How Long Does Laser Engraving Last? Answered

How Long Does Laser Engraving Last? Answered

How Long Does Laser Engraving Last? Answered

Laser engraving intricate patterns on the surface is a great way to personalize things.

But do laser engravings last long? or are they prone to getting scratched and wear off easily?

The answer depends upon multiple factors.

This article discusses the expected life of a laser engraving under different conditions.

How Long Does Laser Engraving Last?

Laser engraving uses a high-energy laser to remove layers of material and produce a permanent mark on the surface of a workpiece. Generally, deep laser engravings last for the life span of the workpiece, whereas shallow engravings last comparatively less long and are prone to scratches, especially in abrasive conditions.

Laser engravings are an exciting way of adding value to an item by engraving intricate designs and even photographs.

These engravings are permanent in the way that, they do not rub off when washed under water and wiped by a soft fabric.

However, the ability of the engraving to last for a long time depends upon the depth of engraving and the type of material on which the engraving is performed.

Based on the Engraving Depth

The depth of the engraving is the amount of material removed by the laser to produce the required design or pattern.

As the depth of the engraving increases, the chances of the engraving to last-long also increases.

Therefore, laser engraving lasts longer than laser etching and laser marking.

Difference between laser engraving, etching and marking
Difference between laser engraving, etching and marking

Increasing the depth of engraving beyond a certain limit can render the workpiece weak and prone to breaking.

Generally, the maximum engraving depth that does not affect the structural integrity of the workpiece is around ⅛th of the thickness of the workpiece.

However, the maximum engraving depth can vary from one material to another depending upon the strength of the material.

Based on the Material

Apart from the engraving depth, the material used for engraving also plays a vital role in producing long-lasting engraving.

An engraving produced on a hard material like titanium and stone has a higher chance of lasting longer when compared to engraving on soft materials like gold and paper.

Materials with high strength and resistance to scratches can withstand extreme conditions without significant damage to the engraving.

Based on the Environmental Conditions

The environmental conditions are one the most critical factors that determine the ability of the engraving to last long.

Generally, an item subjected to abrasive conditions with high friction is less likely to have a long-lasting engraving.

For example, in the case of a gold ring with similar engraving on the outer and the inner surface.

The engraving on the inner surface of the ring is likely to last longer than the outer surface because the inner surface is subjected to comparatively less abrasive conditions.

Therefore, for engravings subjected to harsh conditions, it is recommended to perform deep engravings on a tough material that can withstand the abrasive conditions and prevent the engraving from being damaged.

Things to Consider for Producing a Long-Lasting Engraving

Irrespective of the type of material, engraving depth, and environmental conditions, there are certain things to keep in mind to improve the life of the engraving.

Type of Laser

Depending upon the type of material, different lasers have different engraving capabilities.

A CO2 laser is best suitable for engraving non-metals like wood, plastics, stones, fabrics, etc.

Whereas fiber lasers produce optimal results when engraving metal surfaces.

Although a high-powered CO2 laser can be used to perform through cuts in metals, it is not recommended for engraving them.

Selecting the right laser will result in a good engraving that will last long.

Optimal Parameters

The optimal parameters for engraving ensure dark engraving with the best quality and surface finish.

However, the optimal engraving parameters for one material might not produce the desired output on other materials.

For example, setting the optimal laser parameters for laser engraving denim and then using the same parameters for engraving a cotton T-shirt can produce a dark engraving, but it won't last long.

The fibers of a T-shirt are comparatively more delicate than denim and require less laser power.

Engraving a T-shirt with high laser power will produce a dark engraving but weaken the fibers, which results in tearing of the engraved pattern when subjected to tensile force.

Therefore, it is always advised to perform test runs and find the optimal parameters for the material before engraving the actual workpiece.

Proper Maintenance of Laser Engraver

Proper maintenance of the optics of a laser engraver ensures quality results.

The accumulation of dust and debris on the focusing lens can diffuse the laser and produce low-quality engraving even after setting the optimal parameters.

This affects the quality by producing a low-contrast engraving and reduces the material removing capability of the laser, thereby affecting the durability of the engraving.

Therefore, it is important to clean the mirrors and lenses of the laser engraver regularly to attain the best engraving.

Protective Coating

Sealing the engraved surface with a protective coating can help improve the life of the engraving.

These protective coatings prevent the direct contact of the engraved surface with the abrasive particles, thereby protecting the engraving from scratches.

Although these coatings do not make the surface immune to damage, selecting a suitable coating for the material can enhance the durability of the engraving.

What is Laser Engraving?

Laser engraved intricate design on wood (Source Kern Lasers)

Laser engraving is the process of using a high-energy laser to burn, melt, or vaporize the material and produce grooves of desired shapes on the surface of the material.

Various parameters, such as laser power, cutting speed, resolution, frequency, etc., determine the quality of the engraving produced by the laser.

An engraving with a higher resolution produces a crisp and more defined engraving with a high level of detail.

Setting a perfect balance between the resolution and frequency can result in a high-quality engraving with good contrast.

The depth of the engraving can be controlled by altering the laser power and cutting speed.

Generally, laser engraving involves the removal of the material at a depth of around 0.001 - 0.005 inches.

Engravings deeper than 0.005" are considered deep laser engravings, whereas engravings shallower than 0.001" are considered laser etching.

ProcessWorking Depth (inches)
Laser Etchingless than 0.001
Laser Engraving0.001-0.005
Deep Laser Engraving0.005-0.125

Working depth of different laser processes

Another technique of using a laser to print a pattern on the surface of a material is laser marking.

In this process, the laser does not remove any material. 

Instead, it alters the properties of the material's surface to produce a permanent mark.

Laser engravers are also capable of performing through cuts in various materials.

Therefore it is essential to regulate the process parameters when engraving a material.

A detailed differentiation between laser engravers and laser cutters can be found here - Laser Engraver vs Laser Cutter.

Final Thoughts

The durability of laser engraving depends upon the factors such as type of material, engraving depth, and environmental conditions.

Using the proper laser setup and optimal parameters will improve the quality and produce a long-lasting engraving.

Furthermore, proper maintenance of the engraved surface and applying a protective coating can further improve the life of the engraving.

Following the techniques and avoiding the mistakes mentioned in this article can help you produce a laser engraving that can last up to the lifetime of the workpiece.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How long does laser etching last?

Just like laser engraving, laser etching can also last very long. However, laser etching is generally shallower than laser engraving and can be easily scratched under abrasive conditions. Using the right laser parameters and preventing the etching from abrasive conditions can ensure a long life of the etched surface.

Can a diode laser produce a long-lasting engraving on metals?

Yes, a high-powered diode laser can produce long-lasting engraving on metals. The wavelength of a diode laser is readily absorbed by metals and non-metals and can therefore be used to engrave both.
However, diode lasers are generally available in low-power options, making them incapable of producing deep engravings on metal surfaces. As a result, the metal engravings produced by a diode laser are not suitable for abrasive conditions.

Does grinding remove the engraved mark from the surface of the workpiece?

No, grinding does not remove the engraved mark from the surface of the workpiece.
However, it reduces the durability by reducing the depth of the engraving. Furthermore, grinding can remove the marks produced by laser etching and laser marking. Therefore grinding of the workpiece is only recommended on deep laser engravings.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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