What Is Laser Engraving and How does A Laser Engraver Work?

by Raymond Lei on March 10, 2022

Laser Engraving is a splendid use of laser and technology that brings tons of benefits to the user. If you are not familiar with laser engraving, how to do it, what items to engrave, and what you need to do laser engraving, you are in the right place.

In this article, we will dive deeper into the science behind laser engraving. We will understand it with the nitty-gritty of its working, the materials that can be engraved, and different types of laser phenomena. We will also share a splendid laser engraving machine to help you make the right choice.

What is Laser Engraving? How does A Laser Engraving Machines Work?

Laser Engraving is a process that engraves materials and leaves a deep mark over the surface. The surface of the material where the laser reaches is carved according to the requirement, and the material from that place is turned into vapors. Consequently, there is a carved surface that can be easily seen through the naked eye or sensed through touch.

Laser engraving works on the process of sublimation. For better understanding of the working of laser engraving, it is a must to have a look at sublimation.

Sublimation is the transition of a material or substance from the solid to the gaseous state. Generally, a substance changes its solid state and becomes liquid when the temperature reaches the melting point of the material.

When the temperature reaches the boiling point, the liquid is converted into gas. So, the material first changes from solid to liquid and then from liquid to gas. But in sublimation, solid directly changes into the gas without passing through the liquid state. For changing solid directly into the liquid, a very high temperature is needed.

laser engraving sublimation

In Laser Engraving, when the laser touches the surface, it provides magnificent energy that the solid changes directly in the gas or vapors. The high temperature of the laser beams changes the surface of the material to vapors. Then, these vapors are filtered through the fume extraction system of the laser engraving machine.

The laser is pretty powerful, and it quickly increases the temperature of a material to its vaporization temperature. Within milliseconds, the solid is converted into vapors, which is why the viewer thinks the surface of the material vanishes when the laser strikes.

Laser engraving is done using a machine called Laser Engraving Machine. The machine has a moving laser module that moves over the material to do engraving as needed. The laser module throws beams of laser that are powerful enough to engrave the material.

The engraving is permanent as it is made through the vaporization of the material. It lasts until the material decays. Therefore, it is often used in jewelry, diamonds, and other unique items for the identification of the owner. Other than that, it is widely used for different purposes.

What Materials Can/Cannot be Laser Engraved?

When the laser reaches the surface of the material, the part of the material on which the laser falls is vaporized. For vaporization, very intense energy is needed to reach the vaporization temperatures.  

The vaporization temperature depends on the materials. For instance, the vaporization temperature of Aluminum is 2327°C, Copper is 2595°C, and Iron is 3000°C. Thus, if the laser is capable of increasing the temperature to the vaporization temperature, the material can be engraved.

Generally, the laser beams are very powerful as they are concentrated and energized. The beams can easily increase the temperature of the material to the vaporization temperature. So, almost anything can be engraved, but the material should be hard and thick enough to bear the engraving.

Some materials like paper cannot be engraved. The paper is relatively thin, so it cannot be engraved. If you apply powerful laser beams on it, it will be cutting, not engraving. In addition, the edges of the cut will also burn because of the high energy from the beams.

However, a low-powered laser can be used for marking, which is different compared to engraving. On the other hand, the same is the case with cardboard. It cannot be engraved with a powerful laser but can be marked and cut using lasers.

We have seen that hand and thick materials can easily be engraved. It makes a wide range, and there are many materials that can be chosen for the purpose. Some materials have a high vaporization temperature, such as Iron, while some materials have a low vaporization temperature, such as plastic. Therefore, the power of the laser should be in the middle to engrave almost all commonly used materials.

Laser modules can easily engrave metal, wood, fiber, leather, plastic, and glass. There are a variety of materials that can be engraved. It is also done on precious stones and jewelry.

See the following table to know whether the material can be engraved or not.

Materials That Can Be Engraved

Aluminum

Chromium

Stainless Steel

Brass

Copper

Acrylic

Polyamide

Polyethene

Polyester

Polycarbonate

Polyurethane

Stone

Cardboard

Ceramics

Glass

Paper

Fabric

Precious metals

 

These are only a few materials, but a wide range of hundreds of materials can be engraved using laser engraving.

Difference Between Laser Engraving/Cutting/Marking

Beginners often get confused between these terms: Engraving, Cutting, and Marking. However, there are many differences between them. All these are done using lasers, so beginners usually consider them the same, but they are not.

Let’s have a look at them.

Laser Marking

laser marking explanation

The name actually explains everything about it. It refers to creating marks on objects. Technically, laser marking is a slight alteration in the properties, usually color, of the material.

In marking, a low-powered laser is used, which changes the color of the object on which it falls. It is discoloration, and most of the time, it is like a burned surface if it is done on paper or cardboard. When the laser hits the object, the temperature is drastically increased, which oxidizes the atoms of the material. Consequently, the surface appears to be black. Therefore, it is also called Laser Coloration.

Marking is usually done to create marks on objects. It can create a logo, bar code, identification number, QR codes, and similar things on the material surface. It is also used for the annealing of the metal surface. Keep in mind the surface of the material is not wiped off like engraving; only the color and properties are changed.

Laser Engraving

laser engraving explanation

In laser engraving, the laser wipes off the material from its surface. It actually vaporizes the material surface and converts the solid to the gaseous state. It removes the material that can be easily sensed through touch and seen by naked eyes.

It is commonly used to leave permanent marks on the surface of the material. It can be done for the identification of objects, such as jewelry or diamonds. 

Engraving is done for customizing objects, such as a pen, tumbler, and other objects that can be engraved.

Laser Cutting

laser cutting explanation

Laser cutting is the simplest of all, and you might have got it after reading its name. It just cuts the material into pieces or creates designs through cutting.

The laser beam is quite powerful, and it can penetrate through the object. The width of the objects matters a lot in cutting. For instance, some lasers can cut plywood of 10mm in one go, while some have to do it in several attempts. It all depends on the power of the laser.

Best Laser Engravers for 2022

xTool D1 is a high-accuracy diode laser engraving machine, which is perfect for DIY projects and small businesses. It is equipped with a compact and powerful industrial high-power laser that can be used for laser cutting and engraving more than 300 materials.

The compactness of xTool D1 sets it apart from other engraving machines on the market. The size is like a desktop printer, so the machine is portable enough to be taken anywhere you want. It is ideal for designers, artists, DIY enthusiasts, professionals, and startups.

The machine uses an innovative 10W laser module that has two laser beams. These beams are combined using a synthetic lens and then converged using a convex lens to create an ultra-fine laser of 0.08 x 0.08mm.

The small spot of the laser makes it extra precise. Therefore, it can consider minute details, such as small and thin lines during engraving. It reduces burn marks and ensures high accuracy and precision.

The large engraving area of 432 x 406 mm allows you to engrave patterns in one go. You can also engrave multiple objects at the same time by placing them in the engraving area. 

The accessories of xTool D1 make it more versatile. The rotary attachment rotates the object during engraving. It helps in engraving cylindrical objects. The Risers allow you to increase the height of the machine to cover more objects.

xTool D1 is suitable for beginners. The software, Laserbox Basic, is pretty easy to use. The machine is also compatible with LightBurn. The data can be transferred through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or TF card. Everything is more than simple. 

It can be a great idea if you want to have a small business. With the machine, you can engrave on pens, tumblers, wood, and hundreds of materials and express your creativity. It has stainless steel wheels and a shaft to last three times longer than common laser engraving machines. 

What Can You Make with a Laser Engraver?

Customized Objects

The most common use of a laser engraver is customized objects. It can engrave your pen, coin, tumbler, glass, bottle, belt, or anything you like. Using a laser engraving machine, you can also engrave your smartphone, laptop, or tablet.

laser engraved cut board

Users can also start a small business of customizing objects. They can customize things for their customers and engrave the designs they need. People love to have customized rings, belts, keychains, bracelets, lockets, purses, jackets, and many other items.

Decorative Items

You can express your creativity using a laser engraving machine. It allows you to engrave decorative items and art pieces, such as vases, jewelry boxes, wall hangings, and a lot more. It depends on your creativity; you can make whatever you like and implement different laser engraving ideas.

laser engraved light

Identification Marks

Laser engraving is also used for identification marks. It can engrave barcodes, numbers, logos, QR codes, and other identification marks. It is often used for diamonds and jewelry to identify the owner.

laser engraved identification mark

DIY Projects

Laser engraving machines are perfect for DIY projects. These can create any engraved designs on the objects you are making. Whether it be of steel, wood, or any other purpose, the engraving machine can do the job on almost all objects.

laser made wood craft

Laser Engraving FAQs

Can I make money with a laser engraver?

Yes, you can easily make money with a laser engraver. It is a great idea to sell engraving skills and products on the market. Products can be customized goods and art pieces.

Is laser engraving a good business?

Yes, laser engraving is a good business because there is a huge demand for laser engraving. Some people need it for labeling or marking goods. The most popular use is customized products. You can sell customized rings, lockets, bracelets, tumblers, mugs, leather jackets, pens, or anything else that can be engraved.

How do I start a laser engraving business?

You only need a laser engraver. For a small business or startup, xTool D1 is perfect. It is quite affordable and ideal for beginners. You do not need any experience or prerequisites to use xTool D1. Other than the engraver, you will need items that will be engraved, such as pens, mugs, tumblers, and rings.

How much does it cost to start an engraving business?

xTool D1 is affordable and an ideal choice to start an engraving business. The 10W D1 along with attachments is available at $763, and 5W is available at $583 with attachments. The best part is that it is also available with affirm and starts at as low as $53 a month.

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