Metal Finishes Laser Engraving vs Laser Marking

Of the many services that PCML offer, laser marking and engraving allow our customers to add custom text, graphics, logos or barcodes onto the components that we produce for them. This can be particularly useful for branding or identification purposes, allowing each component to be identified with a serial number and a specific logo to communicate a strong brand identity and professionalism. 

Although they may seem similar in terminology, there is a difference between laser marking and laser engraving that you might need to be aware of when you are deciding on the specifications of your product. While laser marking generally creates shallow, high-contrast marks on the surface of the material, laser engraving removes the material to create much deeper and more permanent marks.

But which one is right for you? 

How does laser engraving work? 

Laser engraving and marking with PCML involves directing a high-strength laser onto the surface of a material to change or remove it. Specifically, we use a Halo F-30 Pulsed Fibre Laser, which uses optical fibre as the main catalyst for its beam. Fibre lasers offer a number of benefits when compared with traditional crystal or gas catalyst, including: 

  • Efficiency, as traditional catalysts use lots of energy and expend lots of heat to produce a laser beam. 

  • Quality, since fibre optics are able to maintain the quality of the beam more consistently than gases. 

  • Versatility, being well-suited to cutting a wider range of materials than gas or crystal lasers. 

When a powerful laser beam comes into contact with suitable material, it interacts and changes its properties due to the high levels of concentrated energy in the beam. This can range from a simple chemical reaction that changes the colour of the material to the removal of material through a process called ablation. 


What is laser engraving? 

Laser engraving involves provoking the latter reaction, removing material from a given surface to create a suitably deep engraving. When the beam is focused on the material, the high levels of heat and energy are transferred from the beam to the material’s surface – which literally vaporises under the intense pressure!  

Laser engraving isn’t just powerful. It’s also highly accurate and precise, creating a clean cut across a variety of different surfaces. Because we use fibre lasers, which maintain an accurate and consistent beam, this means our laser engraving services can be highly detailed to accommodate your specifications. Along with services like Finishing from PCML, laser engraving lets us fabricate and assemble components exactly as you need them.  


What is laser marking? 

Laser marking is much less aggressive than laser engraving because it aims to create shallow marks in the material that change the colour of the material’s surface. A controlled amount of heat interacts with the material which starts the colouration process. 

The exact chemical process can differ, ranging from heating the material up to oxidise its surface, to changing the molecular structure of the material to alter its colour. PCML are capable of offering both laser marking and laser engraving services, and we can also recommend the best process that will suit the material and specifications that you’re using. 


Laser marking vs. laser engraving 

Now that we understand that laser engraving is a more aggressive technique that removes material to create a mark, what’s the real difference? Why would you want to use one rather than the other? 


Benefits of Laser Marking 

Laser marking is well-suited to harder or more brittle material. For example, ceramic or glass components are incredibly fragile and can easily break under the pressure of a laser engraving process. For a lighter touch on your components, laser marking is the best way to go. 

A less aggressive method means that laser marking can also produce incredibly fine details and more intricate patterns compared to laser engraving.. That means that any logo or visual branding element can be recreated by PCML on your components, no matter how detailed or intricate. 


Benefits of Laser Engraving 

On the other hand, you might choose laser engraving services to create deeper, more permanent marks that have a more tactile feel in your hands. Laser engraved elements can communicate a strong brand identity, and also produce visuals that last much longer than laser marks – perfect for identification elements such as barcodes or product codes. 

Laser engraving also works well on flexible materials, since it relies less on heat application. Instead, the ablation process applies such a concentrated level of energy to a small area that the material vaporises without melting. This makes laser engraving the better choice for flexible materials like plastic or rubber. 


Laser Marking and Laser Engraving with PCML 

As the UK’s leading precision engineering and manufacturing supplier, PCML can create products and components that match your specifications down to a tee. That includes your brand logo or identification label, no matter how intricate, thanks to our laser marking and engraving service. All we require is an image in a vector format before we can get started on creating the perfect engraving to suit your product. 

To find out more information, read more about our laser marking capabilities here, or get in contact to talk through your options. We’re always happy to make recommendations to suit your budget or bespoke requirements – just give us a call on 01223 293904, send us an email, or visit our contact page here

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