Metal Engraving – All you need to know

Metal engraving is the method of designing and incising on a metal surface with the help of various engraving techniques.

When you are looking for metal engraving, you must first know the type of metal you will use in engraving. There are many types of metal on which engraving can be performed such as: stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, titanium alloys, steel alloys, copper, brass, carbides, noble metals, or any other metal with generic metallic properties.

Origins of Metal Engraving 

Engraving originated in the 15th century in Germany and northern Italy. Some of the early subjects of metal engraving suggested that it may have been first developed by German goldsmiths.

In Italy, engraving flourished not only because of the goldsmith’s art but also because of niello work, a kind of decorative metalwork. Maso Finiguerra, a Florentine goldsmith & niellist, was one of the first persons to practice engraving in the world. 

History of Metal Engraving Techniques

Early Days

During the starting days, engraving was only done on copper using simple hand tools. But as the technology progressed, engraving was performed on other metals.

Handmade work with metal engraving. Craftsman working outdoors, close-up.

Using Mechanical Equipment for Engraving Metals

The modern definition of hand engraving only survives in some very specialized fields. It can be found in jewelry, musical instruments, and some firearms. In most of the industry processes, hand engraving is replaced by milling with CNC machines and milling machines. 

Development of Laser Technology for Metal Engraving

It was in 1954, when two physicists, Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow invented the ‘MASER’, which stands for microwave amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. This discovery led to the development of the light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation or LASER. Two years later, Theodore Maiman, an American physicist & engineer, invented the Ruby Laser.  The Ruby Laser is the first optical laser that worked sucessfully.

In the middle of the 1960s, Western Electric introduced the first laser to be used in manufacturing. It was made for the purpose of drilling holes within diamond dies. Later in 1967, focused CO2 beams for laser cutting were introduced, which led to the development of the CO2 laser cutter in 1975. 

During the 1970s, Bill Lawson of LMI began to test the viability of laser engraving in order to improvise the then computerized engraving machine. Lawson ended up developing a system that could scan black and white parts and engrave either one of them based on the operator’s desire.

Kinds of Metal Engraving 

There are basically two kinds of engraving used for engraving metals, the modern method uses laser technology to engrave metals & the conventional technique uses rotary equipment. 

Rotary Engraving

This method of metal engraving uses a cutting tool that rotates through the workpiece to remove the material, leaving a cavity on the surface. It can be used for deep cutting or engraving a complete letter or object on the surface. The size of the cut and its depth depends on the cutter’s tip size. Rotary equipment is most commonly used in industries for mass manufacturing.

The benefit of using this method for engraving is that it leaves a permanent mark on the surface. The drawback of using this method is its demand for a wide range of tools. It also requires a rotary spindle and an engraving motor. After engraving, the chips must be removed manually & the machine has to be cleaned to move on to further processes.

Laser Engraving

In this method, the laser heats up the material, which causes the material to vaporize. The beam is shot in pulses. Some benefits of laser engraving are:

  • The most common option for people who want something specific. 
  • More suitable for small objects such as jewelry. 
  • Laser Engraving machines are faster than traditional methods. 
  • It is suitable to perform on almost any kind of metal that can experience high wear.

Laser Engraving is further divided into three types, based on the type of surface and the removal quantity. The three types are Etching, Deep Laser Engraving, and Laser Ablation.

Custom Engraved Coins

Laser Etching

In this method, the laser beam melts the metal using high heat & then this melted material expands, resulting in a raised mark. Laser etching can only be used for depths not greater than 0.001”.

Laser Ablation

Laser Ablation is the general type of laser engraving where the material gets heated and then vaporized, causing a cavity in the workpiece. Typically used for depths not more than 0.020”.

Deep Laser Engraving

Deep Laser Engraving has the name given after its ability to engrave materials with more depth. It has the ability to engrave as deep as 0.125”.

Uses of Metal Engraving

Metal Engraving is used in the art industry, jewelry, aeronautics, automobiles, and has many other applications. It is also used to engrave logos, designs, and bar codes on metal surfaces. 

PE Manufacturing provides the best metal engraving services for your needs. With our cutting-edge laser technology, our service is fast and top quality. Contact us now at 1-800-800-0966 and get a quote for your manufacturing needs. You can also check out this page for some pictures feel free to reach out to us for any business-related inquiries.

Leave a Comment