Although there are many different materials being used in the industry these days it does without saying that metal is still the king of all materials. It is being used in almost every second object that we see or use.
In this quick guide, you’ll read about laser engraving on metals and different types of laser engraving machines. So you’ll know what is best to buy for your business.
Metals are durable, workable, thermal resistant, and aesthetically appealing out of all other materials being used. Because of their extensive use in the industry, engraving metals has become critically important.
Be it information display, traceability, aesthetic designs, or profile making, laser engraving is the go-to technology. Laser engraving machines for metals have totally transformed the display arena of industries.
The popularity of metal engraving machines has made them reach big industries as well as cottage industries, too. There are laser engravers of the varying price ranges with exclusive workability rendering it easier for almost everyone to buy them.
Industries working on automobile parts, machines, pipes, hardware, and tools use laser engraving to introduce barcodes, serial numbers, logo etching, and tracking numbers on them.
Firms of almost every scale try to introduce traceability on their product since it helps them monitor their quality and maintain their unique identity. A laser engraving machine for metals leaves a permanent mark for such applications.
These engravings are not only legible but permanent as well. This feature makes it once-in-a-lifetime work which doesn’t wear off and prevents tampering of the product.
Metal laser engravers are highly precise. Due to their precision, apart from heavy industrial metallic parts, measuring tools are also marked and graduated with them. This is something that differentiates laser engravers from other types of engravers.
Even the dot peen engravers cannot engrave the smallest possible detail on measuring equipment as perfectly as laser engravers. Due to the automated engraving system of lasers, the markings are made without the possibility of human error.
What does one look for in a measuring instrument? Accuracy and precision, right? Laser engravers do it for you.
When it comes to the medical field, the administration is responsible to maintain the identification and traceability of the equipment. Can you guess what type of device is being used for such a purpose? Laser marking medical devices is the correct answer and yes, you’re right!
Applications of laser engravers will not come to an end if we keep on discussing them. Such is the scope of this magical invention. Let’s talk about the types of laser marking first.
There are basically three types namely laser marking, laser etching, and laser engraving. While all three of them might seem similar, these are not!
All of this has to do with what the laser does with the surface and how it happens. In the case of laser marking, the surface of the metal is discolored which displays the information. In the case of laser etching and engraving, the laser removes the surface of the substrate metal thus creating a sort of indentation.
But how do these later two types differ? Well, the answer is the depth of the indentation. Laser engraving creates deeper indentations as compared to the etching process. Engraving is basically removing the material mechanically whereas etching is removing the material via heat.
Laser marking can be done with relatively low-powered laser devices. Since the beam is low-powered, it doesn’t raise the temperature of the substrate metal as high as in the case of the other two techniques.
The four major types of laser marking are annealing, foaming, carbon migration, and coloration. This laser technique is less common as compared to engraving and etching.
Laser engraving removes the substrate material at relatively higher temperatures hence high powered laser beam is used in such techniques. This high temperature vaporizes the substrate metal. It is very quick and creates deeper indentations as compared to the other two techniques.
Laser engraving is not recommended for parts that are critical to safety rather for parts that are subjected to wear and tear. It can be used to create indentations on materials other than metals like wood, plastic, leather, and glass.
The laser etching process is somewhat a child of laser engraving. In this technique, the heat of the beam creates indentations in the substrate material. Decent depths can be achieved through etching but certainly not more than engraving.
Etching also changes the surface behavior of the metal like the contrast and hence the reflexivity. The etching is best suitable for plated metals but the scope is not limited to metals only. It engraves ceramics and polymers, too.
It is now time to discuss the different types of laser engraving machines currently in use in the industries. There are three main types of laser engraving machines namely CO2 laser marking machines, Fiber laser marking machines, and Crystal Laser marking machines.
CO2 Laser Engraving Machines
CO2 laser engraving machines use a gaseous mixture of CO2 which undergoes electrical treatment to produce the laser beam. The wavelength of the CO2 laser beam is roughly 10.6 microns.
This type of wavelength is suitable for engraving on non-metallic parts like wood, plastics, textiles, paper, and glass. To find out the right kind of CO2 laser engraving machine, try checking out laser engravers.
Fiber Laser Engraving Machines
Talk about the magical invention for your metallic marking or engraving needs? Fiber Laser technology is here for you! This type of technology belongs to the group of solid-state lasers.
The wavelength of lasers used in fiber laser engraving machines is around 1.06 microns. Due to such small wavelengths, fiber metal laser engraving machines create a really small focal diameter.
Due to smaller wavelengths, the intensity of fiber laser engraving machines is a hundred times higher than that of the CO2 technology. Fiber laser engraving machines are the best option for metallic parts due to high power beams, smaller wavelengths, and smaller focal diameters.
A 50W laser engraver is an example of such a high-power fiber laser marking machine. Fiber laser engraving machines for metals are generally maintenance-free and can offer a service life of around 25k hours.
When it comes to fiber laser engraving machines, Heatsign has no match. You might want to check their products if you’re looking for durable and efficient machinery.
Crystal Lasers, just like fiber lasers, also belong to the same class of solid-state lasers. Diodes are responsible for the generation of these crystal lasers. The doping elements present in these diodes are neodymium and carrier crystals.
The wavelength of such laser is also around 1.064 microns which makes it suitable for marking on metals and plastics. Crystal lasers cannot give you a maintenance-free time, unlike fiber lasers. This is mainly because of the diodes.
These diodes wear out with time thus requiring maintenance. You might have to carry out your scheduled maintenance after employing the laser for 15k hours. Crystal lasers work perfectly on coated metals but their scope is beyond metals also. Crystal lasers can engrave on plastics and ceramics as well.
It’s about time we discuss the metals that these laser engraving machines for metals can engrave. Bear with us!
Following is the list of metals that can be engraved using metal laser marking machines:
- Anodized Aluminium
- Stainless Steel
Aluminum is largely used in making crankcases, the cover of crankcases, and aesthetical body parts in automobile industries. The surface of aluminum has a high thermal conductivity. Fiber laser engraving machines can engrave aluminum at a very high temperature.
It can create engravings with high contrast markings. Aluminum supports laser etching if the faster operation is the goal but laser engraving leaves a more robust and permanent impression on the metal.
The most common types of aluminum being used for engraving purposes are 380 and 6061 but that doesn’t mean that the rest are not compatible. It’s only about more common types.
In general-purpose metals, steel is one of the robust materials out there. It requires a longer time for surface treatment hence engraving is comparatively harder or we can slower (slightly) in the case of steel.
Having said that, the speed of the engraving can be increased by adjusting or compromising the color of the marking. Higher engraving speeds produce white marks and lower speeds produce black marks.
Apart from etching or engraving, the laser annealing on the steel gives more corrosion resistance. Rust is the ultimate enemy of steel hence you might not want to waste your material by exposing it to its worst enemy. Steel tubes, sheets, pipes, and springs are the most common products which undergo laser engraving.
- Stainless Steel
Industries commonly use stainless steel of grades 316 and 306 for laser engraving purposes. Again, it is not only about these two types. Just like plain steel, laser annealing prevents SS from catching rust. The oxide coating of chromium oxide on the surface stays untampered in the case of laser annealing.
SS undergoes laser annealing at relatively lower temperatures in comparison to other laser marking processes. Aesthetic parts, railings, fuel tanks, and suspensions consisting of stainless steel are the substrate products for laser technology.
- Anodized Aluminium
In the case of anodized aluminum, there are two possibilities. You can either engrave on the aluminum without the oxide layer or you can do it above the oxide layer. In the former case, engraving is done before the aluminum is anodized and vice versa. Regardless of the order of the engraving, the resistance of anodized aluminum remains intact.
Industries use magnesium whenever they have to fabricate lightweight parts. Laser engraving can efficiently create markings on such lightweight parts. In dot peen marking, on the other hand, the part needs to have a tight grip during the process since it engraves by applying force.
Hence it might not be the best technique to create markings on lightweight parts made from magnesium. Parts like gearboxes, steering wheels, and engine casings consist of magnesium. Engines are the most critical parts for traceability purposes of any vehicle.
Hence it is crucial to engrave them with an identification code or information. Laser engraving does the job swiftly and perfectly, making you relieved about the whole traceability procedure.
Unlike aluminum, lead has low thermal conductivity. This low conductivity means that the heat generated during the laser engraving would not seep away into the surroundings but instead stay on the surface.
Although it is easier to engrave lead with laser marking machines since it has a low melting temperature. This makes the engraving process easy and hence speedier. Make sure that you buy a low-power fiber laser engraving machine if a lead is the substrate metal.
Lead adds up to make counterweights and the lead ingots become the raw material for many industries. Anything and everything made up of metal requires an identification mark so don’t forget to use laser marking technology for this job.
Final Word about Laser Engraving Machine for Metals
Laser technology is second to none when it comes to engraving on metals. Laser technology is more efficient, speedier, reliable, precise, and maintenance-free. As can be seen from the information above, laser engravers are almost universal engraving machines that can be used on metals, non-metals, and organic materials as well.
If you are working in an industry which deals with metals only, you should definitely go for laser marking and engraving machines. The dot peen machines are good but not as good as fiber laser machines. These laser machines do not tamper with the surface of the metal unlike dot peen marking machines.
Forget about the conventional methods for traceability and information scribing on metals. Take one step into the future and choose laser engraving machines for metals. Not only do these laser engravers process your products timely but they make them look stunningly professional.
Although all types of laser engraving machines are great fiber laser is the latest of all and hence boasts some great features. The speed, depth, precision, and accuracy of fiber lasers have no match yet. They can make the engraving look so easy and take off the burden of the worrying activity of transferring information on your product.
Know your metals and choose the right kind of laser engraving machine for your business. It’s time to lead the business like a perfect professional.