Understanding the Difference Between Engraving, Etching and Marking

Laser cutting

Laser cutting

Laser engraving, etching and marking are often used interchangeably when it comes to laser cutting. But did you know there’s actually a difference between these three terms?

Don’t worry, if you use one term to refer to another, we won’t take it against you. Not many know the difference. All three refer to permanent marking on a material.

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Here’s how to tell which one best describes the right laser cutting technique:

  • Laser Marking – This is done with a low-powered beam by discoloring the material to create a high-contrast without actually disrupting the material’s surface. The marking is done via oxidation under the surface causing it to turn black. It is sometimes called laser coloration or laser dark marking. It is most commonly used on metals but the charring effect can also be done on plastic materials. It is typically used for serial numbers or model codes with great application in the medical or automotive fields. Laser marking can be used on flat, curved or round surfaces.
  • Laser Engraving – This, on the other hand, cuts a cavity through the material’s surface leaving a cavity that reveals an image or writing at eye level that is noticeable to the touch as well. This is done with high heat laser causing the material surface to vaporize. It is very precise and is often a good option for people who want to personalize or customize something. Engraving depth can vary between 0.02″ in metals to 0.125″ in harder materials. You can engrave almost any type of material but are most commonly used for metal, plastics, wood, leather, glass and acrylic.
  • Laser Etching – This is really a subset of engraving, with the main difference being the depth of the cut. This is usually no more than 0.001″ — which makes it the most viable option for thin materials and small projects such as jewelry.

Those are the basic definitions and differences between the three terms often used for laser cutting. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.





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Jason Kobinski

Laser engraving is basically the use of lasers to engrave an object. On the other hand, laser making is a rather broad category which involves leaving marks on objects. It also involves color change due to melting, ablation, and foaming, charring, melting and molecular alteration. Engraving techniques using laser is a rather advantageous type of engraving since it does not involve the use of tool bits or ink. Therefore, it can prove to be a great engraving alternative since it does not wear out the engraved surface.

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