Modern printers have come a very long way in a very short time and, these days, even home printing machines are cable of producing results that rival those of professional printing firms. Moreover, with the cost of modern printing tech constantly tumbling, exciting new developments have been made in the market including the widespread availability of 3D printers and laser engravers at prices well within the budget of even home enthusiasts.

What is a laser etcher?

A laser etching machine uses vaporisation to engrave permanent marks on an object and is capable of etching designs onto a wide range of materials including glass, wood, ceramics, metals, etc.

Through a process referred to as subtractive manufacturing, the laser engraves lasting, deep marks that would have traditionally taken the skills of a professional tradesperson or carpenter. In laser etching, the laser itself acts almost like a chisel – but rather than cutting and pushing out the material by hand, it blasts the object with huge amounts of energy that in turn create the heat that causes vaporisation.

Unlike traditional carpentry or sculpting, a laser pattern can be etched with micro-millimetre precision powered by computers and specific production applications designed for purpose.

Typical uses for a laser etcher

Possibly without realising it, you’ve likely owned and handled thousands of different tools, gadgets and objects that have been laser-etched.  Some of the more common uses for laser etching include:

Personalised gift engravings: If you’ve ever bought jewellery, watches, etc. for someone special and had them engraved with initials or messages, the retailer will have used laser etching to complete the process. Laser etching is particularly common for personalised jewellery, keychains, glassware, and so on.

Signs: Laser etching is the tool of choice when it comes to producing durable signs that are highly legible but that are exposed to the elements. Laser etching deals far better with the typical wear and tear outdoor signage has to endure – plus the relatively quick turnaround time and low cost of production make the technology ideal for a huge array of uses.

Electronics and components: Laser etching is extremely useful to aid with the easy identification of electrical components where stickers or traditional printing simply wouldn’t suffice. Also, you’ll see laser etching on many of today’s most popular electronic devices – for example, the Apple MacBook, iPad, etc.

Barcodes: We’re all familiar with barcodes on everything from groceries to books and boxes – however, while most barcodes are simply printed on stickers or directly onto packaging, there are many scenarios where a paper-based solution isn’t sufficiently durable. In these instances, manufacturers will typically etch the barcode directly onto the object, e.g. large objects, products that receive heavy use or those that are resistant to adhesives.

Awards, trophies, customised memorabilia: Laser etching is widely used when it comes to personalising trophies and awards (for example, with the winner’s name or date of the competition). Due to the very versatility of laser systems, these items can be made from a variety of different materials including glass, wood, metal, and so on, making laser etching a perfect choice for the task.