How to Engrave Metal: A Beginner's Guide for 2021

How to Engrave Metal: A Beginner's Guide for 2021

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Are you looking to venture into laser engraving metal and take your metalwork to the next level?

Whether you need to learn metal engraving or marking for your art project or your small business, engraving metals or hard plastics is all about skills, practice, and choosing the right type of laser engraver.

This guide will highlight some of the most critical metal engraving aspects for choosing the best laser equipment for different laser engraving applications.

Laser marking of metals is standard in mechanical, industrial, and tool manufacturing practices. Even hobbyists and small businesses are now utilizing laser engraving techniques to speed up their projects. Laser marking is also used on automotive parts and in medical technology.

Are you searching for a fast, easy, and efficient method for engraving metals? Our engraving experts have created a guide to teach you more about laser engraving with fiber laser marking machines.

Here is what you need to know for engraving metals:

How does Metal Engraving Work?

LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Laser beams are created by stimulating an atom until it releases particles of light. This light energy is measured in nanometers or wavelength - higher wavelengths result in more powerful beams. With the help of engraver machines, we can harness this concentrated light and direct it to cut or mark an area.

A laser engraver can cut, engrave, or mark several materials such as coated metals, rubber, plastic, wood, and leather. If you want to engrave metals, a fiber laser engraver delivers exceptional performance. However, avoid using a fiber laser engraver for organic materials like leather and wood. While these materials are not transparent to us, they remain transparent to the 1062nm wavelength of the fiber laser beam. Although it’s possible to leave marks on organic materials such as leather, glass, or wood with a fiber laser, that’s not what the device is best suited for.

The unique process heats up the target area and leads to oxidization, causing a color change beneath the material’s surface, leaving a permanent mark.

Why Choose Fiber Laser Engravers?

Hobbyists, crafters, small businesses, and various industries use fiber laser engravers for marking products and accessories with text or graphics. You can use fiber laser engravers for marking parts or serial numbers, ID codes, barcodes, and graphics.

Laser marking is a permanent process that creates a lasting mark on metal. A beam of concentration from a fiber laser engraver interacts with the metal’s surface, and it changes the metal’s appearance and properties. Since the concentrated beam targets a specified area, the fiber laser engraver successfully creates high-quality and precise marks on the surface. Hence, fiber laser-engraving machines are the top choices for applications where you require permanency and accuracy.

For instance, a UV laser marker offers a wavelength of around 355NM. This low power is ideal for marking plastic and glass, both of which are heat-sensitive materials. Since UV laser markers emit less energy, they are ideally used for marking soft and organic products. However, fiber lasers function at 1070NM and deliver higher power for engraving more rigid materials such as metals or hard plastics.

Fiber Laser Engravers for Engraving Metals

Fiber Laser Marking Machines or Fiber laser engravers are innovative tools for marking metals. Although you can mark metal with a CO2 laser engraver by applying a laser bond spray, fiber laser engravers remain the best technical tools for metal marking applications. These hi-tech accessories are ideal for accurate engraving/marking results and can also cut through alloys or painted metals.

Benefits of Fiber Laser Engraving

Fiber laser marking offers several benefits over other engraving methods. One of the advantages is that the process is ideal for producing high-precision markings on metals. If you want to engrave complex graphics, numbers, and barcodes, fiber laser engravers can make easy work of small-scale shapes and digits. For instance, if you’re going to create engraved metal tags for nameplates, number plates, or any accessory, fiber engravers are the top choice.

Another benefit is that fiber laser engravers offer a non-contact process, which means the laser beam does not physically touch the material and relies on heat to achieve the desired results.

Users can also optimize their workflow productivity because fiber laser engravers offer exceptional efficiency at reduced costs. By taking the applications and metals into account, you can adjust the laser source power and other features for enhancing the marking performance. The entire laser marking process with a fiber laser engraver is environmentally friendly, and you can easily control it from your computer.

Another incredible benefit is that a single laser setup can come in handy for multiple processes. For instance, a single setup can switch between laser engraving and marking methods, both of which are incredibly similar. The functionality saves time and reduces high costs.

Metal Marking Project Ideas

Adding a fiber laser engraver to your toolset allows you to benefit from the exciting opportunities of laser engraving. Thus, hobbyists and small businesses can perform all kinds of applications, such as customizing pendants/jewelry or even serializing metal components or parts.

Here are some of the accessories that you can engrave with a fiber laser:

  • Tools
  • Small Parts
  • Flasks
  • Jewelry
  • Hard plastics
  • Automotive Parts
  • Name Plates

Industrial Applications

Fiber laser engraving machines are widely used in several industrial applications. Here are some of the industries that benefit from fiber laser engraving.

  • Electronic or Semiconductor industry: for marking small silicon materials
  • Aerospace industry: for labeling the thousands of parts of an aircraft
  • Automotive industry: much like the aerospace industry, fiber laser engravers mark the various components of an automobile
  • Medical Industry: for creating ID marks on medical equipment

The Best Metals for Laser Engraving

Fiber lasers work best for marking all types of brass, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and nickel-plated metals as well as engineered plastics such as polycarbonates. Aluminum is one of the best and most common metals used for laser marking, while brass and copper are also ideal because both copper and brass have good thermal transfer capabilities. Tungsten and Carbide are the hardest metals on earth, so engraving or etching is generally not recommended. Here is a list of some of the metals you can engrave with an efficient fiber laser engraver.

  • Stainless steel
  • Laserable Aluminum
  • Hardened metals
  • Alloyed steels
  • High-speed steels
  • Laserable Titanium
  • Laserable Carbides
  • Laserable Brass
  • Laserable Copper
  • Precious metals (gold, silver, platinum)
  • Coated metals

Why Practicing Safety is Important

Never overlook the importance of wearing appropriate protective gear to shield your eyes from the fiber beam. A small mistake can result in vision loss. Whether you are engraving metals or hard plastics, you must wear protective gear such as laser safety glasses. These special goggles block out portions of laser light to protect the retina. These glasses work the same as those for other laser systems, but make sure you choose a pair with the desired optical density to attenuate the beam.

How to Buy the Best Fiber Laser Engraving Machine

Fiber laser marking machines are taking laser engraving to an entirely new level. Fortunately, they come in various designs and specs for metal engraving projects big and small. While most laser engravers guarantee flawless results, they work at varying speeds.

Although CO2 laser engravers can mark metal with laser bonding creams, fiber lasers are the best machines for marking metals because the laser beam is generated within the fiber, offering ultra-fast pulse duration and a high peak. They can reach high levels of amplification, which makes them efficient and cost-effective tools for engraving. Maintaining these machines is also easy and economical. These qualities make fiber laser marking machines a great addition to your engraving ensemble.

Remember to consider these factors before you buy a fiber laser-engraving machine:

Engraving Speed

The speed is relative to the power of the fiber laser. If you are looking for high speed, choose a machine that offers sufficient power. 40W laser engravers can engrave approximately 300-400 mm/s and cut 5-25 mm/s; whereas laser engravers of 50W and above can engrave between 0-600 mm/s and cut 0-400 mm/s. We recommend acquiring a Fiber Laser Marker, marking up to 7000 mm/s!

Brand

Although every manufacturing company claims to be the best brand in the industry, make sure you choose a reliable brand. Research different brands and products before buying a specific fiber laser engraving machine. A company’s customers can be the best source of insight on products - look for authentic and positive customer reviews.

Price

Never settle for a cheap product just because it is available at an attractive price tag. Compare different options to choose the laser engraver that comes within your budget. However, make sure the fiber laser offers the features and speed you need for finishing your engraving projects.

Beam-Quality

Another critical factor to consider when buying a fiber laser machine is the beam quality. Buying a machine with a better and higher beam quality will engrave with maximum precision and accuracy.

After-Sales

After-sales service reveals a lot about the brand and the way it values its customers. Apart from customer service, the brand you choose must offer a one or two-year warranty for their products. The warranty of a brand-new fiber laser machine can help you determine whether you are buying the right quality product. Don’t invest in a cheap device that does not mention any refund or replacement warranty.

Buy the Best Fiber Laser Engraver

If you are looking for a reliable and high-performance fiber laser engraver, OMTech is a one-stop solution for your engraving needs. You can find the best laser-engraving machines, software, accessories, and everything you need for exceptional laser performance. We offer professional-grade fiber laser marking machines perfect for small businesses, hobbyists, and crafters. Browse our comprehensive engraver collection to find the best device for your needs.