This post was most recently updated on March 25th, 2023
The term laser is no longer a mystery. Many people can relate to the word laser easily. However, laser engraving and laser cutting are different beyond your basic concept of laser definition.
Let’s take a look at the fundamental definition of laser engraving and laser cutting. Laser cutting means melting the surface and making a raised mark, while in laser engraving, deep marks are created by removing material from its surface. In both processes, high heat is expected, due to which a permanent mark remains on the surface.
This permanent mark is necessary for terms of the discrepancy between the products. Laser engraving and laser cutting have gained popularity in the past few years. It is used to create logos, serial numbers, VIN, label parts, etc., everywhere, and in each field, you can find uses for laser engraving and laser technology.
In this article, we will discuss the concepts of laser engraving and laser technology in terms of different factors, so without any further delay, let’s dive deep into the topic.
Process of laser cutting tool. Image source: IndiaMART
A laser cutter is used to cut metal. With laser cutters, you can design custom shapes with the help of high-powered laser beams. Laser cutting allows you to cut complex designs and shapes with great precision. In this process, you can easily cut and shape intricate patterns irrespective of the material used in the process. You can design your design in software and then generate a G-code that you can send to the slicer using a slicer like the online slicer of SelfCAD.
This process supports various materials, including metal, plastic, wood, gems, wood, glass, paper, etc.
The laser cutting process provides options like fusion cutting, oxidation cutting, and scribing. With the help of these procedures, you can cut complex designs accurately and with great precision. High-quality edge-finishing products can be achieved from all these processes.
Compared to other conventional methods, laser cutting, waterjet cutting, and mechanical cutting processes give you better results in preciseness and speed with less contamination of the material and minor physical damage. The waterjet cutting method uses high pressure of water to design the object, whereas, in the mechanical cutting process, cutting tools are used to process bur in laser cutting. A laser is used to cut and engrave the material.
Resonators, mirrors, and laser cutting heads are visible in the process of laser cutting technology. These are the significant parts of the laser machines. Laser cutting involves the following stages:
- Beam Generation
- Beam Focusing
- Heating and melting
- Material ejection
- Beam movement
Gasses used in Laser Cutting
CO2 is a commonly used gas in the laser cutting process, which serves as an active medium. Initially, Co2 was used to cut non-metals; it was used as a powerful tool to cut metals for further modifications and upgrades. Neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd: YAG) or neodymium-doped yttrium orthovanadate (Nd: YVO4) is generally used to cut metals.
Crystal laser technology is also used in some large-scale industries, but it is not widespread due to its high cost. Fibre laser is significantly cheaper as compared to crystal lasers; hence it is considered a better alternative to crystal lasers.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
There are many advantages of using Laser cutting technology over other conventional cutting methods. Some of them are given below:
- High precision and accuracy
- Better edge quality
- Narrow kerf width
- Less material contamination
- Less maintenance required
- Better safety operation
Laser-cutting technology proves to be a boon for industry because of its versatility. Compared to conventional technology cutting machines such as waterjet or mechanical appliances, complex designs can easily be cut with great precision. This technology saves your time and will not burn a hole in your pocket, and any design can be cut out repeatedly because of the CNC-controlled option.
With this technology, you don’t need a manual option for polishing a product because its accuracy is so acute that no further cleaning or finishing is required. From the safety point of view, laser cutting technology is operator safety because this machine has no mechanical components, and the chances of significant injuries are very less.
Laser cutting is environment-friendly technology as it produces less noise during the cutting of materials, due to which the workplace environment also improves.
Disadvantages of Laser Cutting
There is nothing made in the world that is 100 percent perfect. Laser cutting also has several disadvantages over other conventional methods. Such as
- Inconsistency in production
- Ranges on required material
- Metal hardening
- Energy and power consumption are high
- Higher equipment cost
As we know, laser cutting can cut a wide range of metals and non-metals with excellent efficiency. But some metals are not suitable for laser cutting technology. Material thickness plays a notable role in the laser-cutting process.
The laser cutting process requires more power to operate than other conventional methods. For thick metal, more gas pressure and high intensity of the laser are needed, and inconsistency in adjustment takes some time in the production process.
Laser engraving technology is used for writing text on metal. With the help of laser engraving, a specific picture, design, or logo can be engraved on a particular metal. Laser engraving technology uses a subtractive method to cut the metal into a specific shape or design.
You need a softcopy of the required design or logo in this process, which you must upload to the computer. Then, according to specific patterns of techniques, the machine takes position and starts the engraving process. A highly heated laser beam is passed on the material through which the beam creates the design by burning or evaporating the material.
The laser engraving process uses two engraving technology: line engraving and surface engraving. The Line engraving technology uses vector images to print on the material surface. Conversely, surface engraving burns and vaporizes the material and creates a 3D impression on its surface.
Types of machines and materials
Laser engraving technology uses a wide range of materials that can be engraved. Acrylic, MDF, glass, metal, leather, and wood are specific materials used in laser engraving technology.
Acrylic is one of the strongest materials with great resistivity. It possesses specific waterproofing and is used in the kitchen or bathroom. Laser engraving on such material gives good results. It is also being employed in the medical field.
MDF is a material embedded with medium density. The laser engraving process is smoother on this material due to its lower density, as it allows denser penetration. MDF is also waterproof and fireproof, due to which its further process can be easy.
With the help of laser engraving technology, any kind of glass can be engraved without damaging it. You can see these technologies on mugs, bottles, etc., with many beautiful images or designs engraved on their surface. But before engraving any glass, it is necessary to be ensured that the right glass is used, or else it can damage the glass. Steel, iron, silver, gold, or any metal can be engraved with this technology.
Laser engraving technology uses diode lasers and CO2 lasers, two major machines widely used in the laser engraving process. CO2 lasers can penetrate any material with great precision, but diode lasers cannot penetrate all materials. CO2 lasers are quite expensive than diode lasers if we talk about prices.
So, it depends on the users’ material, requirements, quality, and quantity, and they select accordingly. Ortur Laser Master 2, FoxAlien LE-4040, and Atomstack A5 Pro are some diode laser printers that are good in performance and budget-friendly. The CO2 laser is much better than the diode laser.
It can pass through any metal through which diode lasers cannot pass. These lasers are exceptionally delicate, and if any part breaks, the whole machine will stop working. OMTech 40 W(DF0812-40BG), Flux Beamo, Full Spectrum Laser Muse Core, and Glowforge Plus are some CO2 laser printers that are under budget and best in performance.
Benefits of laser engraving
- Fast process of production
- Numerous options in choosing material
- Precision and accuracy
- Reliable process
- Extremely Safe
- Less or no waste product
We’ve covered the workings of laser cutting and laser engraving, their differences, advantages, and usages. We hope you find the article informative and handy. Drop us a line if you have any doubts or suggestions.