Laser Marking vs Laser Etching vs Laser Engraving

Official EM-Smart Blog
3 min readNov 8, 2021

Although there are many people who use the terms laser etching, engraving and marking interchangeably, there are huge differences between these three methods. This confusion may occur due to the fact that all three methods provide a mark on the surface of components that are manufactured. However, the process to make these permanent marks differs for each, and the results are different, as well. Let us discuss all three processes in detail and see which one performs the best of them all.

1. Laser Engraving Systems

In this process, a strong laser beam is used to remove the surface of the material where the mark is to be made, and as a result, the mark is created with a depression that looks like an engraving, hence the name. The cavity can be made as deep as it is required by repeating the process until the depth required is achieved.

There are further three types of laser engravings on the basis of how much surface is being removed:

· Etching

· Deep laser engraving

· Laser ablation

The method of laser engraving is fast and is great for products that are going to work in harsh conditions and will face wear and tear. The portable engraving machine is a great choice for DIYers who work on projects that involve customized engraving. However, it should be noted that the laser engraving machines are not able to mark safety-critical parts efficiently.

2. Laser Etching Systems

In this process, the laser etching machine emits a high-power, hot beam to melt away the surface and create a mark. The depth of the marks created by this process is quite less, at a maximum of 0.001inches. The etching machine is able to mark metal plated surfaces, anodized surfaces, ceramics, and polymers. However, the surface finish of the component changes due to the process, and the contrast and reflection are changed visibly.

3. Laser Marking Systems

In this type of marking machine, a beam is directed to the surface which produces coloration on the surface without making any change to the surface of the material itself. The laser beam is used to heat the surface until it provides discoloration, hence producing the mark that is required. There are many types of laser markings, such as ablation, charring, color change, foaming, and melting.

Which Marking Machine to Choose?

If you are looking for a marking solution that does not make any change to the surface of the material and can create permanent marks, then the laser marking machine should be your choice. The best part about this is that the materials which have been marked by this machine do not corrode over time, nor do they fade away when subjected to wear and tear. You also have more control with this method, since you can choose to make a small mark or go all the way through the surface of the component.

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