How to Choose the Right Laser Marker for Engraving

Wondering what a laser engraver is or curious how a laser engraver works? Or maybe you want to know what types of laser engraving machines lead to a more efficient, permanent, and user-friendly engraving process.

Look no further. In the following, we’ll discuss what laser engraving is and the types of laser marking machines available for different applications.

Definition of Laser Engraving

Laser engraving uses a laser marker to remove material by vaporization to create deep or shallow marks. The material removed can be for a design, logo, or character. Used across various industries, options for engraving include hand engraving, roll markers, and press markers.

There are a couple of reasons why you may choose to engrave a material. One common reason is for traceability purposes, especially in manufacturing. For this, you may engrave a serial number or 2D code onto a jig or product part.

Another choice is engraving a design or character onto a product for identification. This could also be a serial number or a logo. Lastly, laser engraving may be a tool for removing resin to analyze the inside of a product.

How the Laser Engraving Technology Works

Laser engraving technology works by using a combination of design software and a laser beam. First, the design is created and then uploaded to the design software program. Once the item is placed on the assembly line tray, the laser marker autofocuses to target the material precisely. Then, the laser marker passes over the area and engraves the surface.

*These are representative values. They will vary depending on the material and marking conditions

Types of Materials That Can Be Engraved

Metal

Many subcategories of metal can be engraved with a fiber laser or a hybrid laser. The fiber or hybrid laser uses a high output to deeply engrave into the metal for characters, designs, and barcodes. Using a laser marker to engrave metal is the best choice since it is permanent, powerful, and does not ruin the material.

Wood/Cardboard

Wood or cardboard can be engraved with white or dark marks by CO2 laser. The CO2 laser uses high-powered heat to burn designs, logos, barcodes, and characters into wood or cardboard. Using CO2 engraving on wood or cardboard creates a permanent, high-contrast mark that beats stamping.

Plastics

Plastic is an oftentimes sensitive material that is susceptible to deformation when heated. For this reason a UV laser is the perfect option. It performs what is referred to as “cold marking” in which a fully permanent, high contrast mark can be created without the application of any heat. For less demanding plastic marking apps, a hybrid or CO2 laser can often be a great option as well.

Glass

Glass can be engraved with white or transparent marks by CO2 or UV laser. Since glass is fragile yet heat resistant, laser engraving glass is a reliable and efficient choice for damage-free marking. The CO2 and UV laser use low or slow power to create cracks that don’t ruin the rest of the product.

Rubber

Whether it’s synthetic or natural rubber, laser engraving can make a permanent and high-contrast mark without ruining the material.

Natural rubber is sensitive to heat and is commonly used for hoses. Using a hybrid laser to engrave natural rubber is optimal because it doesn’t compromise the material but also creates a permanent mark. On the other hand, synthetic rubber is not sensitive to heat and is used for products like wiper blades because of its durability. CO2 lasers adequately engrave permanent marks because of the high absorption rate from the CO2.

Popular Applications of Laser Engraving

There is a long list of applications that laser engraving is optimal for, including:

  • Implants
  • Deep engraving on metal
  • Nameplates
  • Bearings
  • Automotive parts
  • 2D code marking

Laser Engraving Machines

At KEYENCE, we offer hybrid, fiber, CO2, and UV laser marking machines for any project.

3-Axis Fiber Laser MD-F Series

The 3-Axis Fiber Laser MD-F Series is a fiber laser with an output of either 50W or 30W. The high output allows for the laser to achieve high speed and deep engraving. This laser is perfect for deep engraving into metal.

  • High power output
  • Compact head
  • Multi-mode beam
  • Scanning function selection

Engine blocks

Vehicle body frames (deep engraving)

Bearings

3-Axis CO2 ML-Z Series

The 3-Axis CO2 ML-Z Series is a CO2 laser that engraves by burning and high absorption. Using a CO2 laser is great for shallow engraving into sensitive or heat-resistant materials like glass, wood, cardboard, paper, and synthetic rubber.

  • High power
  • High speed
  • Stable output
  • Long shelf life

PCBs

Partial cutting of labels

Film processing

3-Axis Hybrid Laser MD-X Series

The 3-Axis Hybrid Laser MD-X Series uses the best aspects of a YVO4 and fiber laser to engrave materials. The YVO4 adds high quality and depth of focus, while the fiber laser has long service life and a high output. This laser can engrave metal, resin, and natural rubber.

  • Versatile
  • High peak power
  • Single-mode beam
  • Long expected life

Molded packages (BGA)

Edged tools (black-annealed marking)

Switches for automotive instrument panels

3-Axis UV Laser Marker MD-U Series

The 3-Axis UV Laser Marker MD-U Series uses ultraviolet light and heat absorption to engrave heat-sensitive materials. The UV laser is perfect for engraving plastics, glass, and other heat-sensitive materials.

  • High contrast
  • Damage free
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Digital scanner

Switch covers (PP)

Medical tubing (silicone)

Multicolor automotive relays

Advantages of Laser Engraving

Efficient

Laser engraving is more efficient than its manual engraving counterparts. With a laser marker, tens of characters per assembly line tray can be marked in an instant.

KEYENCE’s laser markers are equipped with 3-axis control and autofocus. These laser markers analyze the product's placement and change the focal point accordingly. Because of this, there is no need for product repositioning.

Laser engraving is also more efficient than using a handheld device. The automation eliminates human error, breaks, and tedious handheld marking.

Damage Free

Laser engravers use heat or high absorption to mark on materials instead of added force. The pointed beam concentrates the energy to only mark in the respected area and not expand to the rest of the material.

High Quality

Unlike stamping or handheld drill devices, laser engraving can get deep into materials. The deep cuts from laser engraving leave behind high-quality marks that are clean, last forever, and don’t fade over time.

Conclusion

Laser engraving is a more efficient, damage-free, and high-quality alternative to engraving counterparts. There are many laser engraving markers to choose from to get the best result with your material and production goals.

Have a laser engraving project in mind and need assistance? Our trained team is here to help. At KEYENCE, we have knowledgeable staff that will help you throughout your selection process, on-site operating instructions assistance, as well as industry-leading after-sales support.

Related Downloads

MD-F Series 3-Axis Fiber Laser Marker Catalog

KEYENCE's MD-F Series offers unmatched functionality in a compact design.

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Metal Printing Process Instruction Manual

This quick guide introduces the basics of metal marking. Learn why different wavelengths matter and discover the various ways laser light interacts with metal parts.

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