How Does Laser Engraving Work? Your Ultimate Guide 15 Feb 2022
Lasers are rather wonderful things. They’re a great way to mark products with permanent designs. At Cutlasercut, we use lasers to cut, engrave, and mark everything from fashion and textiles to marketing materials, glass and stone. Here’s everything you need to know about one of our favourite techniques: laser engraving.
What is laser engraving?
Lasers may seem like a far-out, sci-fi technology but they’re also incredibly handy when it comes to design!
Laser engraving involves using a beam like a chisel. By pointing the laser at a material, we can chip away at the surface, revealing the levels below. The process creates a design that is both visual and textured.
Multiple laser applications can make the engraving deeper and more contrasting.
How does it work?
Laser engraving vaporises the top layers of a material — whether that’s card, fabric, or stone — into fumes. This process engraves deep, permanent marks. Lasers make contact with a localised area of the material with a huge amount of energy, generating enough heat to vaporise the solid into gas.
How do the lasers know where to go?
Well, laser engraving involves using a specialist machine. You can programme the machine to read an image and follow the lines or gradients, depending on the technique you choose.
Types of laser engraving
There are four main engraving techniques we use at Cutlasercut.
Raster engraving works in a similar way to a printer. The laser beam moves backwards and forwards over the desired surface, from top to bottom. As it moves, it marks the areas the machine tells it too. Where a printer adds ink to the areas it marks, raster engraving removes some of the material to mark the surface.
Because raster engraving is quite slow, it can be more expensive than other techniques.
Photo laser engraving essentially works in the same way as raster engraving. The difference is in the level of detail. During photo engraving, the laser reads the tonal qualities of an image, similar to a printer. The laser focuses maximum power on black areas and passes over white areas. Shades in between receive varying amounts of laser power.
Rather than reading the gradients of an image, this form of laser engraving uses lines known as vectors. Vector engraving is similar to precision laser cutting. However, rather than going right through the line, the laser just scores the surface.
This form of engraving is quicker than raster engraving but it can be more challenging to get full control over line thicknesses.
3D engraving works in the same way as raster engraving. However, with a 3D setting, the laser will add sloped edges to the engraving at various depths and cover all shades in between black and white. The result is a 3D appearance.
What materials can you use laser engraving on?
Laser engraving is a versatile process. You can use it on a wide range of materials, from acrylic and other plastics to wood, mirrored glass, and slate. Because each material will yield different results, it’s always best to test them out. At Cutlasercut, we can supply different surfaces or you can source your own materials.
Laser engraving services in London
If you’re looking for laser engraving in the London area, then you’ve come to the right place. At Cutlasercut, we can cut or engrave a range of materials. From shop signs to custom engraving, we’d love to help out with your products.
All we require is your vector file(s) compiled in a drawing editing software ( a vector file). From there, we can carry out the engraving using your chosen technique.
Whether you’re looking for a one-off-service for your project or something ongoing, why not book a consultation?