Engraving 101 – Introduction to Laser Marking Terminology

When you’re learning something new, there are always those definitions that come up that make you scratch your head. To help simplify things we’ll touch on some very basic terminology that will help you to gain a deeper understanding as you learn how to engrave through the engraving posts that you read here.

In our industry, you’ll sometimes hear different terminology used that means the exact same thing as another term you may know. While I’ll do my best to be consistent, I will give you some examples of what you can expect to hear and to read as you continue to follow my blog.

While it might surprise you, laser, is an acronym and actually means light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. This is a term you’ll definitely want to know, because in our line of work you get asked the question quite often.

Next, is the stain mark. You’ll also see it called an out of focus stain mark, a dark laser mark, dark mark, or even just a plain laser mark. This is a commonly used laser mark on medical devices, since they have non-disrupted surfaces they are dealing with. Sometimes, customers will come in and want something that has a smooth and even feeling. This is the type of mark you’d use. This classic mark is one you’ll find that you use more frequently than you’d imagine.

A dark laser engrave is another term you’ll want to know. You may hear it simply called a laser engrave, or even a dark etch. Often, this is used on surfaces without gloss, that are dark, and need just the surface etched. It’s very common on metal, and it is nothing more than a light scraping done with a laser.

A laser etch or laser engrave, may also be called a white etch, or a frosted etch. When something is reflective and has a high polish on it, this often looks impressive. When done, there is a frosted appearance that can be very pleasing to the eye. You’ll find it on pewter and silver often, but other surfaces may also be acceptable for it. This is especially useful on metals that are soft, since they can easily scuff and scratch.

Next up is the laser abrade and this is when a bead blast texture is done on a section of product. This tends to be a consistent form of engraving, and is typically safe for abraded materials. This can be done to very precise sections of the project you are working on, and you often don’t need masking to make it work.

A deep engrave is a mark that is a clean mark that ranges from .002” – .030” in depth. This is very common when you are doing a color fill, or engraving a core item that needs a fine cut in it. The time and cost to process these items can vary, and because of the absolute precision it requires, most engravers tend to charge more for this process.

Finally is the plastic laser mark. When you are dealing with plastic you must know the composition of the material in order to avoid potential concerns. Often, plastic will alter its color when you are using a laser, and it can be tricky to cut. Black acetal can be difficult to cut and will leave white markings behind. While clear plastic and even white plastics can be more noticeable and have a dark marking to them.

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