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How can I engrave metals with a laser machine?

How can I engrave metals with a laser machine?

Many people ask us if they can etch metals with their CO2 machines. And the answer is, yes, it is possible to engrave metals with a CO2 machine with a process of applying special paints that react chemically when the machine does the engraving. But it is not the best way to do it and it is not the cheapest way either. In this blog we will explain the best way to engrave metals.

Grabado de metal con laser CO2
Metal engraving with CO2 laser

What type of chemical can I use to etch metals with CO2?

There are several types of chemicals that are used for marking metals in CO2 CNC machines, the most recognized are: Cermark, Thermark, Enduramark and LaserBond 100, with Cermark being the first brand to be known for marking metal in laser machines, all and each one has a solution for metal engraving, either in the form of a paste to be applied on the metal, a formula to prepare and apply even spray cans, this type of chemical solution is one of the best but its price is quite expensive, however, its finish and its drying and working speed are not as optimal as the engravings that can be made with fiber optic laser machines.

engraving on metals with laser engraving
Chemicals for metal engraving with CO2 laser

1) The types of metals that I can engrave.

There are several types of metals to engrave, but the most common metals to engrave on a CO2 CNC machine are: Stainless steel, Steel, aluminum, some anodized metals, copper and brass.

These metals being the most common to work with and the ones that obtain the best results in the final work, although there are more types of materials and other types of alloys in which the final result is not going to be optimal or cannot be directly engraved as per example silver gold among others.

engraving on metals with laser engraving
CO2 laser engraver for metals

2) Certain metallic materials can be etched directly without chemicals

Metals such as anodized steel and aluminum are the very common metals to be found in P.O.P advertising items such as pens, USB drivers and even some cell phones, among other anodized metal products. These metals have a paint that can be removed with the CO2 Laser machine, but they have the limitation of the base color, since the laser machine can remove a large amount of paint but cannot remove all the paint, this generates that the works made with the anodized metals are left with a small background of the color of the material, for example: assuming that we are going to engrave a dog tag in red anodized aluminum, after having engraved it, the name of the dog and all the contact information of the owner will have a reddish color in the entire engraved area, therefore the engraving will not have a totally clear and clean effect.

3) The best metal for CO2 etching is steel

Stainless steel is the best material to work engraving on a CO2 CNC machine, as this material has less thermal coefficient capacity compared to aluminum, this means that the light beam is not reflected as if it is reflected by aluminum. When the beam of light generated by the machine is not reflected, it means that it stays longer on the metal, therefore it can record with a darker color and with better quality.

engraving on metals with laser engraving
How to engrave steels with a CO2 laser machine?

Is there another cheaper way to etch metals with a CO2?

On this question there are many answers and many suggestions of what type of chemical can be used, but not all are effective and you may run the risk that the machine does not etch the metal or that the machine suffers damage due to reflection of the metal. beam on the lens, one of the products used to etch metal in a cheaper way is the CRC Dry Moly Lube, this chemical which is a dry lubricant for high friction parts, works quite well on stainless steel , but it does not work in the same way on aluminum, copper or brass as its similar chemicals created specifically to etch on metal, the brass is also used as an alternative, which is a metal shine, these two options are normally used as alternatives to the “Official chemicals for etching metal”, it should be remembered that its use to etch metal is only on stainless steel, since other metals such as copper when cleaned with alcohol l, the engraving easily comes off the metal.

Can the engraving be erased over time?

A well done metal etching with the correct working parameters and the correct material does not have to be erased from the metal, even a chemical etching on a smooth metal should not rub off, even if the chemical is a non ¨official¨ one like the CRC Dry Moly Lube (in stainless steel), since the engraving on the metal is usually an engraving with a slow speed and a considerably high power of the tube, the only way to erase an engraving on metal, is by passing a sandpaper to polishing metal, this being the only really effective way to erase or fade an engraving made on a CO2 machine with a chemical process.

engraving on metals with laser engraving
Bad procedure for engraving metal with CO2 machine

Parameters are also very important

Returning to the previous point and especially the fact that metal has reflective capabilities, one of the secrets for a better result are correct engraving parameters and a clear and good design, but above all a good parameter setup makes a big difference. Between an engraving on metal that is erased in a very easy way to one that does not erase from metal, the latter even applies to machines with low amount of watts.

NOTE:

Remember that to etch metals with a chemical process you must have a considerably high power and a medium-low speed, this causes the metals to bend due to the effect of heat if the metals are not thick enough. The best way to engrave metals with a CO2 machine and chemical process is if the metal is more than 3.5mm thick, otherwise your metal will be bent due to the effect of heat.

What is the best way to engrave metals?

The best way to engrave metals is with a FIBER OPTIC ENGRAVING laser machine.  These machines engrave without the need for chemicals, at high speed, without bending the metal, any metal material and above all with much greater economy, because you should not buy chemical additives to perform engraving.

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