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Making the right laser marking choice

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Making the right laser marking choice

As manufacturing grows in speed and production size and traceability requirements increase, the need for efficient, precise, and nondamaging laser marking is more pressing than ever. Although the marking methods of laser engraving and laser marking sound like similar processes, they are different in speed, design, and application.

Defining the Processes


Laser engraving uses a pointed laser beam to hit a target and heat it until its vaporization point. Vaporizing the target disintegrates the material and leaves behind a carved-out area. Depending on the laser and the target, the engraving could be deep or shallow. Some of the carved-out areas create designs like 2D codes, text, bar codes, or numbers. Other carved-out areas make room for analyzing the inner workings of a product or cleaning out contaminants.

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Laser marking is similar to engraving in that it uses a pointed laser beam to hit a target. Instead of vaporizing the target, however, laser marking heats it only to the melting point. When the targeted material reaches its melting point, it becomes malleable and sits atop the original material. The malleable material is sometimes manipulated into a textured, raised design like a bar code, or it’s made for surface processing.

Laser Marking Machines

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Whether you choose laser etching or laser engraving, you’ll be using a laser marking machine for the process. It offers varied speed, power, and pulse frequencies that you can manipulate depending on which process you choose. You also can pick which type of laser is best for your application.


A fiber laser is an infrared laser with a 1,090-nm wavelength. It uses intense heat to engrave or etch, so it’s best for use on metals and materials that are not heat-sensitive.


A UV laser has a 355-nm wavelength and an incredibly high absorption rate. This means that the laser can mark even materials that have high melting points, like glass or metal, without using high power. Additionally, since the absorption rate is so high, the laser does not damage the material.


A CO2 laser engraves products by burning. This is a good choice for shallow engraving into sensitive or heat-resistant materials like glass, wood, cardboard, paper, and synthetic rubber.


Understanding and applying the differences between laser etching and laser engraving to your manufacturing goals can help you make the right selection.

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