What you need to know about laser etching.

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

What can I make by laser etching?

Laser etching is a process that falls into the laser marking category for creating permanent markings. Laser etching is one of the most efficient processes for manufacturing applications. It creates permanent markings with high contrasts and achieves a high marking speed due to its lower energy consumption. In addition, laser etching is particularly popular for personalization on glass. There are many possible uses and applications, which we will show below.

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What’s the difference between laser etching vs. laser engraving?

Both methods are types of laser marking. In laser engraving, the surface of the material is melted and vaporized by the laser beam, i.e. the material is removed. The resulting noticeable depression on the surface is the engraving.

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

In both of these processes, the laser emits pulses and changes the surface of the material due to the high energy. Laser etching a metal, for example, requires less energy per area than engraving. Laser etching can create different shades on the surface. Laser etching is faster than engraving. On the other hand, 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 vaporized by the laser beam, i.e. the material is removed. The resulting depression in the surface is permanent and abrasion-resistant engraving.

With the resulting contrast, or multi-layer materials (acrylic, etc.), color 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.

Does laser etching wear away? Is laser etching permanent?

As already described, the laser etching of plastics creates a marking through noticeable depressions. The surface is only minimally removed in the case of glass and metal. The marking is permanent. The advantages of laser etching are the speed and the very high contrast that can be achieved on the material compared to sandblasting, for example.

Laser etching applications

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Which materials are suitable for laser etching?

Laser etching can be used on many materials:

  • Glass and crystal glass
  • Metal
  • Aluminum
  • 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

Beautiful laser etchings are created on acrylic (PMMA). The material is tailor-made for laser processing. Polycarbonate products (e.g. Makrolon®) are also suitable for laser processing. You can quickly and easily produce e.g. neon signs, regular signs, POS displays, and more from acrylic glass.

Laser-etched anodized aluminum

Laser etching of aluminum creates white and black areas – depending on the surface roughness, light is either absorbed (black) or reflected (white). Anodized aluminum can be marked in two ways: 1. Before anodizing: the bare aluminum is e.g. etched 2. After anodizing: the anodized layer is etched In both cases, the corrosion resistance is retained.

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 production.

What does a laser machine cost for etching material?

Laser etching requires less energy than laser engraving, and is therefore faster. For a Trotec Speedy 400 with 80W power, the hourly machine rate is approx. € 14.69. This includes maintenance costs, space, and energy costs, imputed interest, and imputed depreciation.

The purchase price for a laser engraver starts at approx. 9,000 euros. The costs can vary greatly depending on the work area and laser power. We can advise you on choosing the right laser engraver for personalization.

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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