An Ultimate Guide to Laser Engraving

Welcome to our ultimate guide for laser engraving. Whether you’re a seasoned professional expanding your knowledge or a beginner eager to study the basics, this guide is for you. We’ll contain frequently asked questions and provide tips for selecting the best materials for engraving.

An Ultimate Guide to Laser Engraving

Definition of Laser Engraving

Laser engraving aims to etch a specific image or logo onto a chosen material. It involves using a subtractive manufacturing method. Before the engraving process can begin, a file must be sent from a computer to the machine’s controller, which then orientates the laser. When the laser engraving process begins, the beam generates high heat that burns or evaporates the surface, according to the image in the file. Laser engraving has two different forms: line engraving and surface engraving. Line engraving uses vector images to follow paths or lines, while surface engraving vaporizes the material to create an image in the material or give the design a 3D-like impression.

Only 2D file formats such as JPG, PDF, PNG, or AI are compatible with Laser Engraving. Laser Engraving systems cannot read 3D files like .stl. In these 2D files, the model is converted into dots, and the spacing between them determines the depth of the engraving.

Laser Used for Laser Engraving

Laser engraving is typically done using either a CO2 or a fiber laser. Both lasers can produce high energy densities, allowing them to engrave designs on a surface by vaporizing and eliminating material in a controlled pattern. Fiber lasers are more effective for engraving metals because most metals readily absorb their wavelength. On the other hand, CO2 lasers are more suitable for engraving nonmetals, like plastics, wood, and stone, for these materials better absorb their wavelength.

Laser Engraving Process

Laser engraving is a process that creates a raised, depressed, or darkened pattern on a material’s surface using a high-powered laser beam. A computer program controls the laser beam’s path, power, and speed to achieve precise results. The laser can remove material from the surface to create the desired pattern. Depending on the settings, the resulting pattern may be raised (convex), depressed (concave), or darkened but flush with the surface. Laser engraving can be categorized into three types: laser ablation, concave engraving, and convex engraving.

The laser removes material through a process that may involve melting, vaporizing, direct sublimation from solid to gas, or ablation, which refers to any erosive process that removes material from a substrate. In laser engraving, ablation usually means material removal resulting from short pulses of laser energy. The energy briefly heats atoms on the surface into a plasma, producing shockwaves that eject small particles from the surface along the expected path. The laser power needed to engrave a specific material depends on some factors:

  1. Reflectivity: Reflective materials like metals need higher laser power as not all laser energy is absorbed for heating.
  2. Density: The denser a material is, the more molecules must be heated above a certain temperature threshold to mark the material. This demands more heat and, therefore, more laser power.
  3. State Transition Temperatures: The greater the melting, sublimation, and plasma generation temperatures of materials, the more laser power is needed to heat a unit of material to the necessary condition for engraving.

Laser Engraving Process

Materials Can Be Laser Engraved

Laser engraving could be performed on various materials as long as the laser is powerful enough to vaporize the material. Here are some common materials used for engraving:

  1. Marble and Granite: Marble and granite are frequently used for engraving purposes, such as tombstones or awards, as they create a striking contrast between the design and the background.
  2. Wood: Wood is easily engraved because of its low ablation point and affordability, making it a popular choice for hobbyists, signs, and artistic designs.
  3. Stone and Brick: Stone and brick are frequently used for engraving in artistic creations.
  4. Glass: Glass engraving is often used for artistic purposes on awards, trophies, wine glasses, and other glass tableware.
  5. Metal: Metal parts are usually engraved for long-lasting and durable identification.
  6. Acrylic: Acrylic is a highly transparent type of plastic used as a lighter and less expensive alternative to glass. It is also commonly utilized to create awards and trophies.
  7. Cardboard and Paper: Low-power laser engravers can engrave cardboard and paper to create artistic items such as commemorative or congratulatory cards.
  8. Leather: Leather is often engraved to personalize consumer items such as wallets, belts, and shoes.
  9. Fabric: Fabrics are distressed to create an artistic, worn appearance on clothing, often seen on denim used for jeans.

Materials to Avoid for Laser Engraving

Laser engraving could be performed on a wide range of materials. However, some materials must be avoided, as listed below:

  1. Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB): This clear resin is often used to laminate glass sheets. Engraving PVB can produce toxic fumes.
  2. Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC): When PVC is vaporized, chlorine gas is produced, which is overly dangerous if inhaled. It could also significantly damage the laser machine.
  3. Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE /Teflon™): Teflon™ could create perfluorooctanoic acid when heated above 300 °C, leading to various adverse health effects from prolonged exposure.
  4. Carbon Fibers: Carbon fibers are combined with different types of epoxy resins, which can emit toxic fumes if they are heated and vaporized.
  5. Materials Including Halogens, Epoxy, or Phenolic Resins: Laminated fiberglass and carbon fiber often include resins. When heated, these resins produce harmful fumes and should be avoided.
  6. Beryllium Oxide: This type of material has exceptional thermal conductivity. Engraving it is difficult due to its toxicity, which could cause serious health issues if inhaled.
  7. Artificial Leather That Contains Chromium (VI):  This material is a known carcinogen, making the fumes created during laser engraving extremely dangerous.

The materials listed above should be avoided because they pose significant health risks if the workspace is not adequately ventilated. Even with ventilation, local environmental regulations may require additional fume-suppressing procedures, such as water scrubbing.

Materials Can Be Laser Engraved

How Deep Can You Laser Engrave? 

The engraving depth can be adjusted to your preference, but remember that deeper engravings will take longer and cost more due to the need for multiple laser beam passes.

To engrave at depth, high amounts of heat must be applied to the surface. Certain materials like metal, wood, or acrylic are suitable for withstanding these heat levels.

When glassware is exposed to significant heat from the laser beam, it may cause the glass to chip or, in the worst case, crack.

Additionally, engraving at a certain depth requires a careful balance. At Laser Engraving Service, our goal is to engrave as deeply as possible without compromising the quality of the result or causing any damage or distortion to the material or item being etched.

How to Laser Engrave?

Laser engraving involves a multi-step process, which is explained in detail below:

  1. Prepare the Design: Please convert the design into a format that the laser cutter CAM software can read. This format is usually a .dxf file or another vector-based format. Some CAM packages could directly convert image formats into laser paths. In this CAM software, the laser power, speed, and the number of passes are selected.
  2. Select the Material: The materials suitable for laser engraving depend on the specific engraver’s type and power.
  3. Fixture the Workpiece: Place the material securely in the laser engraver to prevent movement during processing.
  4. Create a Safe Work Environment: Ensure there is enough ventilation and use the correct protective eye goggles.
  5. Engraving: Some laser engraving machines may automatically focus the laser, but in some cases, manual focus is required before engraving.
  6. Finishing: After finishing the part, it can be removed from the machine and cleaned.


The versatility of laser engraving machines allows for various applications in diverse industries. Some popular applications include:

  1. Product Personalization: Laser engraving enables the personalization of various items, such as jewelry, gifts, and promotional materials, adding a unique touch to each product.
  2. Art and Design: Artists and designers utilize laser engraving to produce intricate patterns, textures, and designs on a variety of materials, expanding the horizons of creativity.
  3. Industrial Marking and Coding: Laser engraving is commonly utilized in various industries for marking and coding purposes, ensuring quality control and product traceability.
  4. Medical and Dental: Laser engraving is used in the medical field to mark surgical instruments and in dental laboratories to create precise dental prosthetics.

How to Laser Engrave

Cost of Laser Engraving

Every project is unique, and the cost of laser engraving varies based on the following factors:

  • Artwork Requirements: Laser machines need a vector file in the correct format and settings for proper engraving. Artwork complexity can result in engraving times ranging from 15 minutes to several hours.
  • Setup: Setting up a laser engraving machine requires careful attention and time due to several critical factors. Initially, precise placement of the object within the machine is essential to ensure accurate engraving. Furthermore, it is important to configure the laser parameters such as power, speed, and pulse frequency to align with the material’s properties. This thorough setup ensures optimal machine performance, leading to high-quality engraving results.
  • Detailed Artwork: To achieve a clean and crisp finish, it is essential to adjust the laser parameters for engraving at a reduced speed and narrower intervals. This will extend the processing time.
  • Engraving at Depth: To engrave at a deeper level, the laser beam needs to pass over the same area multiple times, which leads to an increase in processing time.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Laser Engraving


Before diving into the top laser engraver brands, let’s first understand why laser engraving has gained immense popularity. Laser engraving offers some advantages over traditional engraving methods, such as:

  1. Precision: Laser engravers utilize advanced technology to achieve high precision and accuracy, allowing for intricate designs and detailed engravings.
  2. Durability: Laser engravings are highly durable and resistant to fading, making sure that the designs stand the test of time.
  3. Speed: With their rapid processing capabilities, laser engravers can swiftly complete projects, increasing productivity.
  4. Versatility: Laser engravers can work on diverse materials, such as wood, metal, glass, plastic, and leather.


Engraving on uneven surfaces may lead to inconsistent results due to the beam’s focal point. It’s also important to note that, unlike hand engraving, which is 3D, laser engraving is 2D.


Laser Cutting VS. Laser Engraving

Laser cutting creates precise cuts in materials, serving various industries like aerospace, medicine, automotive, and electronics because it can cut different materials and provide a polished finish.

There are laser machines capable of both laser cutting and engraving, but they still require a 2D file to operate.

Laser Etching VS. Laser Engraving

Laser etching is often used interchangeably with laser engraving, but it operates by melting the material instead of vaporizing it. When a material, typically metal, is etched, it expands and creates a raised cavity, thereby altering its characteristics. In contrast, with laser engraving, the material retains its original shape.

Laser Marking VS. Laser Engraving

Laser marking differs from laser etching and laser engraving because it doesn’t vaporize part of the material and, therefore, doesn’t change the piece’s surface. Laser marking uses a low-power beam to work with the material, causing oxidation and turning it black.

For this reason, laser marking is sometimes also described as laser dark marking. This method produces a permanent image with high contrast. 

Usually, laser marking and laser etching are utilized to create text or logos on a material part.

The Future of Laser Engraving

The laser engraving industry is continuously advancing due to technological advancements and increasing demand. The future of laser engraving presents exciting opportunities, including:

  • 3D Laser Engraving: As 3D printing gains momentum, adding laser engraving technology opens new avenues for creating intricate and customized 3D objects.
  • Expanded Material Compatibility: Laser engraving machines are expected to be compatible with more types of materials, such as ceramics and composites.
  • Enhanced Automation: Automation and robotics will likely play a significant role in laser engraving, improving efficiency and reducing the need for human intervention.
  • Augmented Reality Integration: Integrating augmented reality with laser engraving could revolutionize the design and visualization process, enabling users to preview their engravings in real-time.


This article introduces the concept of laser engraving, explains what it entails, and covers all the essential information about the process. Utilizing laser engraving machines can significantly enhance your business by diversifying product options, streamlining production procedures, and differentiating your products through customization and personalization.