What’s the difference between laser engraving and mechanical engraving

Official EM-Smart Blog
2 min readSep 29, 2021

Laser engraving and mechanical engraving are the most common methods of surface engraving for various materials. Both technologies have their purpose. With the laser, for example, the focus is precision, however, the relief effect achieved in the mechanical engraving is an advantage. In this article, you will find a comparison of both methods with a comparison of their individual advantages and disadvantages.

Mechanical engraving

In the mechanical engraving process, a milling cutter moves over the surface of the clamped workpiece. The rotary motion of the milling cutter removes the surface of the material. For example, letters or patterns are milled out of a material. Plastic layered materials can also be engraved in this way. Metal surfaces offer a particular advantage in mechanical engraving: The deep machined lettering or decorations can be designed with color to increase the contrast.

Advantages of mechanical engraving

  • Deep engraving possible with metals.
  • Metals can also be drilled and cut.
  • Mechanical engraving

Disadvantages of mechanical engraving

The following limits apply to mechanical engraving:

  • Limited level of detail: Small details, in particular, are difficult to process.
  • Wear and tear: The milling head wears down and needs to be changed regularly.
  • Clamping required: For mechanical engraving, the workpiece must be clamped. The time required for this is a hindrance in the production of the series.

Not suitable for many materials: Fine engraving or marking of paper or leather is not possible. Mechanical engraving is not suitable for roughening the surface of the acrylic.

mechanical engraving

How laser engraving works

In laser engraving, a laser beam is focused on the surface of a workpiece by means of mirrors and lenses. The beam can then be moved over the surface using the axis system. The strong heat of the laser beam marks burns or evaporates the surface of the workpiece depending on exposure time. This creates an engraving.

laser engraving

Advantages of laser engraving

Laser engraving offers these advantages:

  • Suitable for lots of materials (wood, glass, textiles, paper, metal, plastics, etc.)
  • The material doesn’t need to be clamped. Non-contact processing.
  • No tool wear
  • Very high precision
  • Economical for individual pieces and series