Laser engraving: How does it work?

This page covers how laser engraving works and the materials suitable for the process.

Laser engraving is a process used to give products an unique design or a personal touch. Examples include a sports trophy engraved with the winners name, ballpoint pens engraved with a company logo or a component that is marked with serial number and batch number for tracability. These are typical laser engraving applications. The big advantage: Laser engraving allows virtually any design to be engraved onto different materials. This page offers an insight into how laser engraving works.

Laser engraving technically explained

When laser engraving, the material is strongly heated by the laser beam. Depending on the exposure time, a contrast can be created as the colour changes, or the material evaporates or burns. The achieved laser engraving result is permanent and very resistant to abrasion.

Laser engraving - as easy as printing

Laser engraving is as simple as printing. The first step is to create the layout for the engraving in your preferred graphics program (eg. CorelDraw, Photoshop, AutoCAD, Illustrator, InkScape, etc.). Then send the graphic to the laser using the printer driver. At the push of a button, your material is laser engraved or laser cut using the stored settings. If required, you can use advanced settings which can be set in the provided JobControl® laser software. Process types stored in the printer driver make your everyday workload easier by automatically optimising the graphically required processes.

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How does laser engraving work? The basics explained

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 laser engraving process. This process uses a graphic built from pixels which is engraved line by line, point by point.

Vector engraving, on the other hand uses graphics consisting of curves and lines that are traced one after the other “vector by vector”. These are engraved at the same time. Another common name for vector engraving is “scoring”.

For larger-area applications such as filled letters, images, stamps or wood engraving, raster engraving is the method which should be used.
If you are only engraving thin lines then vector engraving is better suited and may also be faster.

Laser engraving vs mechanical engraving: The advantages

Larger field of application The laser beam is a universal tool for many materials, including wood, glass, MDF, textiles, cardboard, paper, foil, metals, and much more.
Non-contact material processing In mechanical engraving, the material usually has to be clamped or fixed with vacuum. This is time consuming and can damage the material. With laser engraving and cutting this is not necessary. With laser processing the entire process is contactless and produces no chips are and, comparatively very little dust. This saves you time and money.
No tool wear The non contact process does not require additional tools.
Maximum precision and finest details Laser technology makes it possible to replicate even the finest motifs and designs with maximum precision. Virtually everything that can be drawn can be laser  engraved and marked.
Economic production Small scale and long production runs are cost-effective and economically feasible with laser technology.



Special application: Photo engraving

Photos add a very special touch to a standard product or a gift. Photo engraving is a process which can be done quickly and easily with a  laser machine. Trotec's JobControl® laser software supports you extensively in the implementation of your photo engraving. With the integrated photo mode, the image is automatically optimised for laser engraving, in accordance with a complex logic, and sent to the laser machine for processing. You don't need to be an expert in photo processing. Photo engraving is made simple with a laser machine - check out our tips and tricks for this.

Laser engraving machines:engrave photos and much more

Trotec product recommendation for laser engraving:

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Other applications: Laser marking and laser cutting

Trotec laser machines aren't just for engraving, they are also suitable for marking and cutting. The SP series of laser cutters are ideal for cutting larger format materials, while the SPeedMarker and ProMarker industrial lasers are perfectly suited to laser marking applications in industry.
Learn more about processing methods:

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