What you need to know about laser etching.

Laser etching is a production process from the laser marking category for creating permanent markings such as serial numbers, barcodes, or logos.

What can I make with laser etching?

Laser etching is a production process from the laser marking category for creating permanent markings. Laser etching is one of the most efficient processes for manufacturing applications, creating permanent, high contrasting markings at high marking speeds due to lower energy consumption. Laser etching is also particularly popular for glass personalisation. There are many possible uses and applications, read on to find out more.

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Laser etching vs laser engraving, what are the differences?

Laser engraving and etching are types of laser marking. When laser engraving, the surface of the material is melted and vaporised by the laser beam, removing the material, resulting in a noticeable depression on the material surface.

In contrast to engraving, laser etching creates a raised marking. This raised marking is typical for plastics, while with metal and glass, the surface structure is changed in such a way that it creates a contrast, with minimal material removed.

In both of these processes, the laser emits pulses and changes the surface of the material due to the high energy. As an example, laser etching a metal requires less energy per area than engraving. Laser etching can create different shades on the surface and is faster than engraving.

In contrast, laser engraving is more durable and has a higher resistance to abrasion due to the resulting depressions.

Laser engraving bottles - hip flasks

How does laser etching work?

In laser etching, the surface of the material is melted and vaporised by the laser beam, removing the material. The resulting depression in the surface is a permanent and abrasion-resistant engraving.

With the resulting contrast, or multi-layer materials such as acrylic, colour and a permanent motif become visible. If more energy is used in the laser process, more material is removed and the engraving can also be felt.

Is laser etching permanent?

As discussed, laser etching plastic creates a marking through noticeable depressions, while the surface is only minimally removed in the case of glass and metal and the marking is permanent. The advantages of laser etching are the processing speed and the very high contrast that can be achieved on the material compared to sandblasting and other techniques.

Laser etching applications

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Which materials are suitable for laser etching?

Laser etching can be used on many materials, including:

  • Glass and crystal glass
  • Metal
  • Aluminium
  • Stone, marble, granite
  • Plastics/acrylic

Laser-etched glass

Generally, laser machines can mark glass (flat glass) and crystal glass – using laser etching, engraving, and marking. Depending on the laser machine accessories, mugs, crystal products, wine glasses, beer tankards, champagne bottles and much more can also be processed. The conical shapes are turned using a turning attachment during the laser process.

Laser-etched metal

Different types of metals absorb light and conduct heat in different ways. Depending on the metal, you need an appropriate laser machine. For some metals, laser etching is more advantageous and more efficient, other metals are better suited for laser engraving due to their properties.

Laser-etched plastic

Laser etching can create striking results on acrylic as the material is tailor-made for laser processing. Polycarbonate products such as Makrolon® are also suitable for laser processing. You can quickly and easily produce products including neon signs, regular signs, POS displays, and more from acrylic glass.

Laser-etched anodised aluminium

Laser etching aluminium creates white and black areas. Depending on the surface roughness, light is either absorbed, creating a black finish, or reflected for a white finish. Anodised aluminium can be marked in two ways: 1. Before anodising: the bare aluminium is etched 2. After anodising: the anodised layer is etched Laser etching creates-corrosion resistant results regardless of which option is chosen.

Which laser machines are suitable for laser etching?

Laser etching is a type of laser marking or laser engraving.  Both CO2 and fiber lasers or the combination of both technologies in one machine are suitable for the  production process.

What does a laser etching machine cost?

Laser etching requires less energy than laser engraving, and is therefore faster. The purchase price for a laser engraver starts at approx. £7995 plus vat. The costs can vary greatly depending on the working area and laser power. We can advise you on choosing the right laser engraver for personalisation.

For those who want to buy a laser machine and manufacture products themselves, ongoing effort and costs are very interesting.

  • Operating costs and maintenance requirements are very low for laser machines.
  • Manufacturing processes can be easily automated and are therefore ideal for inline integration.

Interested in a laser machine?
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Because individual requirements require individual advice.
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