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Laser engraving vs mechanical engraving - a comparison

How do the different processes compare

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving - comparing two technologies

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving are the most common methods of surface engraving for various materials. With laser technology, the focus is precision, however the relief effect that is achieved in mechanical engraving also offers advantages. In this article you will find a comparison of both methods, including their individual advantages and disadvantages.


Mechanical engraving

When engraving using a mechanical machine, a milling cutter moves over the surface of the clamped workpiece. The rotary motion of the milling cutter then removes the surface of the material to create, for example, letters or patterns. Plastic layered materials can also be engraved in this way. Mechanical engraving offers particular advantages for metal surfaces, as the deep machined lettering or decorations can be infilled with colour to increase the contrast.

Advantages of mechanical engraving

  1. Achieve a deep engraving on metals
  2. It is possible to cut and drill metals using mechanical machines

Disadvantages of mechanical engraving

Mechanical engraving has its limits. Some of these include:

  1. Limited levels of detail can be achieved: Small details, in particular, are difficult to process
  2. Wear and tear: Regular changing of the cutting tools is required
  3. Clamping materials: For mechanical engraving, the workpiece must be clamped in place to avoid movement during processing. This has a negative impact on production times
  4. Not suitable for many materials: Fine engraving or marking materials such as paper or leather are not possible. Mechanical engraving is also unsuitable for roughening the surface of acrylic

Laser engraving examples: Paper engraving and photo engraving on acrylic

Laser engraving fine details onto paper is easy with a laser. This is not possible with a mechanical machine.

Laser engraving acrylic enables you to create detailed photo engravings. Again, this is not possible with mechanical machines. 

How laser engraving works

Laser engraving uses a laser beam which is focussed on the surface of the material using mirrors and lenses. The beam is moved via an axis system. The heat generated by the laser beam marks, burns or evaporates the surface of the materials depending on processing time. This is the laser engraving process. 

Read more information about laser engraving here

Advantages of laser engraving

The advantages of laser engraving:

  1. Laser engraving allows you to process a range of materials including glass, paper, textiles and more
  2. Contactless processing removes the need for clamping or fixating the materials pre-processing
  3. No tool wear thanks to contactless processing
  4. High precision processing
  5. Economical for both one off and series production

Overview of the advantages of both mechanical and laser engraving:

  Laser engraving  Mechanical 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 engraving machines

Trotec's Speedy series of laser engraving machines are the ideal tool for processing a range of materials. Available with a CO2, fiber or dual laser source, materials such as paper, glass, textiles, coated and blank metals (fiber required for blank metal) and much more can be processed with these diverse machines. 

Further information about our laser engravers