How does laser engraving work?

We will show you how laser engraving works and which materials you can engrave with a laser.

Laser etching and engraving gives products a personal feel and individualizes them. Typical applications for laser etching and engraving are things such as trophies being engraved with a name, a pen being marked with a company logo or a component marked with serial numbers. Laser machines give enormous advantages, you can engrave virtually any design on a variety of materials. On this page, we will explain how lasers work and what can be accomplished with them.

Laser engraving technically explained

While laser engraving, the beam of the laser affects the material and exposes it to a great deal of heat. Based on the time that this material is exposed, the colour changes and creates contrast, or the material burns and evaporates. This laser process is permanent and extremely resistant to abrasions. 

Laser engraving - as easy as printing

Laser engraving is as easy as printing. First, you create the design of the engraving in any design software (CorelDraw, Photoshop, AutoCAD, Illustrator, InkScape, etc.). Then, you use the printer driver to send the graphic to the laser. At the push of a button, your selected material is laser engraved or laser cut with the stored settings. If required, advanced settings can be set in the provided JobControl® laser software. Process types stored in the printer driver make everyday work much easier by automatically optimizing graphically required processes.

Learn more about Speedy laser engraving machines

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How does laser engraving work? Here's a simple explanation of the basics

Learn more about the process of laser engraving in this video

Raster and vector engraving: Two different types of laser engraving

Raster engraving is the standard process for laser engraving. Here, the graphic built from pixels is engraved line by line, point by point.

In vector engraving, on the other hand, the graphic consists of curves and lines that are traced one after the other “vector by vector” by the laser and engraved at the same time. Vector engraving is often referred to as “scoring."

For large-area applications such as filled letters, images, stamps or wood engraving, raster engraving is the appropriate method.
However, if only thin lines are to be engraved, vector engraving is advantageous and may also be faster.

Advantages of laser engraving compared to mechanical engraving

Larger field of application The laser beam is a universal tool for many materials such as wood, glass, MDF, textiles, cardboard, paper, foil, metals, and much more.
Non-contact material processing In mechanical engraving, the material often has to be clamped or fixed with vacuum. This takes time and can damage the material. With laser processing, this is not necessary. Here, the processing is contactless so that no chips are produced and, comparatively, very little dust. All this saves time and money.
No tool wear Due to the non-contact material processing of the laser, there are no tool costs for cutters and drills.
Maximum precision and finest details The laser technology makes it possible to implement the finest motifs with maximum precision. Virtually everything that can be drawn can be engraved and marked using a laser.
Economic production The production of individual pieces or small series, as well as large series, is cost-effective and economically feasible.

Special application: Engrave photos with the laser

Pictures add a verson personal and speciaal touch to any product or gift. Picture engraving can be done quickly, easily and efficiently with the help of a laser machine. The JobControl® laser software from Trotec supports you extensively in the implementation of your photo engraving. With the integrated photo mode, the image is automatically optimized for processing with the laser engraving machine, in accordance with a complex logic, and sent to the laser. So you don't need to be an expert in photo processing. Photo engraving made simple - here you will get tips and tricks for this.

Laser engraving machine for photo engraving and much more

Trotec product recommendation for laser engraving:

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Other laser applications: Marking and cutting

Trotec laser machines are not only suitable for engraving, but also for marking and cutting.
Learn more about processing methods:

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