Why can't this laser engraver engrave stainless steel ?
If you've been searching for information on laser engraving stainless steel, you've probably found an article that gives you the steps to do it.
Laser engraving stainless steel removes important protective layers. In fact, any method of digging a mark on a surface (deep or shallow) will remove this layer.
This thin protective layer consists of chromium oxide. Chromium oxide is naturally formed when chromium reacts with oxygen. This process is an ideal form of oxidation known as passivation. The resulting layer prevents corrosion by preventing oxygen from reaching the steel below.
When this layer is removed, the oxygen causes a chemical reaction on the bare steel. This reaction is called oxidation. The result is rust, which creates weak points that gradually destroy the material. This happens when you mark stainless steel by laser engraving or laser etching.
Note that laser etching and annealing of stainless steel are sometimes used interchangeably.
Stainless steel must be laser annealed, not engraved To create marks such as logos or Data Matrix codes on stainless steel, you need to rely on a technique that does not remove the chromium oxide layer from the surface.
For such needs, there is only one technique to leave permanent marks directly on stainless steel. This technique is laser annealing and can be done using a metal laser marking machine.
Laser annealing chemically modifies the steel beneath the chromium oxide layer. For this, the surface is heated until it temporarily melts. During this brief time span (milliseconds), oxygen moves below the surface. This produces the desired and controlled form of oxidation subsurface.
what's the result? As the surface cools and solidifies, the surface color changes due to oxidation. This color is usually black, although many colors can be achieved. The resulting marks are beautiful, colorful and permanent.
Most importantly, no material is removed from the surface (as opposed to laser engraving, which ablates material). This means that the protective layer is not affected and your parts will not rust.
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Laser engraving is a popular option that provides a permanent and legible marking on an object through etching, ablation, or deep laser engraving. It is similar to laser marking, but the resulting appearance differs due to the depth of laser penetration.
Laser engraving is commonly used to create permanent serial markings on substrates made of: Metal, Wood, Plastic, Leather.
Benefits Of Laser Engraving Over Traditional Processes
Compared to manual engraving:
Minimally Invasive: Laser engraving can be performed at a range of depths without any direct contact at all. Surface marks can even be done on stainless steel with no depth. Overall, lasers are less damaging than manual engraving and keep the substrate material’s physical integrity intact.
Precise: Lasers provide a level of control that’s impossible to achieve manually. Compared to hand-engraving, the process is swift, clean, and highly repeatable, with little room for human error.
Versatile: A single laser engraving machine can be used to create a host of different designs with only minimal calibration. They can also produce exceptionally complex patterns.
Affordable: On average, laser devices last longer than other engraving machines and require less maintenance, resulting in savings that can be passed along to the consumer.
Fast: Lasers can be programmed to render virtually any design in a matter of moments. Because the process is automated, it’s easy to scale production runs as needed according to demand.
Long-Lasting: Laser-engraved designs are permanent but can wear over time, depending on the substrate material that’s used. Soft metals, for example, may experience more signs of wear than hardwood. In general, however, laser-engraved designs tend to have a longer lifespan compared to other engraving methods.