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A comparison of laser engraving and mechanical engraving

When is which engraving process better suited?

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving - a comparison of two technologies

The most practiced methods for engraving the surfaces of a wide array of materials is through mechanical engraving and laser engraving. Each type of technology has its advantages. For example, the primary focus of laser engraving is precision and detail, while mechanical engraving is advantageous in its relief effect. Continue reading to discover a comparison of both engraving methods focusing on their individual advantages and disadvantages.

Mechanical engraving

During mechanical engraving, the workpiece is clamped down while a milling cutter glides across the surface. Material is removed by the rotary motion of the milling cutter. Different shapes can be milled out of most material. Layered plastic materials can be engraved in this way as well as metal surfaces, which allow for increased contrast by adding color to the deep machined lettering or decorations.

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: It is particularly difficult to process fine detail.
  2. Wear and tear: The milling head wears down and needs to be changed frequently.
  3. Clamping required: For mechanical engraving, the workpiece must be clamped. This can hinder the production of a series due to the added time requirement.
  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.

Examples of paper engraving and photo engraving on acrylic using the laser

Fine detail can be achived on paper by using a laser engraver. A mechanical engraver is not able to efficiently engrave on paper.

A laser engraver can achieve beautiful photo engravings on acrylic. This does not quite work with a mechanical engraver.

How laser engraving works

Within a laser engraving machine, light bounces off of mirrors and lenses, focusing on the surface of the workpiece. The axis system allows the beam to glide over the surface. Depending on the length of the exposure, the strong heat of the laser beam marks burns or evaporates the surface of the workpiece. Thus creating an engraving.

Read more information about laser engraving here

Advantages of laser engraving

Laser engraving offers these advantages:

  1. Suitable for lots of materials (wood, glass, textiles, paper, metal, plastics, etc.)
  2. Material doesn't need to be clamped. Non-contact processing.
  3. No tool wear
  4. Very high precision
  5. Economical for individual pieces and series

Overview of the advantages of both engraving methods:

  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

For laser engraving we offer you a wide range of laser machines. They are optionally equipped with a CO2 laser, fiber laser or the combined flexx system. Our Speedy laser engravers are equally suitable for engraving and cutting.

Further information about our laser engravers

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