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Laser VS Rotary Engraving

Which engraving method is right for ?

Published on
May 11, 2022 12:38:33 PM PDT May 11, 2022 12:38:33 PM PDTth, May 11, 2022 12:38:33 PM PDT

Laser vs. Rotary Engraving

Ever wonder how laser engraving works? How about rotary engraving? Laser, rotary, and specialty engraving machines are used by identification professionals in various industries to personalize gifts and jewelry, mark metal, cut acrylics, produce stamps, fabricate signs and more. Different applications, items, and engraving materials require specific methods of engraving to produce the desired results. This guide’s purpose is to help you narrow your search for an engraving machine; ensuring you buy or lease the right tool for the job.

How Does Rotary Engraving Work?

Methods, Limitations & Advantages to Rotary Engraving Systems:

Rotary engraving systems are a popular method for engraving a wide range of materials. These engraving machines use specialized carbide bits to achieve precise depths in a variety of materials. Rotary engraving provides a clean and smooth engraved mark without a whole lot of fuss.

There are some limitations associated with the rotary engraving method. First, rotary engraving systems typically require vector based files (line art) to create an engraving path for the machine to follow. This means rotary engravers are largely used for text and basic shapes with limited fonts. A second limitation of rotary engraving is the pressure or stress that can be put on an item when engraved. This usually means an item that is to be engraved such as a handheld radio needs to be clamped in place to allow the machine to engrave. This also requires the engraver to press down on the item to achieve the proper depth. This can cause stress on the material leading to cracking or an uneven mark.

However, rotary engravers do have some advantages over their laser counterparts. For one, rotary engravers do a great job of producing smooth and deep finishes needed for paint filling metals or plastics. Fume extraction is another plus, as these engravers have no odor and pose no risk of fire or gas release. Engraving material is also an area where rotary engravers excel, as this family of engravers does not require special plastics or acrylics and can engrave into almost any surface. Rotary systems often operate with materials that are less expensive and easier to process, and can engrave simple characters into plastics faster than laser machines.

Rotating Carbide Engraving vs. Diamond Drag Engraving:

Rotating carbide engraving is the most popular method for engraving plastics, acrylics, woods and metal at depth. Rotating carbide engravers have the ability to spin when engraving, which allows for greater depth and a wider tool path, two important characteristics when paint filling letters in metal surfaces.

Diamond drag engraving typically involves a non-rotating diamond tipped bit that glides on the surface of the engraving material. This style of engraving cannot be performed at great depths and often does not produce a very wide tool mark. Diamond drag engravers are usually applied to metal surfaces, produce little dust and operate at faster rates, and some materials can be darkened with a marking compound to achieve a blackened engraving area. Diamond dragging is very popular with jewelry applications, industrial data tags or serial plates.


How Does Laser Engraving Work?

Methods, Limitations & Advantages to Laser Engraving Systems:

Laser engraving is a newer engraving technology which uses a beam of highly focused light to cut through various materials. Laser engravers can also be used to effectively cut and engrave many types of acrylics and woods. The limitation associated with the laser engraving method stems from fume extraction. Most laser engraving produces smoke or toxic fumes which need to be cleaned and/or ventilated. Laser systems do not work on all materials. For instance, ABS materials do not process well with a CO2 laser. In addition, laser engravers do not provide the same engraving depth precision that rotary engravers do.

The advantages to laser engraving are in the details. Laser systems have the ability to process fine details & raster-based graphics at 1,000 DPI quality. These engravers can produce any font read by a printer, which allows for endless design possibilities.

Another advantage to laser engraving is the ability to engrave without the need for clamping or fixtures. Because laser systems apply no physical force on the material or part to be engraved there is little need for holding parts in place. Laser engraving items can be placed side by side in the laser bed to maximize production.

  CO2 Laser Engraving vs. Fiber Laser Engraving:YAG & fiber lasers differ from CO2 in that the wavelength of a YAG beam is ten times smaller than a CO2 laser. This allows the beam to absorb into the metal material, thus leaving a mark. Unlike CO2, YAG laser systems do not have a wide range of materials that work well for engraving. YAG & fiber systems are primarily used to engrave durable metals, like stainless steel, and most often configured in a galvo system for fast, high production environments. At Hansen Supply, we carry two styles of fiber laser systems: the gantry-based LS100EX Fiber and the galvo-based Fiber200.

 How Does Gift & Jewelry Engraving Work?

While most engravers will only work on flat items, there is a category of engravers that are called “Gift Engravers” or “Jewelry Engravers.” Gift Engravers are like the Swiss army knives of engraving. These systems can handle a wide range of different objects and random shapes, including glasses, bowls and everything in between. Our Gift Machines include the M40 GiftIS400 Volume, and the EGX-360. Jewelry engravers, like our M10, handle specific tasks, such as engraving rings and bracelets, while the M20 Jewel easily engraves rings, pens and flat items up to 4”x4”.


Further Support:

As you can see, selecting the right engraving system is no easy feat. For this reason, Hansen Supply offers 24hr live chat support from dedicated representatives.

Visit our engraving machines section and request a purchase or lease quote that's returned in 24hrs.