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The short answer is yes, stainless steel can be laser engraved. It is a misconception that engraving is never suitable for stainless steel. Feasibility will depend on the application, environment and available laser engraving equipment.

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The process of laser engraving stainless steel involves the physical removal of the surface layer of the metal by an intense laser beam to create the engraving of the desired design.

A method called deep is also commonly used to mark stainless steel. It is similar to engraving, but the material is processed multiple times. This means calibrating your machine to emit relatively low power at slower speeds, then repeating the process multiple times. When using this process on stainless steel, more material is removed to produce a cleaner engraved design.

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What is the best way to mark stainless steel?
When deciding to laser engrave stainless steel, there are several ways to go about it. CO2 lasers can engrave pretreated stainless steel, or fiber lasers can engrave or etch stainless steel. Stainless steel is also suitable for laser annealing.

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Deep laser engraving is often used to mark stainless steel. In order to obtain deeper engraving, the marking speed of the laser needs to be reduced, and the power needs to be increased. After multiple passes through the stainless steel at different angles, a clean design will result.

Another way to mark stainless steel is to anneal it. Annealing is a less invasive type of laser marking. Annealing is characterized by low power applications for extended periods of time. When you anneal stainless steel, you melt it, but you don't remove any material. This means that the chromium oxide layer remains intact and continues to prevent stainless steel from rusting or corroding.

By annealing stainless steel, you expose it to relatively low heat for extended periods of time. This process melts the material or substrate without removing the layers that protect it from oxidation or rust.

What kind of laser is needed to engrave stainless steel?
Fiber laser engravers are ideal for engraving stainless steel. A CO2 laser can also be used, but a marking solution must be applied to the surface beforehand. Many laser engraving contractors offer two laser options to achieve the customer's desired look.

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Let's take a closer look at these two laser engraving techniques and how they perform on stainless steel.

A CO2 laser is a gas laser. Its core usually uses carbon dioxide or helium-neon gas. The older of the two methods, CO2 laser engraving is still commonly used, but operates less efficiently than fiber lasers.

CO2 laser cutters can engrave wood, plastic and metal, including stainless steel. However, CO2 lasers cannot directly engrave metal because the laser beam reflects off the surface. In order to engrave stainless steel, the material must first be pretreated with a marking solution such as CerMark or LaserBond.

This engraving style is ideal for light surface etching, including engraving stainless steel jewelry and other personalised items, as well as plaques and trophies.

Fiber laser machines are the latest development in the industry and are more efficient than CO2 lasers. Today, this is the preferred option for engraving or marking stainless steel.

Fiber lasers are more stable and very precise than CO2 lasers. Its power ranges from 4kW to 15kW or even 20kW, well above the threshold for CO2 lasers. For this reason, fiber lasers are more commonly used in industrial applications and large production runs where efficiency and speed are critical.

A laser tool can etch or cut material, these are its main functional processes. Therefore, common materials used for laser engraving include:

Glass: It is one of the top laser engraving materials. Laser work can be done on all eyeglasses for aesthetically pleasing results. It could be wine glasses, bottles, vases and cups.

Wood: It is a popular carving material because it is cheap and readily available. Other than that, you can laser engrave and cut any type of wood for different effects. The most common wood types used for carving include plywood, MDF, solid wood/solid wood, natural wood, particleboard, HDF, and veneer.

Glass etching

Marble and granite: These materials are mainly used for engraving photographs, this is because marble and granite are very effective in sculpting contrast. For a better aesthetic, use dark materials.

Bricks and Stones: They are great for carving items that will be exposed to different weather elements. This makes them ideal for engraving pieces for memorial sites and outdoor patios.

Leather: This material, like fabric, can be customized by engraving. Engraved leather is in high demand and the most common engraving materials include natural leather, suede, synthetic leather and suede.

Metals: All types of metals can be engraved, but the most common include: stainless steel, iron, steel, brass, aluminum, and silver.

Acrylic: It is a durable, reliable and lightweight alternative to glass. There are two types of acrylic sheets, extruded and cast. Therefore, they respond differently to the engraving process. Cast acrylic sheets often produce a frosted white appearance compared to the original material. Extruded acrylic, on the other hand, usually stays clear because it doesn't create as much contrast.

What machine settings are included with the laser engraver?
The laser settings determine the output of the cutter. For example, a faster speed usually indicates that the machine will have less exposure time to your material, and vice versa. The four main types of machine setups include:

1. Power
The power setting controls the energy level in the laser device. It is worth noting that as the power increases, the energy levels in the laser also increase. In general, the energy required to penetrate a material generally varies by type and thickness. Deeper cuts and vertical walls require more energy than thin tapers because more energy is required to remove more material.

NOTE: Extremely high energy levels can cause burnt edges and smoke. Overall, lower power results in straighter edges and shallower cuts. At the same time, more power results in wider edges and deeper cuts.

2. Speed
Speed ​​affects how fast the laser carriage moves. There is a direct relationship between speed and power (energy). To do this, you need to understand that the longer the exposure to an area, the more energy that area receives. Therefore, we can conclude that velocity can be used to control the duration of energy concentration at a point.

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Lower speeds result in slower cuts but deeper cuts, while higher speeds result in faster cuts but shallower cuts because less energy is concentrated at one point in this case. Understand that your designs may end up with bad edges if you are extremely slow or too fast.

3. Frequency
Frequency settings for laser engravers are usually measured in Hertz (HZ). This decisive parameter represents the number of laser pulses generated in one second. For example, CO2 lasers have a frequency range of 1,000 Hz – 60,000 Hz.

In some cases, frequency may also be referred to as pulses per inch (PPI). It gives you ultimate control over how many times the pulse can be highlighted within a given object distance during an engraving or cutting process. Note that the higher the frequency, the more output pulses are generated. This eventually causes the pulses to overlap, resulting in a smoother cut.

However, higher frequency values ​​mean more heat is generated during the cutting process, which can cause some materials to char or melt. At the same time, the lower frequency means fewer pulses are generated in a spaced manner, which often results in perforated lines.

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4. Key points
Focus is important to provide the best cutting results for different material thicknesses. Laser beams are required to facilitate engraving or cutting by "focusing" the light on a specific area.

To adjust the focus of the laser engraver, you will need to adjust the Z axis down depending on the thickness of the material you are using. Just measure the thickness of the material you want to engrave, and adjust the engraver's backup based on the thickness level achieved. you can focus


Laser technology has been around for a long time, enabling manufacturers to develop new ways to assemble and track their products. From welding plastics to engraving metal, lasers have a place in every industry. If you're relatively new to the technology, you might be wondering what's the difference between laser marking and laser engraving - but more importantly, which process is right for you.

Laser engraver

Laser processing method of metal
The term laser marking is often used as a word to describe a set of processes. This can range from surface marking to deep engraving, both of which leave "marks". Below are the industry standard terms we use to describe the types of tagging methods.

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ablation. The terms laser engraving and laser etching are subtypes of this process, which differ by the depth of the cavity and the way light is reflected to show contrast. Laser engraving is an umbrella term for this method.

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annealing. This is the surface level change of the metal to provide contrast for legibility. Laser marking is used to describe this method more generally.
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, there are differences between laser marking, laser engraving, and laser etching.

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What is laser engraving/ablation?
Laser engraving, or ablation, is a process that involves high laser power and high-speed movement of the laser beam to rapidly vaporize material, revealing an image at eye level. This creates durable cavities in the material and is usually done before the powder coating process. Ablation can also be used to remove thin layers of materials such as paint, anodizing, and plastic films. The process called laser cleaning is a form of ablation used to remove contaminants such as rust and oil from metal, as well as to clean molds used in injection molding.

There are two main subtypes of ablation, called engraving and etching. Etching is similar to engraving, but is identified by raised edges that reflect light differently and have a shallower depth.

Engraving depths up to 0.02" and above
Etch depth typically not more than 0.001"

Sample A was engraved using an ultrafast picosecond fiber laser. The edges are clean and the surrounding material is not affected by the heat of the laser. This is called the heat affected zone (HAZ). We discussed this topic in our previous article on the unique processing capabilities of ultrafast lasers.

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What is laser marking/annealing?
Laser marking or annealing is the process of modifying the surface properties of a material through an oxidation process to produce contrasting marks. This oxidation is accomplished by slowly heating the material at low power to attract carbon to the surface, creating a clear mark. This process works on steel and most plastics that contain carbon molecules. When annealed, material is not removed from the surface, resulting in a smooth finish.

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