Laser engraving vs mechanical engraving - a comparison

How do the different processes compare

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving - a comparison of two technologies

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving are the most common methods of surface engraving for various materials. Both technologies have their purpose. With the laser, for example, the focus is precision, however the relief effect achieved in mechanical engraving is an advantage. In this article you will find a comparison of both methods with a comparison of their individual advantages and disadvantages.

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Mechanical engraving.

In the mechanical engraving process, a milling cutter moves over the surface of the clamped workpiece. The rotary motion of the milling cutter removes the surface of the material. For example, letters or patterns are milled out of a material. Plastic layered materials can also be engraved in this way. Metal surfaces offer a particular advantage in mechanical engraving: The deep machined lettering or decorations can be designed with color to increase the contrast.

Advantages of mechanical engraving.

  1. Deep engraving possible with metals.
  2. Metals can also be drilled and cut.

Disadvantages of mechanical engraving.

The following limits apply to mechanical engraving:

  1. Limited level of detail: Small details, in particular, are difficult to process.
  2. Wear and tear: The milling head wears down and needs to be changed regularly.
  3. Clamping required: For mechanical engraving, the workpiece must be clamped. The time required for this is a hindrance in the production of series.
  4. Not suitable for many materials: Fine engraving or marking of paper or leather are not possible. Mechanical engraving is not suitable for roughening the surface of acrylic.

Laser engraving examples: Paper engraving and photo engraving on acrylic

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

  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

You want to have more information about laser engraving and suitable laser engravers?

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Overview of the advantages of both mechanical and laser engraving:

  Laser engraving  Mechanical engraving
Engraving letters
Engraving small details and logos
Photo engraving
Cutting material ✔ 
Clean cutting edge
Post-processing necessary
Durability of the engraving ✔ 
User friendliness ✔ 
Easy to use
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

Because individual requirements require individual advice.
We’ll advise you free of charge.

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