Titanium is now widely used in the medical, aerospace, and jewelry industries. Titanium is a popular material for manufacturing because of its strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion. However, etching titanium requires specialized equipment and expertise to ensure the mark’s quality and durability.
Discovered in 1791 in Great Britain, Titanium was named after the Titans of Greek mythology presumably because of its unique robust, and yet aesthetically appealing qualities. Its excellent thermal and mechanical properties make it useful for several applications in the aerospace, sports, medical, and jewelry industries.
As the use of titanium for aesthetic purposes continues to rise, the question that most laser engraving enthusiasts are asking is, Can you laser etch titanium? The two most widely used methods of etching titanium are with a fiber laser marking machine and a UV Laser marking machine as these two machines are specially made for laser etching tough metals like titanium.
Below you will find helpful information on exactly what Titanium is and how to laser etch titanium. We also provide information on what is required to achieve the best results. Read on to find out more.
What is titanium?
Titanium or Ti is a silver-gray metal that belongs to Group 4 (IVb) on the periodic table. It is strong, lightweight, and has a low-corrosion index. This is why it is widely used as an alloy for many aircraft parts. 0.44% of the Earth’s crust contains titanium. For this reason, it is distributed practically everywhere – in rocks, clay, sand, plants and animals, meteorites, deep-sea dredgings, natural water, and stars.
Even though titanium was discovered in the 1700s, it wasn’t until 1910 that the pure form of titanium was prepared in the laboratory by Mathew A. Hunter. He achieved this by using sodium to reduce titanium tetrachloride (TiCl4) in an airtight steel cylinder. This paved the way for more experiments that led to the commercial production of pure titanium available to the world now.
Pure titanium is less dense than both aluminum and iron. This means it is ductile and can be polished to give off a high luster. It also has considerably low thermal and electrical conductivity. Unlike iron and steel which are highly paramagnetic, titanium isn’t strongly attracted to magnets.
Commercial uses of titanium
Aside from jewelry application, titanium is mainly used as an alloy to other metal and non-metals. The reason for this is that it is corrosion-resistant. Even after three years of being immersed in a body of water, this one-of-a-kind metal will not catch any rust. This is because it forms a passive oxide film that protects the metal from the elements. It is also hard and refractory, much like transition metals – nickel and iron.
All these properties combine to make titanium a powerful metal utilized in the manufacture of spacecraft, aircraft, ships, and missiles. Because it doesn’t react with bone and tissue, it is also used to make prosthetic devices. Further, titanium is used in dioxide steel and also reduce the carbon content in stainless steel, refine grain size in aluminum, and produce hardening in copper.
Titanium for jewelry
Jewelers love titanium because of three things- durability, strength, and beauty. If you are shopping for a beautiful wedding or engagement ring, this metal fits the bill. It is also quite affordable compared to its gold and diamond counterparts. I have rounded up a few reasons that make titanium a super metal for jewelry applications.
- Appearance: in its natural form, titanium is light grey. When polished, the result is a stunning shine that is eye-catching and sleek. You can also have it textured or go for a matte finish. In general, titanium rings are lighter than tungsten and steel rings, and they are also more matte than gold and platinum rings.
- It can be resized: when shopping for a ring, it is important to buy one that allows for resizing. Over time, your finger may grow smaller or larger. To keep your lovely ring, you will want it resized. Most titanium rings, especially grade 2 pure titanium can easily be enlarged. A certified titanium manufacturer should be able to machine the ring and create a larger bore size.
- Durability: Titanium does not break, bend, or melt no matter the conditions exposed to it.
Engraving possibilities: what is a jewelry piece if it can’t be etched or engraved to make it more custom and personal? Titanium has all it takes to be laser engraved. Sure, engraving it is not as easy as it is on gold but it is very possible. As a matter of fact, the end result will blow your mind.
- It can be cut off: because of its high tensile properties, many people are of the opinion that titanium cannot be cut off from the finger. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. In case of an emergency, your ring will be carefully cut off using standard emergency equipment without harming your finger.
- Low-maintenance: titanium rings are the easiest to care for. All you have to do is regularly clean your ring with soap and water at home. You can also go ahead and polish it with a soft cloth.
- Style variations: when it comes to styling titanium rings, the options are endless. You can choose plain or intricate designs; those decorated with gold; bands with gemstone settings and diamond embellishments; or add color to make them pop (purple, blue, pink, green, red, and black colors are available). If you don’t fancy a round design, you can opt for a square shape.
- It doesn’t scratch easily: gold and silver are soft metals that easily scratch off quite easily. This is why messages engraved on them fade over time. Titanium, on the other hand, is incredibly tough and hard to scratch.
- Comfort: being lightweight, putting on a titanium band doesn’t compromise on comfort. If you are not accustomed to putting on jewelry, this metal will put a smile on your face.
- No green finger: developing a green patch around the finger after wearing a ring for long periods of time is a real nightmare. This always happens if you purchase rings made from inexpensive metals that react with the acids in your skin to create the green stains. Thankfully, titanium is a high-quality metal that doesn’t react with the skin no matter how long you put your ring on.
Related Post: A Complete Guide On How To Engrave Jewelry
Can you use any laser to engrave titanium?
Titanium may be laser engraved using a variety of processes, including CO2 laser, fiber laser, and UV laser.
CO2 laser engraving is a popular technology for engraving organic materials and employs a gas laser to generate the laser beam. This process, which is noted for its accuracy and versatility, is suitable for engraving on a variety of materials, including titanium.
You will, however, need to pre-treat the surface with a laser marking spray or paste to be able to engrave bare metals like Titanium. The CO2 Laser is not the first choice for marking Titanium for this reason.
Find more information on metal engraving with a CO2 Laser Engraver here
The most widely used method of marking titanium is with a fiber laser marker, which employs a fiber-optic laser. This method is well-known for its excellent precision and quick marking rates.
These days, most people agree that one of the most dependable marking solutions for metals is fiber lasers. The material is vaporized in a precise order to leave behind deeply indelible marks. Its excellent etches and great contrast make it perfect for usage in a variety of manufacturing operations.
Finally, UV laser marking is a technique for marking titanium that employs a short-wavelength laser. This technique is noted for its great resolution and is ideal for marking small, detailed shapes.
A very high absorption rate is exhibited by a UV laser’s 355 nm light. This means that the UV laser can mark materials without requiring a lot of power, even those with high melting points like titanium. In addition, the laser does not damage the material because of the high absorption rate.
How to laser etch titanium with a Fiber Laser
The laser etching technology has given jewelers a chance to add personal messages, symbols, names, and images in both the exterior and interior of a titanium ring. The messages often bear a dark grey hue if the metal has a light grey color and light gray hue if etching on black titanium.
In most instances, the engraving is applied on the inside of the ring to keep the message both hidden and close. Compared to other marking techniques, fiber laser marking is an advanced technology that ensures high-repeatability, non-contact working, high automation, and high flexibility.
Fiber Laser etching essentially melts the surface of the material using a laser beam. As soon as the material re-solidifies, the visible markings applied will become visible.
Requirements to laser etch titanium with a Fiber Laser
As mentioned before, titanium is a great material for making rings. Whether you are looking for a wedding band, engagement ring, or a casual beauty ring, this metal never disappoints. If you have a knack for the laser, perhaps you can experiment with titanium. Here are some of the things you’ll need:
- A fiber laser machine: as is the case with other laser etching projects, you need a quality laser machine. Since the markings don’t run deep, a low-power laser will get the job done. As a rule of thumb, choose a Fiber Laser with a power rating of at least 30W. Anything less than that may leave an unpleasant shadow on your result.
- Editing software: to create your image, you’ll need editing software of some sort. This can be something as simple as Adobe Photoshop or CorelDraw as well as EzCad which is a specialized fiber laser marking software. You can also make use of our drawing service. Request a quote here.
- Physical supplies: the job won’t be complete without a few supplies such as rubbing alcohol, goggles, gloves, and a cloth.
The laser engraving process
Before you roll up your sleeves, be sure once you start engraving that you wear your laser safety goggles. You don’t want the beam to cause any eye damage.
- The design phase
First and foremost, you need to create the image to be etched on your titanium. This can be a vector image or photo. It should be grayscale or black and white depending on your laser. The editing software should give you an idea of how the outcome will be. Make any changes as desired on the software. When satisfied, proceed to save the work on using software that is friendly to your laser.
The results of engraving are guaranteed to be exact and faultless when using fiber laser marking software like EzCad. Using EzCad to engrave intricate, high-resolution designs will guarantee perfect precision.
One of the most widely used professional marking programs is called EzCad, and it’s ideal for fiber laser marking business, laser enthusiasts, and craftspeople. It satisfies all user requests because of its robust image processing features, compatibility, and text processing.
- Metal preparation
The next step is the preparation of the titanium for etching. First, put on your gloves and clean the material using rubbing alcohol and a cloth. This step will help you to get rid of any grease and dirt from the surface which could greatly reduce the quality of your work.
- Laser etching titanium
Power your laser in preparation for etching. Wear your safety goggles for this step. Refer to this article to see why this is important. Once you have turned the laser on, place your titanium material, and adjust the laser’s height and focus as needed.
If you are working with a curved material, it is going to be a little tricky but doable. All you have to do is find both the highest and lowest points and adjust the laser in the middle. Here is a more detailed guide on how to laser engrave uneven surfaces.
After adjusting the focus of the laser comes the exciting part of the process – etching. Begin by loading your image to the laser’s software. Set the speed and the power. Best to do some tests first to make sure sure the settings are correct
With the laser etching phase done, remove your titanium from the laser and clean it using a soft dry cloth.
To sum it up, laser etching titanium is very possible as long as you do it right. Start by getting a reliable laser engraver and then make sure to follow the manufacturer guidelines when setting up the engraving job and you should be good.