The laser engraving business industry is just starting to blossom. As it evolves, there seems to be some confusion about the differences between laser engraving, etching, and marking as it relates to the technology across the industry.
The following will clear some things up for anyone who is looking to buy a laser engraver and start a business.
Laser engraving, also referred to as laser cutting, is the most common terminology and the most well-known laser application. Even before laser technology perfected the process of engraving, engraving was a popular way to customize, personalize, and mark products and promotional items.
The first engraving that we know of goes back to around 60,0000 BC where the ancients engraved ostrich eggshells they used as water containers. The Egyptians cut patterns and designs into wooden blocks they used for printing on fabrics, and they engraved on architecture and pottery.
Today, laser engraving has evolved into virtually an automated process controlled by computer programs designed to command laser cutting machines to do the work that only craftsmen were once charged to do by hand.
Heat and depth are the two primary aspects that identify the laser engraving process. Heat from a focused laser light beam can cut through all kinds of materials from card paper to stone graphite. The amount of heat and the depth of the engraving are the two factors that change according to the material to be engraved.
Laser etching is similar to engraving, except the design is melted away from the surface of the materials as opposed to being burned away. Etching is less refined than engraving, but is popular because of its rustic effect. Etching distorts the material’s surface, which isn’t as precise as laser engraving.
Laser etching is more distinctive and unique, which makes it ideal for patterns and designs and less suitable for detailed images and text. The depth of etching is substantially shallower than that of cutting or engraving, which is another way it’s different from engraving.
Laser marking is umbrella terminology that technically describes the broad concept of all laser applications related to engraving, cutting, and etching. Laser marking alters the appearance of a surface using laser-focused heat. Laser engraving is a highly-specialized form of laser marking as is etching. Laser marking creates discoloration and patterns on materials through low-powered laser beams.
The process is used to oxidize the surface, which creates a darker color, resulting in the computer programmed design. The oxidation occurs underneath the surface of the material, leaving the surface intact. Laser engraving and etching both permanently alter the surface of the materials being engraved.
Every laser application mentioned here is ideal for engraving, etching, or marking custom products like trophies and awards, artwork, and other customized and personalized products. For instance, you can engrave elegant wooden business cards, etch glassware for special occasions, or mark plaques and recognition awards for organizations, schools, and individuals.
These descriptions of each laser application should clear up any confusion between them. Knowing the difference between laser engraving, marking, and etching will help you decide what kind of services you want to provide to clients.