Fiber Laser vs Infrared (IR) Laser: What is the Difference?
Fiber laser vs Infrared(IR) laser is one of the most confusing debates in the laser engraving community. People, even the users of laser engravers, often get confused with these two names, and most of them think these two types of lasers are the same.
If you want to engrave metals, plastics, and other hard objects, you need to understand the difference between infrared laser and fiber laser. You need to know which machine is right for you before you make any purchase.
In this article, we will discuss fiber lasers and infrared lasers from top to bottom. We will explain their working principle, similarities, differences, and applications so that you can easily decide which one is the right laser for your needs.
In This Article
- Fiber Laser vs Infrared (IR) Laser: What is the Difference?
- Application: Fiber Laser Engraver or Infrared Laser Engraver?
- 5 Best IR Laser Engravers for Sale
- 3 Best Fiber Laser Engravers for Sale
Fiber Laser vs Infrared (IR) Laser: What is the Difference?
1) What is Fiber Laser & How Does Fiber Laser Work?
A fiber laser is a type of solid-state laser because it uses laser diodes as the source of producing light or laser beams. After the generation of light, it is directed to a fiber-optic cable, which is why this laser is known as Fiber Laser.
The main component of a fiber laser is the fiber optic cable. This is what sets it apart from other laser types.
It is responsible for the distinct characteristics, features, and performance of the laser. Therefore, it is the key-role player, and it should be discussed in detail to understand the working of fiber lasers.
If we look at the cross-section of a fiber-optic cable of fiber lasers, at first, there is the outer cladding, then the inner cladding, and in the center, there is a special core of silica glass doped with a rare-earth element.
It is not necessary to dope the whole core; only a specific part is doped. The doping element varies depending on the application of the fiber laser. It determines the final wavelength of the output laser beams.
The produced light from the source goes into the central doped core. The light remains in this core, and the claddings reflect the light if it tries to get away from its original path. With that being said, the light is optimally directed to its destination.
Then the light passes through a special convex lens (Bragg gratings) that converges the light into a powerful laser beam. Finally, the beam is passed through an oscillator to improve coherence and then outputted. Now, the laser is ready to do its job if it falls on any object.
2) What is an Infrared (IR) Laser & How Does Infrared Laser Work?
An infrared laser is also a solid-state laser, and it also uses laser diodes to produce light. However, there is no optical fiber in its case. The medium that it uses is air.
The light is produced by the diodes, and then it is reflected through reflectors and converged using a convex lens. Finally, the laser comes out of the laser module. The working of an Infrared Laser is very simple because there are fewer components involved.
It is called an infrared laser because the wavelength of the emitted light or laser falls in the infrared region, i.e., 700nm to 1mm (1,000,000nm). However, the wavelength of the infrared laser is 1064nm, to be specific.
The wavelength that is emitted from the light source remains the same; it is not altered during its travel. With that being said, you only see a specific wavelength of Infrared Lasers on the market. Plus, as the laser beam is in the infrared region, human eyes cannot see any visible color in the radiation; the laser has no color.
3) Main Difference & Similarities
- Working and Construction
The main difference between Infrared and Fiber lasers is the construction and the working. We have already discussed both in detail, and now, you might have a very clear idea.
Infrared lasers are much simpler than fiber lasers in terms of construction as well as working. They have a straightforward principle and no complex or rare technology.
On the other hand, the construction of fiber lasers is much more complex. Its special optical fiber is made from a rare-earth element. All these things also make the working of the laser complicated.
Beginners or people that do not know enough about the construction and working of fiber lasers usually think it has a wavelength of 1064nm, just like an Infrared laser, but it is not the complete truth.
A fiber laser uses a rare-earth element in the central core. This element could be ytterbium, neodymium, erbium, holmium, and a few more.
The wavelength of the laser depends on the doped element. If you need 1064nm, then you need to use ytterbium as the doped material. For 780-1100nm, neodymium is used. Thus, you need to select the right doping material or the right purpose. Other commonly doped materials are,
- praseodymium: wavelength = 1300nm
- erbium: wavelength = 1462-1640nm
- thulium: wavelength = 1900+nm
- holmium: wavelength = 2025-2200nm
- dysprosium: wavelength = 2600-3400nm
With that being said, the wavelength of a fiber laser is not limited to 1064nm; it can be more or less but is always in the infrared region of light.
On the other hand, the wavelength of Infrared lasers is about 1064 nm, which cannot be changed. Due to its cost-effectiveness and applicability, the 1064nm infrared laser is the most widely used fiber laser on the market today.
- Laser Power
Fiber lasers are undoubtedly very powerful, and there is no comparison between the power of a fiber laser and an infrared laser. The optical power starts from 20W usually and goes up to several hundred watts or even more. It clearly shows how powerful these lasers are.
The prominent feature and inbuilt characteristic of fiber lasers is amplification. We have discussed that there is a doped core inside the fiber optic cable. When the light enters this core, the electrons inside the atom of the doping element get excited and move to a higher energy level. But when these electrons come to their relaxed or normal state, energy is released, which ultimately amplifies the laser. Thus, the output is more intense.
Secondly, the peak power of fiber lasers is very high. This is a power rating that shows the maximum power that the machine can offer instantly. Even if the optical power of the machine is 50-100 watts, the peak power can reach up to 5000-10,000 watts. It is because fiber lasers can also work in the pulsed operation mode that offers pulses of very intense energy. With that being said, these lasers can engrave and cut hard materials, such as metals, without any hassle.
Now, coming to the power of Infrared lasers. The common power range of Infrared laser is 1-2W. However, as its peak power can reach up to 15,000 watts, this power is also excellent for engraving a wider range of materials. It is perfect for personal use as well as small laser engraving business.
Infrared laser machines are compact and have the right power and wavelength to engrave hard metals. It is something that a small business owner should prefer because it offers almost everything needed.
Fiber lasers are suitable for industrial applications, and they are not suitable for small businesses. Those are used for such purposes that are not the cup of tea of a desktop or small laser machine.
- Performance and Speed
Both fiber laser and infrared lasers are excellent when it comes to performance. Depending on their power rating and usage, they are great.
Fiber lasers engrave and cut materials at a very fast speed. It is because of their immense power and high peak power. On the other hand, infrared lasers are a bit slower than fiber lasers, but they also do the job at an incredible speed.
- Machine Size
The size of a fiber laser engraver is roughly 3~10 times larger than an infrared laser engraver. It occupies more space and is not for homes or small areas. In contrast, an infrared laser engraver can be in a very compact and small module, just like a simple diode laser module.
The price of a fiber laser and an infrared laser matters a lot because there is a massive difference. If you want to buy a 20W fiber laser, it will cost you around $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the features. The price of fiber lasers increases swiftly with the power, and it can go up to $15,000-$20,000 or even more. Moreover, the cost of the fiber laser also depends on its application because there can be different doping materials in the laser machine for different purposes.
On the other hand, the cost of infrared lasers is quite reasonable. You can buy a 1-2W infrared laser along with a diode laser machine only for $1,200 if you pick the right brand. It will be a combo of a diode and infrared laser, which will increase the choice of materials you can engrave. Otherwise, brands usually offer infrared lasers for about $1,200-$2,000.
Thus, for small businesses, an infrared laser machine is the best.
Application: Fiber Laser Engraver or Infrared Laser Engraver?
You need to select the right laser for the right purposes. Infrared and fiber lasers have distinct characteristics, so one could be better than the other in a specific application. We are going to list some of the applications and explain which laser machine is the right one.
1) Jewelry Engraving
If you only want to engrave jewelry, the best option is an infrared laser machine. It can easily engrave a wide range of metals, including gold, silver, platinum, and copper. You can engrave almost anything from rings to necklaces.
Fiber lasers can also engrave jewelry, but it will be very expensive. The upfront cost of the machine is more than an infrared laser, and it also consumes more electricity. Thus, an infrared laser is the best option because it offers everything at a minimal price.
2) Plastic or Acrylic Engraving
When you engrave on acryic or plastic, the result of a blue laser is not that impressive. But the result of an infrared laser is more than impressive; it is clearly visible and perfect.
Therefore, for engraving plastic and acrylic, you should buy an infrared laser. It is a better and more affordable option compared to fiber lasers.
3) Metal Cutting
Laser metal cutting requires a very high-power laser. But if you want to cut up to 0.05mm metal sheet, you can use a suitable infrared laser because not all machines can do that. For more thickness, you need to get a fiber laser that is specifically made for cutting.
4) Laser Welding
Laser welding can only be done using a fiber laser. It offers clean, quick, and perfect welds that are difficult to achieve using other methods and technologies.
5) Laser Cleaning
Fiber laser is the right option for industrial-grade laser cleaning. But again, there are specific lasers for cleaning purposes, and they are very powerful. They can remove rust, paint, and other unwanted things from the surface.
5 Best IR Laser Engravers for Sale
We have picked some of the best infrared (IR) laser machines that you can buy. We will compare these demanded products and share their features so that you can easily decide on the best one.
1) xTool D1 Pro 2-in-1 Kit: 455nm Blue Laser & 1064nm Infrared Laser
If you need an infrared laser engraver, there is nothing better than the xTool D1 Pro 2-in-1 kit on the market. The most important thing is that it is a two-in-one machine, so you get to enjoy the blue laser as well as the infrared laser machine at the price of one. You can cut as well as engrave vast objects using one machine.
The optical power of the infrared laser is 2W, which can engrave metals at a fast speed. The peak power can reach up to 15,000W, ensuring you can engrave hard materials without any hassle. The laser spot measures only 0.03 x 0.03mm to offer fine engraving.
With these two laser modules in the machine, you will be able to cover a wide range of materials, such as wood, plywood, acrylic, glass, ceramic, rock, plastic, gold, silver, platinum, aluminum, titanium, copper, and many other materials. Plus, if you get the 20W blue laser module, you will be able to do color engraving on metals. It is more than exceptional.
xTool D1 Pro is an upgradable machine, so you have the option to upgrade it with time. You can attach both laser modules and also buy separate 5W or 10W blue laser modules for better engraving. In addition to that, there are many accessories, such as the extension to engrave large objects, the rotary attachment to engrave spherical and cylindrical objects, and air assist to get better engraving results. There are many things available, and you get new and upgraded laser modules to upgrade your existing machine.
The machine offers an incredible speed that can reach up to 400mm/s. It gives you splendid engraving and cutting results. You can engrave a very large area of 430 x 390mm, which can also be doubled using the extension. The construction quality of the machine is also amazing. It has steel shafts and wheels that last three times longer than other machines available on the market.
There are many prominent and exceptional features in xTool D1 Pro, such as limit switches for all directions to accurately position the laser module, flame detector, tip-over safety, specialized software, and tons of other things to take your laser engraving and cutting business to the next level.
Last but not least is the low upfront cost, and you can also get it on installment. Furthermore, the running cost of the machine, including electricity and maintenance, is almost nothing, even if you run your machine for 12-14 hours every day.
Note: If you already have an xTool D1 Pro, you can also buy the 1064 nm infrared laser module separately.
2) LaserPecker 3 Basic: Metal & Plastic Handheld Infrared Laser Engraver
image credit: LaserPecker
LaserPecker 3 is a 1W infrared laser engraver machine that can be used as a desktop as well as a handheld laser engraving machine. The compact design and lightweight structure allow you to engrave anything on a particular object just by placing the machine over it.
You can engrave on gold, copper, silver, wood, acrylic, PVC, and different types of materials, including all metals and alloys. There is a very small working area that can be used for the customization of objects, jewelry markings, logos, ID numbers, etc.
The engraving results of the machine are exceptional. It offers HD 4K resolution engraving that takes clarity to the next level. It offers 0.01mm high-precision along with a very compressed laser spot. You get extremely accurate results at a very high speed.
You can easily use the fixture while processing a batch of objects. It will help you position each object quickly in the working area without any errors and deviations. It also offers 360° cylindrical engraving using its auxiliary booster, which is sold separately.
3) Atomstack M4 Fiber Desktop Handheld 2-in-1 Laser Marking Machine
image credit: Atomstack
Atomstack M4 is actually an infrared laser engraver with a machine power of 20W. It is the machine power that is mentioned in the specifications, and its optical power (2W) will be much later than that, but the peak optical power can reach up to 20,000W.
The machine has an incredible design. It is a desktop as well as a handheld laser machine that you can use to engrave a wide range of metals and non-metals, including gold, silver, plastic, epoxy, wood, etc.
The laser spot of the machine is highly focused, having a diameter of 0.02mm. It offers fine engraving results even if you are engraving a small object. Moreover, it offers exceptional accuracy that ensures perfect engraving results every time. The machine is very compact, and it offers batch processing as well to help you engrave faster.
The biggest problem with the machine is that it can engrave small objects only. It can cover a maximum area of 70 x 70mm. Thus, you need to consider this restriction before you buy it. Other than that, it is easy to use and handle the machine.
4) Mr. Carve M3 Infrared Laser Engraver
image credit: Mr.Carve
Mr.Carve M3 is a very compact, lightweight, and powerful infrared laser engraver. You can easily place it on your table and engrave hard materials, such as stainless steel, painted metal, plastic, leather, etc. However, it is not suitable for precious metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum.
The laser optical power is 2W, and the peak power is 15KW, which is enough for engraving compatible objects. It is an ideal machine for branding and customization of products and gift items.
The most important thing about the machine is its safety. Even if your hands come in contact with the laser machine, there is no harm or damage. The laser does not work on the human skin. Plus, there are additional safety features to prevent accidents.
The engraving accuracy is 0.005 mm, which means that the machine can offer very high-quality engraving by considering the fine details. But you can engrave on small objects only as the working area is not large enough.
5) HiLaser Z4 Infrared Laser Engraver
image credit: HiLaser
HiLaser Z4 is a tiny laser engraving machine that is one-of-a-kind and a symbol of exceptional design. It is equipped with a dual laser source that offers 455nm and 1064nm laser beams and covers a wide range of materials, including wood, ceramics, glass, steel, gold, silver, platinum, aluminum, iron, ceramic, and plastics.
You can use the machine as a handheld or desktop device. The size is smaller than a clothes iron, and you can easily handle it during handheld operation. But the only problem with the machine is that the working area (60 x 60mm) is smaller than ever before . It is suitable for engraving little pieces of graphics, such as logos and names.
You can use the software on your computer or mobile. The machine is also portable enough and easy to carry. The 1064nm laser is 1W, and the 455nm laser is 4.5W, and both of them are suitable for engraving.
As the machine is compact, it compromises on speed, accuracy, working area, and a few other features. But overall, it is an incredible invention that's worth the investment. Plus, you get this infrared and blue laser machine at a very reasonable price compared to others.
3 Best Fiber Laser Engravers for Sale
These are the three best fiber lasers on the market with an immensely powerful output. These machines are suitable for heavy-duty tasks and faster operations. Let's have a detailed look at their features, pros, and cons.
1) FSL Muse 1064nm Fiber Galvo Laser Engraver
mage credit: FSL Muse
This is a very powerful fiber laser engraving machine that can engrave any type of hard material in no time. You can engrave metals, polymers, leather, and stones.
It is equipped with extraordinary features that make laser engraving easier. Firstly, it has got a 3D camera that visualizes the object and its dimensions and adjusts the focus of the laser machine to the optimal level. Thus, it can offer perfect engraving without any hassle.
The software is compatible with commonly used operating systems. Other than that, it has a dedicated large LCD panel to control the machine directly. This machine covers a wide area. The height can be set within the range of 412mm. The working area can be from 4 x 4 inches to 12 x 12 inches.
The machine is available in 20W, 30W, and 50W, so you can choose whatever you want. It is a very expensive machine, even the 20W costs around $5,000, and it will increase if you buy an extra lens, fume extractor, and rotary.
It is not a compact and simple machine you can use at home. It weighs around 320lbs. If you want a laser for industrial use or a high-level laser engraving and cutting business, you should go for this; otherwise, pick an infrared laser machine instead of this.
2) OMTech 30W Fiber Laser Engraver with Rotary Axis
image credit: OMTech
OMTech 30W Fiber Laser Engraver is a heavy-duty machine that has got an incredible speed of 7m/s. Engraving on metals, plastic, leather, and other materials is not a problem anymore using this machine.
The incredible feature of the machine is adjustable pulse frequency. It allows you to cover a wide range of materials and do color engraving on several metals. You only need to adjust the pulse frequency, and you can engrave in any color you like.
The accuracy and precision are exemplary. It can work on intricate designs and offer accuracy up to ±0.1 microns. Its Sino-Galvo scanning head offers this exceptional accuracy that you cannot find in other machines. You can easily engrave on small objects, such as precious stones. The maximum area is 175 x 175mm. You can easily position the object through its red dot and built-in grids.
The machine also has a chuck rotary for engraving cylindrical and circular objects. It is perfect for jewelers, industrial purposes, and small businesses as well. It is suitable for bulk work because of its speed, and it can do the job with ultimate perfection and precision.
3) QS-20 LiteMarker 20W Fiber Laser Engraver
image credit: QS-20 LiteMarker
This is a compact fiber laser engraver that takes less space and weighs much less than other fiber lasers on the market. It is a 20W fiber laser machine that is suitable for gold, aluminum, silver, copper, brass, steel, plastic, marble, stone, ceramic, leather, and other materials. From marking materials to engraving fine detailed graphics, this machine is a perfect choice.
The working area of the laser is 110 x 110mm. It offers an incredible speed of 5,000mm/s. You can use it for commercial purposes as well as for your small business. It is perfect for jewelry marking, customized objects, barcodes, logos, and other purposes.
The position accuracy of the machine is ±0.1µm, which is commendable. The lens is also easy to focus on the object, and there is a red dot device to position the object accurately. If you want to engrave on cylindrical and curved surfaces, you can also buy the rotary attachment separately.
The machine is a bit costly but still available at a lesser price compared to similar products. It can make engraving quicker and easier. But make sure you take safety precautions before using this powerful laser machine.
We have discussed fiber vs infrared laser in detail. Now, you might have a very clear idea of these machines and what they are used for. You can look at their working principle, differences, and similarities to understand which laser engraver is the right one for your needs. We have also picked some of the best fiber lasers and infrared lasers that you can purchase from the market. These are exceptional products with distinct features, pros, and cons. Make sure you check the specifications, features, and other characteristics before making any purchase.