The World of Laser Engraving
Consistent innovation and increased affordability have made laser engraving a growing hobby amongst households and small businesses. New companies like OMTech are making high-quality laser engravers more affordable to turn this technical hobby into a simple and straightforward process. The start of any laser project is not difficult to learn with a smart laser engraver, easy-to-use software with user-friendly interfaces, and some patience. Over the years, CO2 laser engravers and Fiber laser markers have become the most outstanding laser engravers to date. We’ll review the basics of both laser machines and then give you six cool engraving ideas to get you started.
CO2 Laser Engraver or Fiber Laser Marker?
The truth is both machines have great performance but one clear distinction between them is in their laser power, the laser wavelength and concentration, the price, and the material compatibility. The CO2 laser engraver’s wavelength is typically not suited to engrave hard materials like metal. Fiber laser markers produce finer, more concentrated laser beams that can penetrate hard plastics and metals but are ill-suited for wood, leather, and other “soft” materials. Here are the different materials that are compatible with each type of laser machine:
Materials you can mark/engrave with a Fiber Laser Engraver:
- Hard Plastics
- Stainless Steel
Materials you can mark/engrave with a CO2 Laser Engraver:
- River Rock
- *Stainless Steel
*CO2 LASERS WILL MARK BARE METALS ONLY WHEN ANODIZED OR TREATED.
Materials you can cut with a CO2 laser cutter:
*CANNOT CUT HARDWOODS LIKE MAHOGANY
Now that you understand which materials are compatible with CO2 and fiber laser machines, let’s move into the laser engraving ideas for some. Keep in mind that you can apply these DIY engraving ideas to any of the materials listed above. Laser machines provide the freedom to use your creativity and switch up all the variables — that’s what laser engraving is all about! We’ll share some cool engraving ideas and highlight tips for CO2 laser projects using wood and leather, and fiber laser projects using metal. The possibilities are endless regardless of the machine you use. As always, expect some trial and error when trying out new laser engraving ideas.
Six Laser Engraving Ideas with Various Materials
Cool Engraving Ideas for CO2 Lasers on Wood
Here are some DIY laser engraving project ideas for wood:
Laser Cut Custom Coffee Coaster Set
Coffee coasters are functional additions to any home that can be customized with your own patterns. And they offer you a great avenue to practice your engraving skill or test your new machine with your laser engraving ideas. But you have to be aware of the type of wood you are about to use in your creation. Natural wood responds differently to a manufactured wood like MDF, in fact, natural wood is often not uniform. You would find that in winter and summer, different grains of natural wood are available, also darker grain burns differently because it's harder than a light grain.
Laser Engraved Wooden Bookmarks
For laser engraving ideas like this, you would need a thin wood piece (e.g 1/16"), glue or tape, laser software like Lightburn or RDWorks, and of course your CO2 laser engraver. In this case, if it’s a softwood you are using, you do not need too much laser power to achieve your engraving. To get a breathtaking engraving, keep the laser power at 100% for the best depth and contrast with preferably about 600 DPI. Lastly, natural woods like walnut, alder, and maple are considered the best for engraving.
CO2 laser engraving ideas using leather
Here are some DIY laser engraving projects you can try using leather:
Laser Engraved Leather wallet
To begin, choose a piece of high-quality natural leather that appeals to you in terms of color and feel. To get the best results, the image size you choose should match the size of the wallet. Creative ideas can be engraved such as your family crest, wedding date, and more. You can also create a unique design with software such as CorelDRAW, Inkscape, and Illustrator. At OMTech, you can benefit from their immense guides, blogs, and training courses to learn how to utilize the software and operate the entire laser engraving system with it.
Check that the power supply and the CO2 laser tube are in good working order before beginning the engraving. With the right speed/power/frequency as stipulated by the manufacturer, there should be little or no smoke produced during this process. Preferably, keep the power between 40%–70%. If there is smoke, it should be evacuated using an exhaust fan, which will have no effect on the atmosphere in your workshop. Within a few minutes, your design is sitting pretty on your wallet already.
Laser Engraved Leather Belt
With a laser engraver, natural leather can be treated quite well. Even the tiniest details and elaborate designs are carved and engraved to perfection with a CO2 laser engraver. Note that belts are made of cowhide (natural leather) and as such they give off an unpleasant smell when being engraved. To achieve a good contrast, you could glue a film to the belt’s surface before engraving. Remember to always use masking tape to cover the surrounding areas not being engraved. Always remember to adjust power if the leather seems to be giving in during the process. Never clean with any aggressive cleaning agent, this may dry out the engraved design, water is just fine for the job.
Fiber laser engraving ideas using metal
Some DIY fiber laser engraving ideas you can try on metal:
Laser Engraved Medals and Awards
There is no better way to symbolize excellence and achievement, especially in sports than with a medal. With the right engravings, it tells a story and leaves a long-lasting memory to its recipient. While typical medals are not made with genuine gold, silver, lead, or bronze, you must first identify what the medal is made of so as to use the right marking settings, fonts, and color for suitable contrast. Asides from this, a medal is usually a small-sized object hence, for the engraving to appear sharp and nice, care must be taken. For instance, if your engraving involves letterings or lines, you want to make sure they do not overlap and this can be corrected from the design and formatting stage. Preferably, use a fiber laser marker for this purpose due to its superior ability to handle metal over CO2 laser machines.
Laser Engraved Stainless Steel Tumblers
In order to engrave on a tumbler, you would need a rotary attachment amongst other tools being that it’s a curved surface. If you choose to use a CO2 laser machine then, metal marking spray will be needed as well. But with a Fiber laser marker, you should increase power and decrease the speed at multiple passes. To maintain a polished surface when you are done, use a soft brush and alcohol to clean the surface.
If you are using a metal marking spray, apply it at this point, allow 2-5 minutes for drying before commencing to engrave. Run your file at the optimal speed and power of your laser engraver, then start. Rinse off any excess metal marking spray once the engraving is finished. Take pleasure in your beautifully engraved stainless-steel tumbler!
Fiber laser engraving ideas for Hard plastics
When marking or etching plastics with a fiber laser, always use a proper form of exhaust, ventilation, or fume extraction. Many plastics create hazardous fumes and odors when lasered. Also, watch for flaming — small flames that can start at the point of laser contact. You don’t need to immediately reach for the water hose or fire extinguisher. If you’re quick to react, you should be able to blow or fan away these flames without the extra trouble.
Some DIY fiber laser engraving ideas for hard plastics:
Apple Airpods Engraving Ideas
Apple AirPods are considered by many to be the sleekest, most elegant headphones on the market today. By laser engraving your AirPods case, you can add an extra touch of modern luxury to your earbud case.
Creating your design in EZCad is the fun part. Let your imagination run wild with AirPods engraving ideas, and remember that personalization is what laser marking is all about. Once you have your EZCad design ready to go, follow the steps below.
Plastics are one of the trickiest materials to mark and etch. Airpod cases are made of polycarbonate. Before firing your laser at that expensive apple product, we recommend you buy some cheap white polycarbonate to practice and dial in your laser settings.
Use the metal positioning bars and “corner” your case for repeatable laser focus and placement. Don’t use the highest power settings—start at 40% or below. Try a fast-speed setting so the plastic doesn't melt. If you hit it once and if your AirPods engraving idea is not pronounced enough, leave the case in the same position and run the laser again.
iPad Engraving Ideas
Fiber laser markers can clearly help mark your iPad engraving ideas onto your iPad case. iPad cases can be made of many different materials. The first step is to determine what material your iPad case is made of. Check the tiny text on the back or inside of your case for a material label. It could also be listed on the original packaging. If not, you should contact the manufacturer. Then, you’ll want to find material-specific instructions.
Most iPad cases are made of Thermoplastic Polyurethane, or TPU. In some cases, it may be necessary to engrave TPU with a CO2 laser instead of a fiber laser. Polyurethane has about one-half the Rockwell hardness rating of acrylic. Some trial and error will certainly be required, as the hardness of TPU can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. On a fiber laser, start with low-power and high-speed settings. It is necessary to control the speed as permissible during marking, so as not to cause any oxidation/excess discoloration of the top surface.
Use one of these Laser Engraving Ideas Today!
Laser engraving ideas can be challenging to come up with but it’s all achievable with a CO2 laser engraver or fiber laser marker. The two machines are powerful in their own respect. A CO2 laser engraver is perfect when you know you would rarely work on metals plus it's more affordable. For this reason, a 50W CO2 laser engraver would not go at the same price as a 50W Fiber laser marker, the latter is always costlier.
Over the years, OMTech has remained a trusted laser engraving company that offers the best services and quality laser engraving machines for your DIY projects. OMTech’s laser engraving machines come in different sizes and power wattage starting from 20W up until 150W. Do you know what’s more? You have a variety of accessories, software, and training courses to select from to get you well-grounded!