TABLE OF CONTENTS
Despite the prevalence of alternative materials, there is no doubt that metals remain the workhorse of the manufacturing industry. Metals provide a unique combination of durability, workability, heat and chemical resistance, and visual appeal that makes them the material for choice for several industrial and commercial applications. Marking and engraving of metals parts have practically become an essential part of working with metals, whether it is for traceability purposes or as a visual enhancement. To this end, laser engraving machines for metal have become a standard tool for industries that heavily use metals such as engineering, manufacturing, and jewelry making, among others.
Metal laser engraver technology has become so useful that it is now being used in both big industries and small-scale applications. Industrial parts such as pipes, fittings, pump casings, and motor parts often receive the metal engraving machine treatment for parts numbers, tracking numbers, serial numbers and company branding.
For manufacturers of these engineering parts, a good traceability system is a vital part of quality monitoring. The use of a laser etching machine for metal ensures that these traceability marks are permanent and will remain legible for a long time – especially useful for parts that undergo a lot of friction and heat.
Outside of major engineering parts, a metal etching machine can also be used to make legible marks on common engineering tools such as callipers, wrenches, and drill bits. Some of these parts are incredibly small, making laser engraving a particularly suitable technology for marking characters that are still legible at 1-point size. In the case of callipers and other measuring tools, the precision and accuracy of the markings are key. The automated process of a metal etching machine delivers superior repeatability and consistency, ensuring that engineering measuring tools have ticks and readings that are marked and positioned accurately.
Engineering parts and tools go through a lot of stress under normal use. Pipe fittings come into constant contact with reactive fluids, motor parts are in a constant state of vibration, while the regular use of tools results in eventual wear and tear. For proper traceability, it is critical that essential marks can withstand abrasion, heat, and corrosive fluids. All of these are achievable by using a metal engraving machine, although different treatments can be used for different materials and applications.
It is also essential that the structural integrity of the part or tool marked does not suffer because of the etching process. A metal engraving machine removes only a thin layer of metal material to make permanent marks – not enough to cause any structural damage. The technology of annealing metal is especially interesting, as it does not remove material at all but instead alters the metal at a molecular level to result in a change of colour.
Can mark the smallest of parts
Outside of major engineering parts, a metal etching machine can also be used to make legible marks on common engineering tools such as callipers, wrenches, and drill bits. Some of these parts are incredibly small, making laser marking a particularly suitable technology for marking characters that are still legible at 1-point size. In the case of callipers and other measuring tools, the precision and accuracy of the markings are key. The automated process of a metal etching machine delivers superior repeatability and consistency, ensuring that engineering measuring tools have ticks and readings that are marked and positioned accurately.
Personalised etching for consumers
Outside of engineering parts and tools, laser etching machines for metal is regularly used for promotional gifts, signages, and advertising materials. Typical gift items made of metal include bottle openers, lighters, pocket knives, cutlery, picture frames, key fobs, and jewelry. Laser engraving metal gives these gift items a more personalised feel. The designs that can be reproduced by a metal laser engraver are practically limitless – company logos, fancy text, QR codes, even photos can be etched on a piece of metal item.
The advertising and sign making industry has also benefitted greatly from laser marking technology. Signs made from metal are made to last for a long time. Most metal signs are also placed outdoors where natural elements can quickly degrade their conditions. With laser marking metal, marks and designs made in metal signages will withstand the test of time.
The personalisation of jewelry is one of the major markets of laser etching machines. Nowadays, it’s no longer enough that a piece is made of high-quality precious metal – it also has to have an element that is unique to the person who owns it. With a metal laser engraver, every piece of jewelry can have a design that sets it apart. A metal laser engraver is uniquely suited to engraving on small pieces of jewelry due to its top-of-the-line accuracy and precision.
Can be used for different types of metal
The types of metals that a laser engraver can be used on are as varied as its applications. A metal laser marker can be used to make permanent marks on stainless steel, soft metals, hardened metals, alloys, titanium, titanium alloys, brass, copper, carbides, high-speed steels, aluminium, anodised aluminium, coated metals, and precious metals such as silver and gold. With the right equipment and experienced operator at the helm, switching over from one metal to another will be as simple as changing laser parameters on the accompanying software.
In contrast to more traditional methods of marking, a the machine does not require consumables such as inks, chemicals, or pastes. The handling and disposal of these consumables will be one less thing to worry about, allowing businesses to focus on more important things.
Metals that are etched using lasers do not have to undergo any pre or post-treatment. Coupled with the speed with which a laser machine works without the need for tool changes, a laser marker effectively completes the job faster and with less effort.
Being an almost fully automated piece of equipment, the laser system delivers a consistent quality of results all the time. The resolution that laser marking can achieve is extremely small, allowing for the smallest shapes and text to be engraved accurately and legibly. Laser marking provides practically unlimited design opportunities. With the right materials, a metal engraving machine can even produce coloured laser markings.
Laser marking is a non-contact technology, meaning that the material being marked does not need to undergo undue stress. There is no need to fix the materials to the engraving platform, so items can be shuffled in and out quickly, saving up on precious production time. The absence of any physical force on the item due to engraving and clamping lessens the chances of rejects due to secondary damage, ultimately leading to cost savings for the company.
Stainless steel is one of the most widely used metals across several industries. Prized primarily due to its corrosion resistance, stainless steel comes in different grades and variants according to the ratio of chromium and molybdenum mixed into the steel alloy material.
In addition to its distinct corrosion resistance, stainless steel also has a measure of resistance against acid attack. It is a durable and versatile material that has a visual appeal due to its characteristic lustre and can stand up to most steam cleaning and sterilisation treatments.
With the broad application of stainless steel in several fields such as construction, healthcare, and food service, stainless steel engraving has become an equally sought-out service. Laser marking stainless steel is a fast, cheap, and highly accurate process that not only produces high-quality output but retains the anti-corrosive properties of stainless steel.
Laser marking stainless steel and the medical industry
The medical industry is a particularly heavy user of stainless steel because of the industry’s strict requirement for materials that will not produce or transmit biological and chemical contaminants. Surgical tools made of stainless steel can withstand repeated cycles of sterilisation by autoclave and the oxidative effect of several sterilising chemicals. Stainless steel prosthetics, such as hip bone replacements and cranial plates, can be made of alloys especially designed to resist mechanical wear and biological reactions.
Laser marking stainless steel is also the technology of choice of the medical industry to comply with the FDA’s mandate to mark all medical tools and devices with a unique device identifier (UDI). This requirement creates a system of traceability and liability for all medical devices, where each product can be traced and identified to its manufacturer. Having such a system compels medical device manufacturers to be accountable for the quality of their products in case of a product recall.
Although there are different requirements in the marking of medical devices made of stainless steel according to their applications, they will most often need to be able to resist chemical and heat degradation. Lasers fulfil these requirements on top of remaining clear and legible despite repeated abrasion and mechanical stress. Laser marking is a particularly accurate technology that can recreate incredibly small alphanumeric characters, logos, barcodes, and QR codes with superior clarity.
Medical devices, in particular, should not have deep etches, as these become perfect breeding grounds for bacteria. For this reason, annealing stainless steel is an especially appropriate technology as it merely changes of the colour of the stainless steel via a chemical reaction without consuming any of the material. Thus, the stainless steel surface remains as smooth as it was before marking.
Stainless steel engraving and the automotive industry
The automotive industry is another industry that benefits from the use of laser technology to comply with traceability standards. Every vehicle – whether it’s a car, bus, motorcycle, farm machinery, or construction equipment – needs to be marked with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) once it leaves the manufacturing facility. The VIN is a 17-character serial number that is commonly marked at various components of the vehicle such as the chassis and the engines. Moreover, automotive manufacturers regularly make their own marks on their parts, whether to serve their own tracking system or simply to provide branding.
Stainless steel engraving by lasers has been used for years by automotive manufacturers for its ability to produce tamper-proof and easily identifiable marks. It’s also a fast procedure that will fit right into any manufacturing process without slowing it down – a 17-character VIN can be laser marked in only about 4 seconds. Being a non-contact method, automotive parts do not need to be clamped down before marking, avoiding secondary damage. Compared to a more traditional method such as dot-peen marking, the part to be marked using lasers do not undergo any unnecessary stress. Without the need to use fixtures or clamps, laser marking technology also has unequalled flexibility in terms of marking newly designed and modified automotive parts.
In such a large-scale level of production such as those found in the automotive industry and the manufacture of engineering parts, the reliability of laser etching tech is invaluable. As an almost entirely automated process, stainless steel produces accurate results with a consistent quality all the time. Since the marking of parts is commonly a step done towards the end of the manufacturing process, an error in this step that results in a part being scrapped will be exceptionally costly and disruptive.
Integration of a laser solution into the existing manufacturing process is made particularly easy with out-of-the-box turnkey solutions. Modern laser etching equipment has been designed to be easy to learn and use. Designs need not be made on any proprietary software, as most laser marking applications can import files created from the most common design software. Marking with dynamic data, such as part numbers and batch numbers, is well within the standard capabilities of most laser applications.
Steel engraved applications
Outside of the medical and automotive industries, laser marking of stainless steel has been used for the accurate and permanent marking of cutlery, signages, and jewelry. Aside from its rapid turnaround being optimal for high-volume production, laser marking also provides an unmatched level of design freedom. Characters as small as 2pt and even photo-realistic designs can be quickly and accurately reproduced on stainless steel signage, personalised gifts and trinkets.
CO2 and Fiber laser machines
There are two options for laser technology that can be used in stainless steel engraving and marking: CO2 lasers and fiber lasers. CO2 lasers, being the older technology, generally involves less capital cost to buy and install. However, this lower capital expense can eventually be offset by maintenance and parts replacement costs.
CO2 lasers are particularly sensitive equipment that requires frequent adjustment and realignment. Moreover, CO2 lasers are not readily compatible with cutting and engraving of reflective materials, including stainless steel. Without any pre-treatment, CO2 lasers will only recoil off of a metal surface. Marking of stainless steel using a CO2 laser often involves coating the stainless steel part with a specialist paint, which the laser then “burns” off.
On the other hand, fiber lasers have become the standard technology for metal engraving. Merely varying the wattage output of a fiber laser allows it to create different markings and engravings with different depths. A fiber laser is also very accurate – with diameters as low as 0.1mm, fiber lasers can create incredibly detailed designs. Best of all, stainless steel engraving using fiber lasers requires no pre-treatment.
The major drawback of using fiber lasers is that the purchase price of the equipment is much higher. However, fiber lasers make up for this by being incredibly robust. They generally require less maintenance and have fewer moving parts that need to be periodically replaced. A fiber laser also finishes the same amount of work faster – the output of 2 or 3 CO2 lasers can be reproduced by a single fiber laser machine. In terms of electrical efficiency, fiber lasers are clearly the winner, using only about a third of the power to produce the same amount of work as a CO2 laser.
Depending on the material you are working with, and the throughput you require, either a CO2 laser or a fiber laser can be the most effective laser marking solution for you. Each one has its strengths and drawbacks, and the appropriate selection of technology is the first step towards the successful implementation of a laser marking system.
Anodised aluminium is one of the most common metals used for laser marking purposes. Aluminium itself is a very widely used metal which is valued for its combination of being both lightweight and durable. This unique combination has made it the material of choice for aircraft and automotive products. The high electrical conductivity of aluminium has also made it an excellent material for long-distance power lines, satellite dishes, and in electrical components found in most household appliances and power systems.
Aluminium engraving for technology devices
Aluminium is a very malleable and ductile material which makes it a versatile material for many consumer goods. Modern smartphones, laptops, and tablets are made with increasingly large portions of aluminium. Being light and easy to shape, aluminium is also becoming a common component in chairs, lamps, decorative panels, and other interior design elements. Aluminium is food-safe, non-toxic, and resistant to rust – after all, aluminium cans have been used to package carbonated drinks since the 1960’s.
Anodised aluminium is essentially aluminium enhanced with a corrosive-resistant layer. Similar to how stainless steel is produced, anodised aluminium is made by a process called passivation. This is done by immersing the aluminium material in an acid electrolyte bath and passing an electrical current through the solution. The result is a thin coat of aluminium oxide that is fully integrated into the underlying aluminium substrate, making it resistant to chipping away or peeling off. The anodised layer is generally stronger and more adherent than any other anti-corrosive paint or metal plating treatment, making anodisation one of the more preferred options.
Aside from giving aluminium better UV and corrosion resistance, an anodised layer has a naturally porous surface that is especially receptive to dyes. This has allowed manufacturers of anodised aluminium to offer their product in a wide variety of colours. Without dye treatment, the anodised layer is translucent and reveals the metallic sheen of the underlying aluminium – a finish that looks good enough on its own.
The types of anodised aluminium marking
The presence of the anodise layer makes anodised aluminium an especially easy material for aluminium engraving. A fiber laser or a CO2 laser can be effectively used with anodised aluminium, since they can both ablate the anodise layer. Depending on the thickness of the anodise layer and whether a dye was used to colour the layer, different laser treatments may be used to get the best results.
A coloured Type I or Type II anodise layer is the easiest material to laser anodised aluminium. These layers are very thin at less than 1/1000 of an inch and can be ablated away with minimal energy and contact time. Since the anodise layer is bonded to the aluminium layer at a molecular level, laser etching anodised aluminium by ablation changes the surface of the original aluminium layer. The result is a scattering of light that gives a colour intermediate between white and clear. The use of a dye on the anodise layer, especially one of a dark colour, creates excellent contrast with the ablated section.
A thicker anodise layer, called a Type III layer, can also be ablated using a fiber laser or CO2 laser, but will require a higher laser power output, a longer exposure time, or multiple passes. In any case, at least two passes are generally recommended for marking the aluminium by ablation. The first pass, called the “damage pass” ablates away the anodise layer. The second pass, called the “cleanup pass”, removes any excess material and brightens up the ablated section. The result is an ablated section that has a better contrast to the coloured anodise layer.
In the case of a clear anodise layer, contrast is provided to the aluminium by using a method that creates a dark mark. After ablating the section corresponding to the target design, a metal finishing solution designed specifically for aluminium such as Aluma Black or Birchwood Casey can be applied to the material. The existing anodise layer will shield the unablated areas, while the ablated section will take up the colour.
Without using a metal finishing solution, a dark anodised aluminium mark can also be achieved by increasing the laser power output and increasing the exposure time. By changing the laser parameters, different shades of grey to rich black can be marked on dark anodised aluminium. The surface of the dark marks can even be customized from being smooth to a light textured “leatherette” finish.
Removal of the anodise layer by ablation automatically creates an oxidized layer on the ablated section, retaining the corrosive resistance characteristic of the anodised aluminium material.
Uses for aluminium laser engraving
Aluminium engraving is most commonly done as a means of creating permanent and legible marks on signs and promotional tags. Promotional items such as key chains, pens, bottle openers, and flasks can be marked with a company’s brand or logo.
Laser systems provides complete design freedom. The high resolution of laser etching makes it possible to mark very small alphanumeric characters, complicated and fancy typeface, barcodes, QR codes, logos, and photo-realistic designs. These designs do not even have to be made using proprietary software – the machines can work with files created using the most common design software.
Laser engraving machines for metal, such as aluminium, are a very reliable technology that delivers consistent quality results. With repeatable output, laser etching is the perfect method to reproduce promotional items that contain unique branding and identifiers at a large volume. Laser marking also works well with dynamic data such as bar codes, part numbers, and batch numbers.
Benefits of using a laser to mark, etch or engrave aluminium
It does not use any inks or chemicals, eliminating issues relating to waste disposal and handling. Having zero consumables, laser marking aluminium will prove to be the more cost-effective option in the long run. Having only a few moving parts, savings can also be realised with lasers by the reduced need for maintenance and parts replacement.
Marks made using laser etched anodise aluminium are highly robust and permanent. They can withstand repeated abrasion, mechanical stress, temperature stress, and UV exposure without degradation. This is particularly important for marks made for traceability and quality control purposes, such as those used for automotive or aircraft parts. For companies, providing high-quality promotional items that do not degrade speaks well of a company’s reputation.
As a non-contact process, marking aluminium eliminates the need to secure or clamp the aluminium part prior to marking. This makes the process more flexible in terms of the shapes and sizes of the parts that can be laser marked, making the process immediately available for new and modified designs. Not having to clamp the item also removes a time-consuming step in the manufacturing process, making the process faster and reducing the need for operator intervention.
More importantly, using an ablation method retains the corrosive resistant property of the anodised aluminium. Intense corrosion tests, such as salt spray testing, has proven that marks made by laser marking aluminium do not degrade under a very corrosive environment, nor does it compromise the corrosion resistance of the material.
Titanium and titanium alloys are heavily valued for being durable, lightweight, and resistant to corrosion. They are heavily used in industries and applications that put a premium on a high strength-to-weight ratio such as in the production of aircraft. The military and commercial aerospace industries have become the number one users of titanium alloys: large quantities of titanium are used in the production of commercial planes such as the AirBusA380 and Boeing 787, as well as the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters used by the military.
Titanium and traceability
In an industry where consistency in quality is critical to human safety, a system for traceability and quality control is vital. Titanium laser marking is an extremely effective technology for marking of titanium parts for traceability purposes. Aside from being an accurate method that can create permanent and legible marks, the annealing ensures no structural damage to the titanium material due to the formation of micro-cracks. Laser cutting titanium has also been practised for aerospace parts as it reduces thermal distortion along cut sections by reducing the heat affected zones.
The use of titanium within the medical industry
In the healthcare industry, titanium has become a standard material for surgical and dental implants due to its chemically inert and good biocompatibility characteristics. On top of being lightweight and durable, titanium is resistant to corrosive effects of the acidic or ion-rich environment inside the human body. Titanium implants are long-lasting and can last for 20 years or longer without needing to be replaced. They are also cheaper compared to other implant materials such as zirconia.
Etching titanium medical implants creates marks that can withstand constant mechanical stress and corrosive conditions. Aside from the marks being permanent, the process is also inherently sterile. The annealing method creates marks by a colour change in the surface of the metal surface without etching the material – a particularly appropriate technique for medical implants that need to remain smooth and should have no microscopic pockets for bacterial growth.
The consumer markets
In the consumer market, titanium has started to gain popularity as a material for the manufacture of high-end sports gear and jewelry. It has been used for sports gear that benefits from a high strength-to-weight ratio such as bicycle frames, football helmets, and golf clubs. In the jewelry industry, the appeal of titanium lies in the practicality of using an extremely durable material and its significantly lower price relative to precious metals such as gold and silver. Being a biocompatible material, titanium jewelry also has fewer chances of causing allergies for their wearers.
The increasing demand for customised and personalised jewelry has prompted jewelry makers to embrace the technology of titanium laser engraving. By laser engraving titanium jewelry, marks and inscriptions can be made on the outside and inside surfaces of a titanium ring. The accuracy and resolution of laser engraving have even made it possible to add inscriptions on the narrow edge of a ring. Compared to more traditional methods of jewelry inscription, laser engraving titanium is faster, produces more consistent results, and puts less mechanical stress on the jewelry item.
Cast iron is an iron alloy that contains 2 to 4 percent carbon. Depending on the desired application, cast iron can also have a varying proportion of silica and manganese, plus trace amounts of sulphur and phosphorous. Cast iron is very commonly found in cookware, such as in cast iron pans, griddles, and waffle irons due to its ability to provide even heating. It has also been used for construction and architecture and was actually used in a lot of bridges and railways before steel eventually replaced it as a common construction material. Nowadays, architectural use of cast iron is often limited to design elements such as garden features and ornamental objects.
Depending on the proportions of different alloying elements, cast iron can have a variety of physical properties. Grey cast iron, the most commonly used cast iron, exhibits better compressive strength but has less tensile strength and shock resistance. White case iron, with a higher proportion of iron carbine, has superior hardness and abrasion resistance but is brittle. Ductile and malleable cast iron, as the name implies is softer and less brittle due to the presence of small spheroidal graphite particles. In any case, cast iron, in general, has a low melting point, which improves its machinability, and exhibits excellent resistance against wear and deformation.
Use laser annealing process to mark cast iron
Iron laser marking is most commonly achieved by annealing, a process where the laser heats the surface of the metal to form an oxide layer. The colour change in laser annealing is caused by a chemical change in the surface of the metal, meaning that no material is vaporised or removed from the cast iron surface. Crack propagation is an especially significant concern for cast iron, and iron laser engraving is an excellent option for creating permanent marks on cast iron without compromising its physical integrity.
Iron laser marking is an incredibly accurate and reliable technology that can create highly detailed marks with consistent quality. An iron laser engraver can create marks, such as barcodes and QR codes, that are legible enough to be machine readable. By using multiple passes of a laser engraver, codes can be cleaned up for enhanced quality and contrast. With automated laser parameters, the hue of marks made by iron laser engraving can be varied from light gray to rich black. Being an automated process also gives iron laser marking the benefit of being repeatable, a desirable quality for producing consistent traceability marks on a high volume of items.
Copper is one of the few metals that is directly usable in its natural form, or without being combined into alloys. It is characterised by having a very high thermal and electrical conductivity, making it a valuable material in electrical wiring, printed circuit boards, thermocouples, heat exchangers, electromagnets, and electric motors. Copper is a naturally soft and malleable metal which can be fashioned into pipes and pipe fittings, or as architectural elements. The green patina that copper develops after a long period of atmospheric exposure is a particularly coveted finish by architects and designers due to its visual appeal.
Moreover, copper has excellent workability and lends itself well to processes such as brazing, welding, and soldering. Where increased hardness is desired, copper has been blended with other metals to form alloys such as brass, bronze, and sterling silver, all of which are commonly used to create jewelry.
Copper’s antimicrobial property
A particularly useful characteristic of copper is its antimicrobial property. Copper and copper-alloy surfaces have the natural property of destroying microorganisms, making copper an excellent material for doorknobs, handrails, computer keyboards, shopping card handles, faucets, and health club equipment. Being a biostatic material, many other forms of life cannot grow on a copper surface. This has made copper a standard material to line ship hulls to protect against the growth of barnacles and mussels. The corrosion resistance of copper also makes it especially appropriate for long-term use in marine environments.
The challenge of a reflective surface
Laser engraving copper is particularly challenging because of the high reflectivity of copper. In fact, a solid surface made of pure copper will reflect more than 95% of incident near-IR radiation. As with stainless steel, a fiber laser is generally preferred over a CO2 laser when laser engraving copper or to produce laser cut copper. A fiber laser has a wavelength of around 1.07 µm, around 10x smaller than the wavelength of a CO2 laser. Not only will a fiber laser be reflected less than a CO2 laser, but the smaller wavelength allows for a greater power density which makes it easier to penetrate the copper surface.
The key in laser etched and cut copper is to keep in mind that the reflectivity of the metal steadily decreases as it gets melted, and dramatically drops at melting. Thus, an optimal laser cutting process for copper focuses a high-powered laser in short pulses on the unheated solid surface to minimise the amount of back-reflected light. A high-powered laser, at least 1000W, is needed to establish a heated or melted portion of the copper surface. After the initial step, the laser mostly interacts with the copper in its melted form, accelerating the laser etching or laser cutting process.
GOLD & SILVER (PRECIOUS METALS)
Gold and silver are materials need little introduction. Valued for their rarity and their visual appeal, jewelry made of gold and silver have been used since the olden times to convey affluence and elevated social status.
Nowadays, these precious metals have become more accessible, with most consumers instead preferring their pieces to have a higher degree of personalisation and customisation. Pendants, rings, and charms are considered more valuable when etched with a person’s name, initials, or other personal inscriptions. Laser engraving on gold and silver has become a particularly effective and popular technology used toward this end.
Outside of jewelry, laser marking and laser cutting of precious metals has also been used to create highly intricate designs for medals and currency coins.
Benefits of using laser marking machines for gold and silver applications
Silver and gold engraving using lasers is a particularly apt technology because it results in less wastage of material. Since these materials could literally be worth their weight in gold, even a small amount of precious metals etched away could be an expensive loss.
The quality and reliability of a silver or gold etching machine are unparalleled. It can produce high-quality engravings that are permanent, accurate, and legibly display even the smallest details. The software allows jewelry makers to very easily load image and design files, and to produce models before marking on the actual jewelry. The accuracy and reliability of laser marking are highly prized when working with precious metals – after all, a mistake in this field could prove to be very costly.
With this in mind, the annealing process has become the standard process for engraving gold and silver. In annealing, a colour change is achieved on the surface by oxidation of the material without any material loss. Since silver and gold are very soft metals, marking them is high-speed and requires very little power – with just a 20W laser, a simple design is completed in a fraction of a second.
Laser marking technology provides total design freedom, allowing for the accurate reproduction of practically any design idea on gold or silver jewelry – logos, small alphanumeric characters, fancy typeface, or even photo-realistic designs.
Since gold and silver are also highly reflective surfaces, a pulsed fiber laser is a preferred technology for laser cut gold. By using a laser with a higher energy density, the heat is quickly absorbed by the silver or gold material. Despite the use of a high energy laser, the parameters of a pulsed fiber laser can be adjusted to work with very delicate materials such as extremely thin sheets of silver or hollow gold items.
Pulsed fiber lasers have become the standard technology used specifically for gold and silver items. A fiber laser concentrates high energy in an extremely fine laser beam, allowing gold etching of highly intricate and detailed designs. With a higher degree of control, a pulsed laser fiber does not damage the surrounding material, resulting in custom engraved jewelry with a clean finish.
Laser etched hallmarks
Hallmarking is a process by which jewelry makers leave unique marks on their pieces as a sort of “trademark”. This process was traditionally done by using steel punches, but laser engraving technology on gold and silver has provided jewelry makers with the ability to create hallmarks without causing damage or distortion to the product.
Given the soft nature of gold and silver, the non-contact process of silver engraving and gold engraving is the best method to ensure that the item does not suffer any secondary damage. An automated laser marking operation ensures that results are accurate every single time and that the jewelry maker will not have any expensive rejects.
With highly customisable parameters and a variety of laser types, laser systems for metal have quickly become the technology of choice for the permanent and high-quality marking of metal items. Different metals have different demands – some may be harder than others, while some may be highly reflective – and the versatility of laser solutions gives it all the tools to handle these demands.
Whatever application a laser is used for, it gives mostly the same benefits of being faster than traditional methods, making permanent and legible marks with a high degree of detail, being very reliable, and being the more cost-effective option. Whether it is for traceability, branding, customisation, or personalisation, laser marking is far and away the best technology available for marking and engraving of different types of metal.