Metal Laser Etching
Below you will discover the two most common laser technologies to metal mark or engrave along with the benefits and drawbacks to each. The good news is that if you utilize the correct laser technology practically any metal can be permanently laser marked or engraved. But, before we do that here's what types of metals a laser can mark, engrave, or cut..
What Types of Metal Can Be Laser Marked or Engraved?
- -stainless steel
- -alloy steels
- -high-speed steels
- -hardened metals
- -painted or treated metals
- -anodized aluminum
- -raw aluminum
- -titanium, titanium alloys
- -precious metals
What's the Difference between Laser Marking, Etching, and Engraving Metals?
Most of the time these laser terms are all used interchangebly, but for the sake of clarity and understanding here's the difference:
Laser Marking: The laser interacts with the surface producing a discolored, contrasting mark
Laser Engraving: The laser physically removes or vaporizes surface material leaving an exposed, visible cavity
Laser Etching: The laser causes the surface to melt which produces a raised contrasting mark
What Laser Technology Processes Metal With More Efficiency and Precision?
For the sake of simplicity either FIBER or GAS (commonly CO2) laser technology are the most common technologies for processing metal whether it be ferrous or non-ferrous metals. Which of those two will work best for your application depends on what type or thickness of metal you want to process. On a side note there's also on older laser technology Nd:YAG (uses Crystal as gain medium). However, YAG is being supplanted by fiber technology due to its better long term reliability and cost efficiency.
So, with respect to laser marking and engraving metals (and even cutting thin sheet metal) fiber laser technology undoubtedly processes metals with far better precision, speed, reliability, and efficiency compared to the CO2 laser wavelength. But, if you want to cut thin sheet metal - fiber is more advantageous compared to CO2. Why? Mainly due to fiber having a smaller wavelength (which is better absorbed by metal and a much smaller spot size and cutting kerf) compared to CO2.
What are the Benefits and Advantages of Fiber compared to CO2 laser technology?
- - Fiber laser processes most metal types more efficiently whereas CO2 only cuts stainless steel
- - Fiber laser power source offers longer life time reliability of up to 100,000 hours
- - Fiber has no moving parts or adjustable mirrors for maintaining beam alignment
- - Fiber laser offers greater wall plug electrical efficiency - up to 50% vs CO2
- - Fiber lasers have 2-3x faster straight line cutting speed when cutting thin (1-3mm) sheet metal
So, Why Buy a CO2 laser for Processing Steel?
CO2 is an anattractive technology for cutting steel because even though it is not as fast and efficient with steel (not good with non-ferrous metals) - it can additionally process every day type organic materials as well. Materials like wood, acrylic, leather, fabric, stone, etc. are easily processed via. CO2 wavelength. Fiber is just really good at just processing metal (ferrous and nonferrous) and some industrial polymers. Also, keep in mind CO2 is more efficient at cutting thicker steel (over 4mm) compared to fiber.
One of the main benefits of Boss' HP metal cutting machines is that they are CO2 powered and equipped with an upgraded reciprocating laser head and software technology to laser mark, engrave, or cut both stainless steel and organic materials.
However, if you are only wanting to mark or engrave various metals including raw stainless, soft steel, aluminum, titanium, brass, silver, gold, copper, etc then a fiber laser marking or cutting machine like the Boss FM-20 will be your best choice. However, if the metal is coated i.e painted or anodized then CO2 will do the job.
If you need a laser to cut various metals especially thinner sheet metal at production scale speeds (without the need to process organic materials) a fiber laser cutter will best suit your production environment. In this case Boss' FC series of fiber laser cutter machines will be a good place to start.
If you have any questions about how a Boss Laser can help you process metal or organic materials feel free to call us for help at (407) 878-0880.