If you are in the market for a new laser engraving machine for metal, you have come to the right place. This informative buyer’s guide will explain everything you need to know about choosing the right machine. We will also explore the basics of laser engraving on metal and explain some of the advantages this unique metal engraving offers.
A laser engraving machine designed to work on metal can be fairly expensive, especially if you choose a high-quality option. This is why knowing what to look for is important before investing your hard-earned money into one. Fiber Laser Engravers are considered the best option for metal engraving.
Since poorly built laser engravers are underpowered and lack the durability required to last, it is essential to choose the right machine. To help you make the right choice, we will cover the best machine options, performance factors, like laser power, wattage, engraving area, and software compatibility, to build-quality factors, like durability and reliability.
Learn what to look for so you don’t waste money on a low-quality laser engraver!
Before we dive into the key factors you should look for in a laser engraving machine for metal, it is helpful to quickly discuss what these laser machines do and why they offer many advantages over other metal engraving machines.
A laser engraving machine for metal is a specialized device that employs high-intensity lasers to engrave on hard surfaces like metals. Thanks to the precision of laser technology, these machines can use a special laser head to engrave complex and detailed designs and patterns, including precise text.
The main advantage of using a laser engraving machine for metal, rather than any other metal engraving machine, is the precision of the laser itself. The extreme focus of the laser allows for sharp, clean lines and incredibly fine details.
These machines can create designs with incredible detail and are much faster and more efficient than other types of metal engraving machines. The automated nature of laser engraving, as well as the speed lasers can burn a design into a metal surface, means that laser engraving machines can reduce labor and increase the turnaround time for projects.
Laser engraving technology is also incredibly versatile, as it can operate on a wide range of metals, including hard metals, like stainless steel and brass, and softer metals, such as aluminum. Metal Laser Engraving Technology lasers can make engravings on various types of metal and work on metal surfaces of various thicknesses.
Whether you are engraving fine details on a small metal object, like a piece of jewelry, or a large metal surface, like a large, weather-proof metal sign, a laser engraving machine for metal can handle the job.
Now that you know more about laser engraving machines for metal and understand the advantages they can provide over other metal engraving machines and techniques, we can look at some of the factors you need to consider when choosing your machine.
While there are other factors you should consider, the following are the most important:
1. Metal Laser Engraving Machine Type
Understanding the differences between the most common laser engraving machines available is the first step in selecting the best laser engraving machine for metal. We have the three best options which we will discuss below.
Fiber Laser Engraver
Fiber Laser Engravers are considered the ideal choice for metal engraving, marking and etching. When compared to the CO2 laser first produced in the 1960s, fiber lasers are a high-tech invention. Fiber lasers employ glass fiber optics as their primary electron source to generate laser beams. Fiber optics have unique qualities that aid in light transmission and are resistant to electromagnetic interference.
Fiber lasers have a wavelength of 1064 nanometers, whereas CO2 Lasers have a wavelength of 10.6 micrometers. When combined with a very small focal diameter, fiber lasers can produce laser beams 100 times more intense than a CO2 laser. Because of this increased power, fiber lasers are best suited for applications such as laser engraving metals.
Can Engrave: Steel, Stainless steel, Copper, Aluminum, Gold, Silver, Industrial Plastics like Polypropylene, Polyethylene, Machine Parts, and guns If you would like assistance identifying the Best Fiber Laser Engraving Machines for metal, we highly recommend you check out our informative buyer’s guide – Best Fiber Laser Engraver for You. Here you will find our top picks and plenty of information to help you engrave more efficiently.
In the below YouTube Tutorial, you will learn how a fiber laser works:
CO2 Laser Engraver
CO2 laser engraving equipment are ideal for engraving, marking and etching a wide range of materials but they will require chemicals such as metal marking spray or paste for directly laser engraving bare metals. They are less powerful than Fiber laser engraving equipment when engraving metals, but can accommodate a wide range of creative and industrial applications.
CO2 Laser Engraving machines, despite being less powerful than Fiber Laser machines for metal, have effectively replaced older engraving technologies. CO2 lasers can etch or engrave a wide range of materials, including anodized aluminum, wood, acrylic, glass, paper, plastic, leather, and stone.
Can Cut: Wood, Acrylic, Leather, Cardboard, Bamboo, Fabrics Can Engrave: Anodized Aluminum, Painted Metals, Wood, Acrylic, Leather, Cardboard, Bamboo, Fabric, Rubber, Glass, Cement, and Stone. Use a Marking Spray or Paste for Metal Engraving. Detailed Information can be found here: Metal Engraving with a CO2 Laser Detailed Information on the Best CO2 Lasers we recommend can be found in this article I wrote here
Diode Laser Engraver
Diode laser engravers, have less power than CO2 lasers but are nonetheless capable of etching some metals such as stainless steel and anodized aluminum. Diode laser engravers are quite popular on the market since they are inexpensive and suitable for starting a laser engraving business.
A diode is a semiconductor formed by the combination of p-type and n-type material. The diode has one p-type side and one n-type side. With prices ranging from $500 to $1,200, depending on power, features, and specs, these compact, cheap, and beginner-friendly devices are great for small enterprises. Choose a diode laser with at least 10W of power for faster speeds and better results when engraving metals.
Can Cut: Paper, Wood, Leather, MDF, some dark opaque acrylic, and felt
Can Engrave: Stainless Steel, Painted Metals, Anodized Aluminum, Paper, Wood, Leather, MDF, Some dark opaque acrylic, Bamboo, Fabric, Ceramic, Jade, Marble, Cement, Brick, and Dark GlassDetailed Information on the Best 10W Diode Laser Engravers can be found in this article I wrote here
In the below YouTube Tutorial, you will see the xTool D1 Diode Laser engraving stainless steel:
Why Is Power and Wattage Important?
The power and wattage give you a good idea of how strong the laser engraving machine’s laser will be. A higher-power laser is much more intense, which will determine how quickly and effectively the laser can engrave metal surfaces. A low-powered laser beam will struggle to make an engraving on harder metal. It will also take the laser engraving machine much longer to complete projects.
The main reason to choose a laser engraving machine with enough power, is that it can create metal engravings quickly and effectively. Without adequate power, your machine will make low-depth engravings that wear over time.
Another pitfall of an underpowered laser is that the engravings will be too shallow. A laser engraving machine that uses a powerful laser can achieve deep markings that actually last with time and wear.
Here are our power and wattage recommendations for metal engraving:
- Fiber Laser Engraver: 20 – 50 Watts
- CO2 Laser Engraver: 60 – 100 Watts
- Diode Laser Engraver: 10 – 20 Watts
When assessing laser engraving machines, check the laser power specifications. Most will specifically list the wattage and power rating of the machine’s laser and the types of metals the laser can engrave.
As you may have guessed, the machine’s engraving area and physical size will determine the space available for the metal surfaces you are engraving. Machines with large engraving areas can engrave much larger objects.
The engraving area size can refer to the maximum dimensions the machine can accommodate, which can be measured in width, length, and height.
Naturally, you will need a laser engraving machine with a large engraving area if you work on metal objects with large dimensions. If you plan to work on small objects and surfaces, you can get away with a much smaller working area, but it is worth considering what you may want to engrave in the future. Your needs could change even if you just plan on engraving small objects.
It is important to remember that even if you can fit an object with a smaller machine if the machine has a small engraving area, the engravings could be inaccurate or incomplete.
When choosing a new laser engraving machine for metal, evaluate the size and dimensions of the metal objects you plan on engraving. Once you have a clear picture of how much of a machine you need.
Check the specifications of the machines you are considering, as they will list the size of the engraving area. Make sure you also take the maximum thickness the machine can accommodate, as this will help you avoid purchasing a machine that cannot handle the metal objects you hope to engrave.
As you should with any new equipment, assessing the durability and build quality of the laser engraving machine you are considering is essential. The higher-quality laser machines are constructed from high-strength materials like metal and carbon fiber. These materials can also withstand the high temperatures generated when a metal laser engraver runs.
Naturally, the more durable machines built to the best quality standards last much longer. Even if they are more expensive, they are significantly more resilient to the typical wear and tear a laser engraving machine will be exposed to, meaning they will last much longer.
Not only are durability and overall build quality essential in how long your laser engraving machine will last, but these factors will also affect the machine’s performance and reliability.
A laser engraving machine appropriately built from durable materials will be much more stable when it operates. Stability is essential for accurate engravings, especially those that involve fine details.
Compare the materials that laser engraving machines are made from. Look for sturdy material and high-quality components.
Another way to assess the build quality is to read customer reviews, reviews from trusted websites, and buyer’s guides. You can also check for the length of the warranty that the machine is backed by, as low-quality machines rarely have lengthy warranties. Think of a long, comprehensive warranty as a reflection of the manufacturer’s confidence that their laser engraving machine will last.
Since laser engraving machines for metal rely on connectivity to design software, ensuring your chosen machine is compatible with the programs you use is essential. If the engraving machine is compatible with the right design software, you can seamlessly import and alter your designs.
Ensuring the machine can handle the file formats you tend to work with is also worthwhile.
Software compatibility will influence your overall work efficiency when transferring your engraving designs to a metal object or surface. Ideally, you will find a laser engraving machine compatible with your preferred design software.
When you can work with the design programs you are familiar with, your productivity and the entire user experience will improve.
While checking out new machines, check what software the laser engraver is compatible with and the file formats it can accept. You will want to ensure the laser engraving machine can be adjusted to work with your instructions, such as multiple depths within a single design.
If unsure, you can always contact the manufacturer and speak with their customer support line. They should be able to explain which software programs their product is compatible with. That said, most manufacturers include this information directly on the product label and the product description on their company website.
Laser engraving can be performed on just about any type of metal; however, the laser engraving machine must have a strong enough laser type for the metal you are working with.
With a fiber laser, you can easily engrave on stainless steel, brass, titanium, aluminum, silver, and even gold.
Although they involve similar processes, laser engraving and laser marking on metal are different. Laser engraving involves removing a portion of the metal’s surface, resulting in a deeper and more visible engraving that lasts much longer.
On the other hand, a laser marking machine alters the surface of the metal, meaning it applies heat to change the color or even just darken the metal in specific areas. Rather than removing some of the metal, it simply leaves markings on it. While a laser marking machine can be incredibly fast, the metal marking will be less pronounced than engravings, which can fade or wear away with time.
Fiber laser engraving machines are typically considered the best option for engraving on metal. This is because a fiber laser engraving machine uses fiber optic technology to create an incredibly focused high-powered laser beam.
When engraving metal, especially with a laser engraving machine, you must ensure that you follow all the relevant safety precautions. Make sure you take the following precautions:
- Wear personal protective equipment (PPE), like safety glasses that filter out blue light.
- Ensure that the room is well-ventilated, as the high temperatures created by the laser can burn impurities on the surface of the metal, which can result in dangerous fumes. Consider a laser engraver fume extractor or enclosure for your laser engraving machine, as these will protect you from toxic fumes. Detailed information on laser engraver fume extractors can be found here.
- Keep your work area clean and completely free from flammable materials.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific laser engraving machine.
- Learn the emergency shutdown procedures involved in shutting off your laser engraving machine.
By making sure that you consider the factors we outlined above, you should be able to find a laser engraving machine for metal that meets all of your needs.
While you also need to consider your budget, as long as you consider the laser engraver machine type, power and wattage, engraving area, build quality, and software compatibility, you can make an informed decision.
We also suggest reading Considerations Before Laser Engraving Metals, packed with plenty of valuable tips about safety considerations and more.