Basics: Laser Marking Settings

Welcome to the Needham laser settings guide. This guide is designed to provide generalized laser settings for a variety of marking styles on various materials.

Laser marking and processing have several parameters that are programmable and can affect the results you achieve on a specific material or substrate. Different combinations are ideal for specific materials.

There are 5 primary settings that will affect the marking result:

  • Loop Count or Passes (number of times to repeat)
  • Power
  • Frequency
  • Speed
  • Hatch


But, what do these terms mean? Let's take a look.

 

Loop Count or Passes

The Loop Count determines how many times the laser will go over your mark. More loops result in more depth. You can increase the depth of your mark by increasing your laser's power, decreasing the marking speed or lowering the frequency (or a combination of all three!). The downside here is that doing so produces more heat which can compromise the cleanliness of your mark and you may damage the material in the process. So, increasing the number of passes the laser makes is a great alternative.


Power

This one might seem obvious, but the power is the percentage of available power you are utilizing. For example, if you run a 20-watt fiber laser at a 50% power setting in your software, you are running at approximately half the available power of the laser. The higher the wattage, the more powerful the laser. The more powerful the laser, the deeper your mark will be, assuming all your other settings are the same.


Frequency

To understand frequency, we first need to understand the laser beam in a fiber laser.  The laser beam is not a steady stream of energy; the laser light is delivered in pulses or pieces of light, and the frequency controls the number of pulses delivered per second. Thus, the frequency can be understood as the pulse repetition rate of the laser. In general, lower frequencies produce less heat but are more aggressive while higher frequencies produce more heat but are less aggressive.


Speed

The speed at which the beam is travelling across the surface during processing. This speed is controlled by the laser scan head beam delivery system. This speed can range from as slow as 10 mm/sec to 7000+ mm/sec. The lower the speed, the more material that is displaced. The higher the speed, the less material that is displaced. 


Hatch (Fill)

Hatch is used to fill objects when engraving, rather than just marking an outline. In order to hatch an object, the object must be a closed shape. The laser will follow a series of parallel lines to 'fill in' the solid area in a way similar to when you shade a shape on paper with a pencil. The biggest influencing parameters for the outcome of a hatch are hatch spacing and hatch angle. You can check out our Basics: Laser Hatching for more information on this particular area of laser marking.

 

So, that's the basics! We hope that this article has given you some useful tips for getting started with your laser machine. If there are any particular topics you would like to see featured on the knowledge hub, please email rachel.wall@needham.group