Difference between Laser Etching and Laser Engraving

Posted by Steven Glassner on December 10th, 2020

While you might have heard about laser cutting, being a newbie, you probably might not know about laser etching and engraving. Therefore, it might be difficult for you to choose the right laser services for your business. 

In general, laser engraving and etching are the processes of creating permanent markings on the material. They belong to the same category, i.e., laser marking. They are equally compatible with Mazak parts and Fanuc parts. However, they still differ a lot. Where laser etching can reach a depth of 0.0001 inches, laser engraving can only reach a depth of 0.005 inches. 

Let's learn about them in depth. 

Laser Etching Process

Laser etching is a process that creates a mark by melting the surface. It's an enhanced concept that involves laser engraving and laser annealing. To make the mark, laser beams generate a high amount of heat, which then distorts the microsurface. The markings are in white and black color. 

It is the preferable choice for permanent marking as it requires less energy from the laser beam. You can use this process for marking, such as data matrix codes, serial numbers, barcodes, and logos.

When can you use the Laser Etching Process?

  • If your part is made of metal beside stainless steel.

  • You need a cost-effective solution that requires a less intense laser beam.

  • You need the laser process to be fast. 

  • When you need to integrate the marking before the final treatment like powder coating and heat treating. 

Laser Engraving Process

In this process, the laser sends the highly localized pulse over a thin layer of sheet and creates a code. Instead of creating micro-surface like etching, the laser engraving penetrates the material, exposing the cavity to reveal the image. Here, the laser causes the material to vaporize. The typical use of this technique is to engrave serial numbers and logos. You shouldn’t use it for marking critical parts.

 When can you use it?

  • You need durable marks

  • The material is either steel or aluminum

  • You need to integrate markings before treatments like shot blasting and sandblasting.  

Why do you need Laser Etching and Laser Engraving?

There are different marking technologies like inkjet printing, dot peening, and printed labels. However, they come with their maintenance and consumable costs. Not to miss the inconsistent results of these unreliable marking systems.

Laser etching and engraving processes use high-quality parts such as Mazak parts and Fanuc parts. It reduces consumable costs and encodes the information permanently. The product can't detach after marking. The processes involve high resolution, which means you can encode more information in less space. Laser marking technologies like Fiber and CO2 require no maintenance; pulse fibers consume very little power. 

Difference between Laser Etching and Laser Engraving

Though both are susceptible to make a permanent mark, here are the differences that distinguish them. 

  • Laser etching is fast, whereas laser engraving is durable. 

  • Laser etching melts the material and thus requires less energy. Laser engraving vaporizes it and requires more energy.

  • Laser engraving digs holes that have better protection over abrasion. Laser etching loses it over.

  • Laser etching can lift upto 80 microns, whereas laser engraving can lift upto 500 microns. 

  • Laser etching only creates black and white marks. For high contrast markings, you should prefer laser engraving.

  • Laser etching is a preferable option unless you require high abrasion resistance. In that case, laser engraving would be the right choice. 

  • The markings of laser etching processes are usually pale, whereas engraving ensures dark marks. 


Choosing one is not that difficult unless you have a lot of requirements. If you don't need a detailed and resistant work feature, you can go for laser etching. The material would matter, though. For a high resistant mark, choose laser engraving. 

This is what we think, but your final choice should be the one that meets all your conditions.

Steven Glassner

About the Author

Steven Glassner
Joined: January 10th, 2018
Articles Posted: 83

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