time.
  4. Not suitable for a wide range materials: Cannot process paper or leather. Mechanical engraving is also not suitable for acrylic engraving.

Examples of paper engraving and photo engraving on acrylic using the laser

Mechanical engraving by nature is not suited to paper engraving, but laser processing offers detailed, precision engraving and cutting.

The detail that laser engraving offers is perfect for acrylic, you can even engrave images. Mechanical engravers are not suitable for acrylic.

How laser engraving works

Laser engraving works by a series of mirrors and lenses focusing a beam of light (laser). This beam is then moved over the material using an axis system. The concentrated power of the laser beam can mark, burn or vaporise the surface of the material. The effects can be varied depending on the strength and speed of the laser. Read more information about laser engraving here

Advantages of laser engraving

Laser engraving offers many advantages:

  1. Laser processing is compatible with a wide range of materials (wood, glass, textiles, paper, metal, plastics, etc.)
  2. Because the process is 'non contact' - you don't need to clamp the material
  3. No tool wear
  4. Highly detailed engraving
  5. Economical processing option for single units, small runs or large scale production.

Overview of the advantages of both engraving methods:

  Laser engraving  Mechanical engraving
Engraving letters
Detailed engraving of small text and logos
Photo engraving
Productivity
Cutting material ✔ 
Clean cut edge
O 
Post-processing necessary
Durability of the engraving ✔ 
User friendliness ✔ 
Easy to use
O 
Experience required
Tool wear  
No consumables
 
Milling head, possibly external coolant
Cutting and drilling metals

Speedy laser engraving machines

Trotec offer a wide range of laser engravers to suit every application. Each laser is customised with a CO2 laser, fiber laser, or the combined flexx system. The Speedy series of laser engravers are designed to offer detailed engraving and precision laser cutting.

Further information about our laser engravers