Home > Blog >

What is Laser Etching? What is the Cost of Laser Etching Machine

Aug 16, 2021 Upload by OTLASER

When it comes to finding a better alternative of laser engraving, there is only one answer no matter how hard you try to come up with something else- Laser Etching. Yes, etching has emerged as the finest yet simple method to mark different elements.


Over the years, this method has improved quite a lot and today, it’s now in a better position to meet businesses’ requirements for various marking applications. To get to know more about this etching process, read ahead and figure out how it can be of use to you.


Overview of Laser Etching


laser etching


It is a process that enables businesses to mark the products and parts on their surfaces. Referred to as a part of laser marking category, laser etching works in parallel to laser annealing and laser engraving. The best part of this process is its versatility and reliability that make it compatible with most of the metals.


It uses a higher amount of energy, generated by the laser beam, to melt the upper surface of the metal. Normally, etching works best for permanent marking of logos, barcodes, data matric codes and serial numbers.


Process of Laser Etching


When you start the etching process, it heats and expands the upper surface of the material so that the desired texture can get to its place easily. It leaves white and black marks on the material since the marking is permanently and doesn’t go away over time. The worth considering fact is that you should go for laser etching instead of engraving because it is more efficient and emits lesser energy for applications.


According to the experts, etching is suitable when:


· There is any type of material for application, except stainless steel


· The process is intended to be completed faster


· There is the need of a cost effective laser to use lesser laser as compared to other options


· It’s necessary to apply laser marking before using any non-abrasive methods like heat treating, powder coating or e-coating


As soon as the laser beam produces energy and hits the surface, it melts the surface of the material and prepare it for marking. For laser etching, the material is required to absorb as much energy as it is needed to melt the micro surface to stimulate expansion. This eventually increases the temperature of the material that makes the surface malleable and lets the machine to shape it as required.


Difference Between Laser Engraving and Laser Etching


Although etching is faster and efficient but, engraving has proved to be more durable and reliable. The reason behind is that the process to melt a material (etching) operates on lesser amount of energy as compared to vaporization (engraving). Deep laser engraving needs a higher amount of energy and even more time to get the job done.


On the contrary, the holes being formed as the result of laser engraving are more resistant to abrasion that elevated marks being formed by etching. However, you cannot overlook the importance and benefits of laser etching- nothing has proved to be reliable and result oriented for high-contrast markings than this method. It is even better than laser engraving unless the task needs high resistance for abrasion.


Here, the worth mentioning fact is that etching is permanent and the mark remains readable until the useful life of the item. Even, it doesn’t bother for non-abrasive treatments like heat treating, e-coating and powder coating. On the other hand, the use of abrasive treatments like sandblasting and shotblasting may limit the efficiency of laser etching.


Fundamentals of Laser Etching


· Materials/ Applications


Since etching is a versatile method, you can be rest assured of applying it for almost any material. Though, the commonly used materials are:


· Magnesium

· Aluminum

· Lead

· Zinc

· Steel

· Anodized aluminum

· Stainless steel

· Speed


When it comes to evaluating the speed and efficiency of laser etching, it is twice the speed of annealing and engraving, thereby making the entire process effortless and faster to complete. However, if you want to adjust its speed, it’s recommended to go for systems having higher or lower laser power. Practically, most of the applications need 100W laser power to get the jobs done.


Here, you shouldn’t forget the marking speed, which also depends upon the size of identifier, type of material and colors to be etched- black marks are slower to etch than white marks.


· Types of Lasers


While there are a number of laser machines available in the market, nothing can do etching better than fiber lasers. Wondering why? Well, it’s because etching is usually done with metals and fiber lasers are the only option that go well with the mechanical requirements. In addition, the type of laser also depends on the material to be etched, instead of the marking process.


From technical point of view, fiber lasers are capable of generating energy through laser beams with particular wavelengths. Some of the energy, when hits the metal’s surface, is absorbed while the rest reflects. The absorbed energy then converts into heat and prepares the surface for etching.


CO2 and fiber laser systems used to emit laser beams with different wavelengths while the materials also absorb or reflect the beams differently. It is, therefore, necessary to make sure that you are throwing the right wavelength on a particular material so that it can absorb as much energy as it is needed for laser etching.


· Cost of Laser Etching Machine


It’s really difficult to provide a price range for the etching machines since their prices vary a lot according to the company. However, you can get an idea with the details that are provided below:


Laser systems are not expensive themselves; rather, their higher prices show expenses for manufacturing applications and the level of automation they are available with.


· Desktop lasers or tabletop lasers are the cheapest of all because they are manufactured for local stores to engrave items like guns, jewelry and trophies. They don’t even require the users to wear laser goggles since engraving is done from a reasonable distance.


· Manual workstation tends to be a bit costly than desktop lasers because of the involvement of Class-1 laser enclosure. It is 100% safe to operate and turn out to be perfect for batch marking.


· Semi-automated workstation comprises of a rotary table that enables the operator to complete marking in a hidden time. This type of laser etching machine is best for inline marking (where the operator has to follow production guidelines) and batch marking.


· Full automated laser systems are the most costly solutions that are integrated for high-volume production to work closely with conveyor systems like assembly lines, smelting plants and casting plants or robots


Factors Behind Higher Prices of Laser Systems


To understand the price differences in laser machines from different companies, analyze the following elements:


· Some lasers have good IP ratings and protection against water, dust and other impurities while others don’t offer environmental protection, which makes the surroundings unsafe for the users.


· Some laser etching machines are equipped with low quality optical components while others use heavy-duty components to improve speed, productivity, precision, durability and contrast.


· Some have plastic casings that are prone to breakage or damage other others are strong and sturdy because of metallic frames. They can easily withstand shocks and prevent the internal mechanism and parts.


Once you are certain about these factors, the next important step is to consult with an expert so as to be sure about getting the desired outcomes from your choice. Also, ask for the sample markings and compare the model with other companies’ machines to figure out why you should go with that one.


Implementation of Laser Etching


When it comes to implementing the etching process inside and outside of the production lines, be sure to get OEM laser markets (with system integrators for custom results/solutions) and laser marking systems (for standard solutions). This selection will make sure that you are receiving the desired results and there would be no compromise on the service quality.


Wrapping Up


So, have you got all the details that you have been looking for? For yes, then it’s high time to bring your plan into reality and start your search. But, if you still need some details, then it’s better to take your time, consult with the experts, analyze your options and then make a decision. Avoid being in a hurry!