With the ever-increasing demand for the latest technology, lasers are becoming more common in a variety of uses. Lasers are used in a variety of manufacturing and shaping processes. Laser etching is a faster method than annealing or engraving, and this ability makes it the fastest laser marking process.
Laser-etched anodized aluminum is one of the most common applications for laser engravers around the world, popular for the material’s unique durability and aesthetics, as well as the bright, high-contrast marks produced by high-quality laser engravers.
This article explains everything you need to know about laser etching with anodized aluminum and a laser engraver. Helping you understand what anodized aluminum really is and why laser etching is the most common method of marking this unique material.
What Is Laser Etching?
Laser etching is a process that uses a laser beam to create marks on a surface. This is done by releasing large amounts of energy at specific time intervals. This can be used for a variety of purposes, such as engraving or cutting.
During laser etching, the extreme heat of the laser melts the surface of the metal after it contacts it. After melting, the molten material expands, leaving marks on the surface of the material. During this process, the surface of the product or part is melted to create marks on the surface.
Laser etched designs are generated in graphic design software. This graphic design software supports vector files. Designs are created and saved as vector files and then passed to a laser etcher for printing. Laser etchers use CNC routers to read vector files. It also determines the pattern of laser motion to create the desired design.
Anodized Aluminum Laser Etched
The whole purpose of anodized aluminum is to convert the surface layer of aluminum into aluminum oxide—a material that is more resistant to corrosion and wear than the pure aluminum that hides beneath it. While aluminum oxide is largely transparent, some anodizing methods produce a porous aluminum oxide layer that can be colored with special dyes. As a result, anodized aluminum is more durable than regular aluminum, won’t corrode, scratch, or damage as easily, and it’s available in a variety of colors — lots of benefits!
The anodizing process affects only the surface of the aluminium, with a depth between 0.1 and 1.0 mm. This makes the laser etching process with an impact depth of only 0.25 mm an excellent choice for marking anodized aluminum. In contrast, laser engraving affects a depth of 3mm, which means the laser exposes the less durable aluminum beneath the anodized layer, making the item more susceptible to damage.
Difference Between Laser Etching And Laser Engraving
Laser etching and engraving processes are widely used in all walks of life to mark stamps, text logos, barcodes, and more. Although their craftsmanship is similar, they also have differences.
The main difference between laser etching and engraving processes is the depth of cut. Laser engraving will go all the way through the aluminum, while laser etching is a shallower cut that only partially cuts through the material.
Laser etching is often used on anodized aluminum because it does not remove the anodized layer. This process can be used for serial numbers, barcodes, or other graphics that need to be visible but not too dark.
Both laser engraving and laser etching can be used to create high-quality permanent marks on a variety of materials. However, laser engraving is generally better for marking hard flat surfaces, while laser etching is suitable for softer materials or curved surfaces.
Compared to laser etching, laser engraving produces more permanent and durable marks. Laser engraving systems are generally effective on parts that require high wear.
Laser etching is more suitable for larger production volumes because the process is faster and more efficient. On the other hand, laser engraving is more time-consuming and therefore more suitable for low-volume production.
Common Applications of Laser Etching
Laser etching can produce permanent marks, and most of these part marking methods are used on a wide range of materials, making this marking process a smart choice across industries. Due to its high demand, it is used in a wide variety of industries including aerospace, medical, automotive, military and defense, electronics, and industrial and tooling.
Laser etching is used in manufacturing applications as it is used to create permanent marks and can physically remove material from metal at high speed. It marks text logos, serial numbers, 2D data and barcodes.
It is usually used before coating material to create raised marks. These raised marks help maintain traceability after the material is coated. The process is mainly used for coating auto parts and extrusion.