Laser engraving and deep engraving metals

In this tutorial, we will show you how to laser engrave or deep engrave metals using a MOPA laser source. We also provide you with time-optimised and quality-optimised laser parameters for deep engraving of metals.

Laser engraving of metals

Laser engraving involves removing the material from a solid surface. Due to the very high intensity of the laser, materials including steel, titanium and (almost) all other metals can be vaporised directly. This is made possible due to the high pulse power of the fiber laser (Trotec lasers have up to 10 kW peak power) in combination with a very small laser spot diameter (Trotec ~ 45 μm with the F-160 lens). With this method, text, logos, serial numbers and other contents can be laser engraved into the material. The volume of the material is reduced and its colour is changed. The resulting brown areas consist of metal oxides (or rust), which can be cleaned with a second cleaning cycle using polishing parameters. Laser engraving on stainless steel requires high power, low frequency (which results in high power per pulse) and marking speeds of 250 - 900 mm/sec.

Comparison of the deep laser engraving results

Deep laser engraving stainless steel

The process for deep engraving is fundamentally identical to regular laser engraving, however, deep engraving requires more passes. There are two different sets of parameters:

  1. Time-optimised
  2. Quality-optimised

Please note that the set of parameters used to achieve optimal quality (2) takes about three times as long to reach the same laser engraving depth. A 20 watt MOPA laser with F-160 lens is used in both applications. The time-optimised engraving results are shown at the top of the image, while the quality-optimised engraving results are at the bottom.

1. Time-optimised laser parameters

Firstly, deep laser engraving is carried out in the fastest time possible. The laser engraving parameters are chosen so that the desired engraving depth (in this case: 200 μm) is achieved as quickly as possible. The quality of the deep engraving is not taken into consideration here. This results in a warp of up to 100 µm. The laser engraving depth ranges from the desired 200 μm to 240 μm.

The following parameters are used for the laser engraving:

Power Speed Frequency Pulse duration
100% 250 mm/s 60 kHz 200 ns
Focus Filling lines distance Passes Laser engraving time
In focus 0.03 mm bidirectional 32 (for 200 μm depth) 112 seconds (5x5 mm square)

2. Quality-optimised laser parameters

In the second step, deep engraving is carried out with the best possible quality, using the quality laser engraving parameters. The laser parameters are selected to ensure that the desired engraving depth (also 200 µm) is achieved together with the best quality. The laser engraving process takes three times as long using these parameters, however there is no warping of the material. The laser engraving depth ranges from the desired 200 μm to max. 220 μm.

The following laser engraving parameters are used:

Power Speed Frequency Pulse duration
100% 900 mm/s 180 kHz 200 ns
Focus Filling lines distance Passes Laser engraving time
In focus 0.03 mm bidirectional 450 (for 200 μm depth) 375 seconds (5x5 mm square)

Multiple possibilities when deep engraving metals

We are happy to advise you.

Deep laser engraving metals offers many possibilities. Different laser parameters can be used depending on your requirements. In the time-optimised example, a great deal of material evaporates in a few passes (at a comparatively slow speed), and the quality-optimised variant uses significantly more (and faster) passes in order to remove the material in a more uniform and controlled manner, negating the possibility of the material warping.

Our experts are happy to advise you if you have any questions about deep laser engraving metals. Contact us today for a sample. 

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