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A Comparison of Laser and Rotary Engraving

What Are the Differences Between the Two Methods?

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A Comparison of Two Engraving Technologies

Laser and rotary engraving are the two most common methods of surface engraving. Both systems offer distinct benefits. For instance, laser engraving provides a consistent level of precision, while rotary engraving allows the user to create high-quality reliefs. In this article, you will find a comparison of these two engraving methods, as well as a description of their individual advantages and disadvantages.


Rotary Engraving

During the rotary engraving process, a milling cutter moves over the surface of a clamped workpiece. The rotary motion of the milling cutter removes one or more layers of the object. For example, letters or patterns can be "milled out" of a material. Metal surfaces are particularly well suited for rotary engraving. For example, deeply-engraved letters and motifs can be enhanced with color to increase the design's contrast.

Advantages of Rotary Engraving

  • Achieving a relief effect: Deep engraving is possible with metal objects.
  • Beyond metal engraving: Metals be drilled and cut with a rotary machine.

Disadvantages of Rotary Engraving

  • Limited level of detail: Small details, in particular, are difficult to achieve.
  • Wear and tear: The milling head wears down and requires regular replacement.
  • Clamping required: Each object must be clamped, which increases production time when processing a series of workpieces.
  • Not suitable for many materials: Creating fine engravings or cuts on paper or leather is not possible. Rotary engraving may also form jagged edges on acrylic objects.

Examples: Using a Laser to Cut Paper and Engrave a Photo on Acrylic

A laser machine can create fine details on a paper workpiece. Rotary engraving equipment would not be effective for this application.

A laser can engrave a highly-detailed image on an acrylic workpiece. Rotary engraving, on the other hand, will generally not achieve this degree of clarity.

How Laser Cutting and Engraving Works

Through the use of mirrors and lenses, a laser beam is focused on a workpiece. The beam is then moved over the object by means of an axis system. Given sufficient time, the heat of the laser beam burns or evaporates portions of the object's surface. This results in a cut or engraving.

Click here to learn more about how a laser works.

Advantages of Laser Engraving

  • Material compatibility: Wood, glass, textiles, paper, metal, and plastics are only a few materials that can be processed with a laser.
  • Non-contact cutting and engraving: Workpieces do not need to be clamped.
  • Minimal tool wear: Unlike a rotary machine components, laser equipment can last for ten or more years.
  • Very high precision: A 
  • Economical for individual pieces and series: One or multiple workpieces can be quickly processed.

Comparing Laser and Rotary and Engraving Methods

  Laser engraving  Rotary engraving
Engraving letters
Engraving small details and logos
Photo engraving
Throughput
Cutting material ✔ 
Clean cutting 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 Series

Trotec's Speedy lasers offer you both cutting and engraving capabilities. These machines are equipped with a CO2, fibre, or dual (Flexx) laser source.

Click here for additional details about Trotec's Speedy laser series.