What type of laser is used for laser engravers?

Fiber lasers are optimally suited for marking metals by annealing, etching metals and marking thermoplastics. It works with metals, alloys and non-metals alike, even with glass, wood and plastic. Fiber lasers are optimally suited for marking metals by annealing, metal etching and high-contrast plastic markings. Fiber lasers are generally maintenance-free and have a long lifetime of at least 25,000 laser hours.

On the other hand, the holes excavated with the engraving have better protection against abrasion than the raised marks formed with the engraving. In fact, the elevation of laser engraving can reach up to 80 microns, while the laser engraving depth can reach 500 microns. Only fiber lasers can be used for laser engraving. This is because etching is a process used with metals, which react better to fiber lasers.

In fact, the laser you need depends on the type of material you want to engrave, not the marking process. As you can see from the graph below, metals absorb the wavelength of the fiber laser (1064 nm) more efficiently than the CO2 laser (10.6 µm). For this reason, fiber laser (a type of solid-state laser) is a better choice for marking metals. Watch MECCO's SmartMark 20 W fiber laser while marking on brass.

See how several settings create different marks, such as frost marks, dark marks, and engravings. They have a relatively lower power compared to other types of laser engraving machines, allowing for compact, space-saving designs and supporting versatile artistic and industrial applications. As a result, the glass side of a laser-etched mirror remains intact, maintaining all the reflective qualities of the original mirror. Since laser engraving a metal requires less energy per area than engraving it, the pulses are more distant from each other, as shown below.

Even so, CO2 lasers are suitable for engraving or engraving a variety of materials, including wood, acrylic, glass, paper, plastic, leather and stone. The laser power required here is often less than 10 watts, depending on which laser is used, since most are different. When the laser beam interacts with the surface of the material, it alters the appearance of the marked area to show the desired design. If the surface material is vaporized during laser engraving, ventilation by using blowers or a vacuum pump is almost always required to remove harmful fumes and fumes arising from this process, and to remove debris from the surface to allow the laser to continue engraving.

Gas lasers are less intense than other types of laser engraving machines and, as a result, are less suitable for laser engraving of metals than a glass or crystal laser. Optical systems that provide fast switching of multiple beams have allowed the fiber laser system to be dominant in this market. Photos are rasterized (as in printing), with dots larger than those of the laser point, and are also better recorded as a rasterized image. Fiber lasers are a high-tech invention compared to carbon dioxide-powered lasers that were first invented in the 1960s.

My husband's company is launching a new product and they are trying to decide if they should do a laser marking or engraving on it. Due to the varying properties of laser wavelengths and power, different systems will give different results depending on the speed at which the part is produced.

Shana Lall
Shana Lall

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