Laser Marking vs Dot Peen Marking Machines: An Overview of Two Popular Marking Technologies

Marking is a necessary part of many industries and businesses, as it allows businesses to identify and trace products throughout the supply chain lifecycle. Two well-known marking methods are laser marking and dot peen marking. However, these two technologies are not created equal. In this article, we’ll discuss laser marking vs dot peen marking and how to make the best marking choice for your business needs.

Laser Marking

A laser marking machine is an innovative technology that marks objects with focused light. The process begins with the laser machine’s oscillator releasing a high-energy light (laser) which is then scanned by a mirror. The mirror and the focusing lens then work together and focus the beam on the target. Then, the beam hits the target and discolors the surface. In this process, heat absorption is the channel for marking.

Laser markers are popular across a diverse range of materials, including:

When it comes to processing, a laser marking machine creates the following:

Dot Peen Marking

Dot peen marking machines, also known as pin marking, are in a subcategory of engraving. A dot peen marking machine uses a pin to carve into a product. The pin, also known as a stylus, is made of carbide or diamond and cuts small but deep dots to form a design. These styluses are either handheld or automated, which differs from the strictly automated laser marking machine. Since the process involves carving, the result is an indented design, unlike the surface discoloration of a laser marking machine.

A dot peen marking machine relies on friction to sculpt designs, meaning that dot peen marking is limited to sturdy materials. The best success is with hard metals or plastics. On these materials, dot peen marking marks:

  • Logo
  • Text
  • Number
  • 2D Code

Differences Between Laser Marking and Dot Peen Marking

When Should You Choose Laser Marking?

If you’re manufacturing for an industry that has products that shouldn’t be contaminated with outside materials, such as the food, pharmaceutical, or medical device industry, choosing a laser marking machine is the best choice. A laser marking machine discolors the surface for a permanent mark, unlike dot peen marking, which creates an indent that collects contaminates like dust.

On a similar note, a laser marking machine is also optimal if you’re marking sensitive materials like glass, plastic, paper, rubber, or cardboard. Laser markers use pointed heat absorption for marking, which doesn’t compromise the rest of the product.

When Should You Choose Dot Peen Machines?

Choosing a dot peen marking machine must only be on a strong product that is resistant to friction and unaffected by contaminants. Examples of products that are okay for a dot peen machine include thick pipes, tools, or tubes.

Choosing the Right Marking Technology: A Comprehensive Comparison of Laser Marking and Dot Peen Marking Machines

Exploring the Pros and Cons of Laser Marking for Industrial Applications

No Surface Damage

A laser marking machine uses high-energy light to discolor a product through heat absorption. This heat absorption can be set up so that it has no surface damage.

Diverse Marking Ability

Laser marking machines achieve a diverse range of marks across industries. Industries in which laser markers are used include:

Permanent and High Contrast

Since the laser marking machine uses heat absorption for marking, all marks are permanent and high contrast. Permanency and high contrast are particularly critical for industrial applications like traceability designs, which must be read by machines and/or humans.

High Upfront Investment

Laser markers are versatile, user-friendly, and create fantastic marks, but it comes at a price. Although laser markers are a worthy long-term investment, a laser marker may not be the best choice if your budget is slim for a short-term project.

Dot Peen Marking Machines: Benefits and Drawbacks for Industrial Product Traceability

Deep Marks

A dot peen marking machine uses electromagnetic strikes for carving designs. Because of the cutting nature, the marks are deep and sturdy.

Good on Thick Materials

The intense nature of a dot peen marking machine is strong enough for any thick material. Industries like aerospace, defense, metalworking, and oil and gas may benefit from a dot peen machine.


Dot Peen marking machines are small and sometimes handheld, so they can be brought to a production site. This is particularly beneficial for traceability marks on large parts that can’t be transported to production sites easily.

Not Always Efficient

With some dot peen marking machines being handheld, it's not the most efficient choice. Handheld dot peen marks take time, energy, and extra costs. It takes time and money for an employee to receive training on using a dot peen marker. Then, the employee must do it by hand, which requires manual effort and frequent breaks in production.

Damages Some Products

Dot peen machines use a stylus to strike a material, which can be damaging. Using a dot peen on fragile materials damages the product and causes defects.

Choosing the Right Marking Technology: Factors to Consider When Deciding Between Laser Marking and Dot Peen Marking Machines

Material Type

As mentioned above, dot peen marking machines require a particular type of material to work on.
Use a laser marking machine for these materials:

  • Metal
  • Glass
  • Rubber
  • Ceramic
  • Resin
  • Plastic
  • Cardboard/paper

Use a dot peen machine for these materials:

  • Hard metal
  • Hard plastic

Marking Speed

Dot peen machines vary in speed, as they can be handheld or automatic. A laser marking machine is always automated and moves quickly through the production line.

Surface Finish

If you’re looking for a clean surface finish that does not have any processing flaws, choose a laser marking machine. KEYENCE’s marking machines use 3-axis technology to autofocus and create uniform marks across the entire product that are clean and precise.

Ready to See the Effectiveness of Laser Marking?

At KEYENCE, we offer free trial equipment so you can test our laser marking machines for your business needs. We’re ready at any level of your process to help you, from the design and research stage all the way to after-product adoption. Request a trial today!

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