Top Metal Etching Machines for Quality Marking Process
Etching on metal products requires using the best metal etching machine so as to achieve quality, efficient, and permanent marking. In order to choose the right marking machine, many factors play important roles in having a good selection. Therefore, we made a list of recommended machines to help you in your selections. The marking machines below guarantees quality and permanent markings when used in metal etching.
Fiber Laser Marking Machines
Fiber laser marking machines are the only suitable metal etching machine you can use due to their quality and efficiency. There are many fiber lasers marking machines that will deliver well in your metal etching project.
You can also use other fiber laser marking machines. Click here to access our recommended fiber laser marking machines and know the principles by which they work.
Etching is a manufacturing process that involves removing parts of the surface of a material with physical or chemical means. It is a popular process that dates as far back as the 14th century, where it was used in decorating metals such as copper and steel. As of then, there was a limitation in terms of the processes and machines. Therefore, markings were crude and the process was inefficient, and the quality was reduced.
The massive advancement in technology led to the development of processes and machines that guarantees speed, quality, and efficient decoration. Currently, laser marking machines, chemical etching machines, and electrochemical etching machines are the most common metal etching machine. How much do you know about metal etching machines? This guide intends to show you everything you need to know. Read on!!!
What is Metal Etching?
Metal etching is a marking process that involves used to create a design on a metal surface by removing some of its parts. It forms a contrast between the etched surface and the unetched one, which is the marking. Metal etching is the favorite marking process for manufacturers that want a reliable method and stable, durable, and permanent designs on a metal surface.
Processes Used in Metal Etching
In order to introduce metal etching machines, it is important to introduce the processes through which the methods work. These will give you an understanding of how the machines work and how to effectively use them.
There are many processes of metal etching. However, the most common ones are chemical etching, electrochemical etching, and laser etching. Below is a short introduction to how the methods can help you achieve your projects.
Acid-base etching is the first chemical method used in etching visual designs on metals. The designer coats the metal surface with a waxy material that is unreactive with the acid. He or she then uses various tools to put the necessary design on the waxed metal surface. The metal is dipped in an acidic solution (commonly hydrochloric acid) which erodes the exposed/unwaxed part to create the design.
Acid-base etching is compatible with many materials such as copper, steel, aluminum, etc. However, manufacturers/designers now prefer chemical etching due to its efficiency, stability, durability, etc.
Currently, chemical etching is a common method for etching on metals. It is a modern form of acid-base etching that involves using a high-pressure and high-temperature chemical spray to remove part of the surface of a metal.
This is an etching technique that uses the principle of electrolysis to create designs on metal surfaces. It is similar to a chemical etching; however, it includes a touch of electrochemistry. Electrochemical etching is a fast process. However, it is only applicable to conductive metals, which limits the type of metals it can work with.
Laser etching is the most common method metal etching method used nowadays as it is faster and more accurate than the other methods highlighted above. It is part of a broader category of laser marking, and it involves using laser marking machines that produce a high amount of energy to melt and raise the surface of a metal. The colors obtained depends on the material however, common colors include black, white, or gray, making the process ideal for making barcodes, logos, etc.
Metal Etching Machines You Can Use for Your Projects
Each method discussed above has its machine. However, based on the advantages and disadvantages of each process, some metal etching machines are more suitable for a project than others. Also, some methods are already archaic. For example, the acid-based etching process is no longer a common method. Therefore, we will not talk about machines. Below are the metal etching machines you should use for your project.
Chemical Etching Machine for Metal Parts
Chemical etching machines operate based on the principle of chemical etching, in which a chemical spray is used to remove part of the metal surface. The machine is an aggregation of different components such as a laminator, photoresist, etching machine, and stripping machine that works to create a permanently etched image in metal.
How a Chemical Etching Machine Work
An etching machine harnesses the corrosive reaction between the chemical and the material and amplifies the effect by heating the solution and spraying at high pressure. The chemical spray dissolves the unprotected metal areas to etch the material atom by atom for a smooth burr-free finish. Below are the steps needed to get a quality marking by using a chemical etching machine.
· Clean the Material Surface
The first thing to do is to remove all debris or any form of impurities from the surface of the material. This will reduce the chance of irregularities occurring during etching.
· Laminate the Material
Laminate the material using dry, wet-dip, and roller lamination. Then use a UV-sensitive photoresist film.
· Exposure of the Material to UV Light
Expose the laminated material to UV light to harden it and make it acid-resistant.
Develop a resist film on the non-exposed area to reveal the desired image. Also, heat it to improve its acid resistance.
Put the material in an etching machine, then spray with the chemical (the common spray used is ferric chloride). Etching will occur on the exposed metal parts.
Strip the resist film either manually or with a stripping machine and then begin any post etching process to improve the materials aesthetics.
Electrochemical Etching Machine for Metal Parts
An electrochemical etching machine is made up of a marking head, electrolyte, stencil, and software. The metal to be etched is placed at both anode and cathode, and a stencil containing the intended design is dipped in the electrolyte solution and placed over the substrate metal. The marking head is then placed on the stencil for marking to take place. On switching on the power, the anode dissolves into the electrolyte and get deposited on the cathode
Depending on the manufacturer, the box is extremely lightweight and compact. Electrochemical etching machines are compatible with a variety of materials, e.g., stainless steel, mild steel, copper, etc.
Laser Etching Machine for Metals
Laser etching is the most popular etching process for your product. However, using a laser etching machine comes with knowing everything about the machine. This section will introduce everything you need to know, from the type of laser marking machines suitable for laser etching, the function of every part of a laser etching machine, and how to choose them.
Laser Etching Machines Suitable for Laser Etching
There are many types of laser marking machines used in any marking system. However, only the fiber laser marking machines are suitable for laser etching. The reason why a fiber laser marking machine is the most suitable metal etching machine is due to the laser beam’s wavelength.
Laser marking machines release energy by emitting beams at specific wavelengths. On reaching the surface of the metal, the material must absorb the right amount to only melt the surface. Fiber laser marking machines are suitable for a metal surface as metals can absorb their wavelength (1064nm) than CO2 laser’s (10.6 µm).
How a Laser Etching Machine Work
The fiber laser etching machine has a pulsed beam, and it releases sudden bursts of energy at specific intervals. When the laser beam hits the metal surface, it reflects some of it while it absorbs and converts some to heat. On absorption of the right amount of laser beam, the material surface becomes malleable, allowing it to melt and expand the surface. On cooling, the surface undergoes a localized change as roughness is observable. This roughness is responsible for the change in color observed on a successful marking. You can visit our YouTube channel to watch how a laser etching machine works or other things related to marking.
How Much Does a Laser Etching Machine Cost?
The price of laser etching machines depends on the manufacturing companies making them. Therefore, it is hard to pinpoint the price. However, we noticed that even though laser systems are costly, the cost majorly depends on the degree of automation you desire. The more the degree of automation desired, the more you pay.
· Degree of Automation of Laser Marking Machine
The automation of the laser etching machine determines the cost. There are four types of laser machines based on the degree of automation: Tabletop lasers, manual workstations, semi-automated workstations, and automated workstations. Tabletop laser etching machines are the least expensive, while fully automated workstations are the most expensive laser machines.
· Environmental Protection
Most machines used nowadays have environmental protection from dust, water, and other contaminants in order to improve longevity. However, this added feature in laser marking machines leads to an increase in price. Therefore, machines with IP ratings have higher costs.
· Optical Components
Optical components are responsible for the quality markings produced by the laser marking machine. The use of substandard optical components will therefore affect the quality. Quality laser etching machines will have high-quality components to ensure speed, accuracy, precision, better contrasts, and quality marking, and this means an increase in price.
The casing of a laser marking machine is responsible for protecting the internal components of the machine from shock and other external effects. In short, it determines the durability of the machine.
There are majorly two types: plastic and metallic casing. On the one hand, the plastic casing is less durable and can easily break. On the other hand, metallic casings are more durable as they can withstand shocks to protect the components of the machines. Consequently, laser etching machines with metallic casings are more costly.
How to Choose the Right Metal Etching Machine
You should not just jump into the market to choose a metal etching machine. There are many factors that can help you to select the right one. Below are a few important factors to consider:
· Power and Speed
The power and speed of the metal etching machine are also important before choosing the right one. For laser etching machines, ensure that the machine has enough power to mark the metal. For others, ensure that the speed of marking ensures production efficiency.
· Type of Material
Each metal etching machine discussed above is more suitable for different types of materials. For example, laser etching machines are compatible with a wider range of materials than the others. However, you should avoid using metals with reflective surfaces. For the other methods, care must be taken to ensure that the materials are compatible with the etching chemicals.
· The Color of Marking
Color is a measure of aesthetics and functionality and is an important part of marking. Chemical etching provides marking with many colors. As a result, it is the most common method for those that desire varieties of colors. Laser etching color depends on your product material, In many cases, it presents gray, white, and dark colors.
This is the most important factor when choosing any metal etching machine. However, you should ensure that you balance quality with cost.
We know that considering the different factors for selecting a good metal etching machine can be a little challenging on your own. Therefore, the best way to get the right one is by meeting a laser expert. Follow the steps
- Meet a Laser Expert
There are many marking companies such as ours looking to extend their services to many people. Depending on the structure of the team, for example, at HeatSign, you will have access to qualified individuals with wide experience in using marking machines. This set of people are the best to ask about what to look at when trying to get a metal etching machine.
- Ask About the Product
If you have an etching machine in mind, you could pitch your idea to our team. Also, our team can also recommend a product for you (check above for our recommended laser marking machine). No matter how you got the idea of the etching machine, you should ask how it differs from the competition. We will be able to advise you on why the metal etching machine is suitable for the purpose by looking at factors such as power, quality marking, speed, and efficiency.
- Request for a Sample mark
Another reason why you should not try to do it alone is because of this last step. By trusting a marking service to advise, you could also request a sample marking using the metal etching machine. This will allow you to gauge the ability of the products in terms of speed and quality marking.
Get the Best Metal Etching Machine
Etching machines are suitable machines for marking metals and delivering colorful and non-colorful designs. Choosing the right metal etching machine from the pool of marking machines used nowadays can be a challenge as you have to consider different factors such as quality marking delivery, speed, efficiency, etc.
This article discussed the processes and machines that guarantees the best in terms of etching/marking. Have you checked our recommended etching machines? We guarantee you they are the best when it comes to quality and reliable marking. Do you have any questions about etching? Click the link below.
How much does a metal laser engraver cost?
A metal laser engraver cost between $2000 to over $50,000, depending on the manufacturers. It also depends on specifications related to quality marking, power, functionality, and other features that aid ease of operation and performance.
Which is better, etching or engraving?
Factors such as speed and permanent marking determine whether etching or engraving is a better fit for your project. Etching is a faster procedure than engraving. For example, laser etching requires lesser energy than engraving. However, engraving delivers better marking in terms of permanence.
Will a CNC machine engrave metal?
Yes, CNC machines can engrave soft metals with curved, flat, or round surfaces such as aluminum, steel, brass, and copper.
What metals are used for engraving?
There are many materials used for engraving. Top among them include aluminum, steel, brass, and copper.