Laser Etching vs. Laser Engraving vs. Laser Marking: The Major Differences

While you may have heard the terms used interchangeably, there’s a distinctive difference between laser etching, laser engraving, and laser marking. There are so many different applications for these fantastic machines, including glass etching, rubber stamps, engraving, wood engraving, firearms, university applications, metal etching, photo etching, even engraved gifts. They’re also very popular for manufacturers to put clear and legible part and product identification and serial numbers, which is very important for a large variety of industries. While these three techniques may seem similar, there are actually differences between them.

Laser Engravers

Laser engravers are extremely common and perfect for entry-level crafters. However, one of the best brands in laser engravers is Boss Laser. You can get more information here on their website and check out some of their available options and the CO2 lasers they have. The actual laser engraving process involves physically removing the metal’s surface, which creates a small divot or cavity that can be marked strategically to reveal a design once it’s at eye level.

The very high temperatures created by the laser cause the material to vaporize every time the beam pulses. This means that the beam can be passed over the same space multiple times to create deeper engravings. In fact, laser engraving is an excellent option for creating customized or personalized gifts, either as a hobby or as a commercial business. This method is not only the fastest method to work with a laser, but you can use it on virtually any surface.

Laser Marking

The laser marking process is slightly different. It works by using the laser beam to interact with the surface of whatever material is being used at the time. This causes changes and alterations in either its cosmetic appearance or properties. The process itself works by a low-powered beam that moves very slowly across the material to mark it noticeably.

This method is called discoloration, which essentially just creates high-contrasting marks. However, it doesn’t disrupt the material itself, which is why this is a popular method. Another way that laser marking works is by heating the material, which causes the oxidation process underneath the surface, which turns the material dark in colour.

Laser Etching

Technically, laser etching is encompassed under the same umbrella as laser engraving. Instead of using the laser to physically remove the surface, heat from the laser beam causes the material’s surface to melt. When this happens, the material that’s been melted grows and expands, creating a raised mark. This method can alter the reflectivity, which changes and enhances the level of contrast. Laser etching is ideally suited for bare metal or anything that’s been plated or anodized. It can also be completed on ceramics and polymers too.

The Differences Between Laser Engraving, Etching, and Marking

While there are fundamental differences between the processes of laser marking, etching, and engraving, they also use an incredibly complicated machine to carry out the process of marking a surface. However, they’re perfect for many different applications: for universities or educational purposes, creating customized gifts, marking metal, even etching product numbers on items. No matter the purpose, these machines are perfect, no matter what kind of project you’d like to try.