Stainless steel laser engraving has become a popular industry using lasers to create different etchings and engravings for a more personalized touch to clients and customers.
Due to its many outstanding properties, stainless has become one of the most used and sought-after materials.
Apart from its outstanding properties, its corrosion resistance and its ability to adhere to any sterilization and cleaning methods have also become important factors in why it’s widely used in stainless steel engraving.
However, engraving stainless steel is difficult if you don’t know the best practices and methods. Below are some of the best ways how to engrave steel.
Is It Possible to Do Stainless Steel Engraving?
The short answer is yes. With the technological advancements today, you can ensure that stainless steel engraving has become a more achievable feat than in previous years.
In addition, laser engraving stainless steel has been one of the more popular processes for engraving stainless steel because it is less invasive than using any other type of method.
Laser engraving stainless steel involves a laser machine that essentially removes the outer layer or the outer metal surface of the steel, which results in the customer’s desired design.
The only problem with laser engraving is that it doesn’t do deep engravings, which is one of the reasons it is called more “laser etching.”
Fortunately, this problem can be addressed with a process called “deep engraving”; the only difference between this method and typical engraving is that stainless steel undergoes more passes.
When this process is used for these metals, finer and more pronounced engravings are achieved.
Stainless steel is cheap and known for its corrosion-resistant properties, making it a great metal for several applications.
Various industrial companies often offer laser engraving to engrave stainless steel with:
- Company Logos
- Serial Numbers
- Part Numbers
- ID Codes
- Tracking Information
The 12 Best Ways to Engraving Stainless Steel
Laser engraving stainless steel is popular because the engraving results are consistent and useful.
Engraving stainless steel is widely used in various industrial applications, which is why there are different ways to achieve a more favorable outcome. Here are some of the best ways to engrave stainless steel.
1. Reduced Marking Speed
Stainless steel is a versatile material, which is why it is a popular choice for different engraving kinds of products.
The only problem with laser-etching is its shallow cuts, which aren’t suitable for durability and longevity as it’s not built when items come under stress.
To avoid this common problem when engraving metals like stainless steel, we usually recommend reducing the marking speed while increasing the laser power simultaneously.
This way, stainless steel is cut deeper on each pass while producing more fine, deep, and detailed engravings that are sure to last long.
2. Understanding of Stainless Steel Designs
Using a laser beam on stainless steel and other types of metals isn’t the same process you would normally go through, similar to what you usually experience when designing a product on a graphic designing application.
We recommend having a clear mind and taking all the necessary steps to prepare your design accurately to have more success in laser engraving.
You would want something made through a vector file for designers and users new to this.
It’s a special type of file designed to communicate with the laser machine and the right laser engraving software to achieve your desired outcome.
3. Use Multiple Laser Passes
Using a single pass through each of your designs might cut the downtime in making these products, but this method isn’t highly recommended.
One reason behind this is during the engraving process. As you look closely, there’s a waste build-up known as a “slag” along the razor-thin lines.
For designers, it makes your work’s contract ruined. To avoid this common problem, we highly recommend multiple passes to ensure your laser engravers or any cutting tool don’t accumulate dirt.
But be sure to input moderate laser power when doing multiple passes and reduce your marking speed to make deep markings.
4. Knowing The Limits of Laser Engraving
Unlike laser etching, laser engraving produces deeper cuts for a more polished finish.
But if you are creating intricate and complex designs, engraving can be a little hard from the start.
To help you with this, we highly recommend tuning down your laser engraving machine to low power, as it will result in a crisper and a more detailed image.
As we’ve mentioned, laser engraving is used for industrial applications such as serial numbers, data codes, batch numbers, industrial codes, and many more.
5. Rubbing Alcohol is the Key
Once you’re done with your engraved product, you’d want to have a watchful eye along the surface of your item.
Most engravers use a plastic bristle brush and rubbing alcohol along the engraved surface. This way, you remove any dust, dirt, or imperfections from the surface.
6. Always Take Precautionary Measures and Know the Risks Involved
Like other industrial applications, marking stainless steel and other metals often involves risks. Laser etching is known for creating harmful fumes on plastic materials and acrylics.
However, that’s not the main concern. Our main concern is those tiny metal particles released during the process.
When the laser beam cuts through the surface of the material, nickel and chromium particles are present in the air, but on the micron level.
As a result, it would be advisable to use protective equipment such as gloves and mask when trying to mark stainless steel and other metals such as aluminum, titanium, and other common metals.
Using protective equipment ensures you won’t be inhaling these harmful particles.
7. Figure Things Out
Although you’ve watched countless how to use a laser engraver or etch stainless steel videos, it still wouldn’t be enough to prepare you for your first engraving experience.
Other factors why the laser engraving machine differs from the others include cutting materials, speed, type of material that needs cutting, and many more.
It would be best to assume that the guide you’re reading or the review you’re watching has never tried your laser engraving machine.
For every project, you must learn how to compromise and not go with your particular setting because each material or cutting differs from the others, regardless of your project.
As they say, experience is the best teacher. Don’t be afraid to change things up.
8. Clean the Surface
Before you start engraving, you’d want to have a clean surface to ensure nothing comes your way once your engraved product is finished.
It’s also one of the most common practices engravers tend to ignore. Cleaning the surface ensures no dust, dirt, grease, or other particles that may ruin your finished product.
Therefore, before using a laser engraving machine, remove these particles using alcohol. In addition, cleaning is pretty simple.
Also, use clean materials during your metal engraving process to ensure a clean finish.
9. Try On Cheaper Materials
Laser cutting and engraving are quite expensive options when engraving different kinds of products, and one wrong move can spell disaster for your entire project.
You might try using cheaper materials to avoid ruining a costly engraving project. This way, you don’t end up ruining your entire project, which is costly.
It is also one of the proven ways to practice different types of engraving and cutting schemes. So, if you don’t want to take any risk with your new project, try doing it first on cheaper materials.
10. Using Laser-Marking Spray
To save you from multiple passes, a laser-marking spray would do wonders, especially for your big projects.
The only problem with this method is finding the RIGHT laser spray for your laser engraving machine.
With a laser spray, you can engrave everything in one pass. Also, you can easily clean the fluid with just your typical water and cloth.
11. Find the Focal Distance
The laser produces a bright light when engraving, which is why you should find the optimal focal distance because the engraving process produces a very sharp sound.
The light is pretty intense when you are too close to the metal. But when you are at the perfect focal distance, the light should be orange-red, and the sound should be manageable.
12. Surface Treatment and Type of Metal
There are different types of metals, each of which has a different surface. Always know what type of metal you are engraving to ensure the best results possible.
Always wear safety glasses when dealing with the bright light that the laser produces. The radiation you can get from a laser can seriously damage your eyes!
What Are the Best Laser Engraving Tools for Stainless Steel Engraving?
Stainless steels are known for their durability and affordability, making them a fantastic choice for different laser engraving machines.
You must know what type of laser engraving machine you plan to buy because each type offers different results. Also, several laser engravers are on the market today for people who lack a budget.
Below are some commonly used engraving tools.
If we’re talking about laser engraving steel, fiber lasers are the preferred option. The reason why a fiber laser is the best choice is because of its amazing performance and the wavelength of the laser.
A fiber laser is the best option because its wavelength is easily absorbed by different types of metals, including stainless steel.
Therefore, this type of machine can easily engrave or etch any material. Some more common fiber lasers have power rated from 20 watts at the lowest to 1000 watts at the highest.
There are also fiber lasers that can cut through other materials, depending on the application. But for engraving steels, the optimal power usually is around 20W to 100W.
The result is exemplary if you compare a fiber laser machine to other machines. Often, you don’t require more passes to make fine cuts, and the best part about fiber laser is you don’t have to pre-treat the metal.
A diode laser engraver machine isn’t as powerful as most fiber lasers, but it is still more than enough if you’re doing stainless steel etching.
Diode lasers often come in blue laser color and have a wavelength of around 450nm to 455 nm, which pales in comparison to a fiber laser engraver,
Still, one of the better reasons why a diode laser is still a great option to mark stainless steel is because it can be absorbed by it, which means you can still etch a thin layer on the surface.
The only problem is you might have to do a couple more passes if you’re not planning to pre-treat the metal. However, you can also avoid this by using a laser marking spray and etching the material in one try.
Furthermore, you must note that results vary depending on your laser engraver’s power.
For example, a 10-w laser engraver might require you to pass through several times more than a 20-w stainless steel laser engraver.
But as we’ve mentioned, a diode laser is best used with a marking spray to achieve amazing results.
Infrared lasers are also good for stainless steel and other metal engravings.
Infrared lasers are more powerful than your typical diode lasers and are often used when engraving other metals, such as platinum, titanium, silver, and gold.
In addition, infrared lasers effectively engrave different kinds of metal because almost all types of metals absorb it.
As a result, your engraved product results are crisp, clearer, and more detailed because it’s easily engraved on the surface without requiring multiple passes.
Infrared lasers are also a great option for engraving other materials, such as plastic cutting and engraving.
Another laser for engraving stainless steel is the CO2 laser. While they aren’t more powerful than fiber lasers, they are more powerful than diode lasers.
Still, the engraved product is pretty clean and impressive. Of all the types of lasers we discussed, CO2 is far the most powerful, with wavelengths capable of reaching 10,000nm.
In addition, one thing to note about CO2 lasers is their peak power capable of reaching 40W in most standard CO2 lasers, which is more than enough to mark stainless steel and other metals.
The only issue why fiber lasers are the better option than CO2 lasers is it requires pretreatment to achieve fantastic results. It would be best if you also used marking spray.
If you are always jumping from one location to another, you might want to have a portable laser engraving machine.
How Much Does Stainless Steel Laser Engraving Cost?
The cost of laser engraving different kinds of engraved products varies greatly for different metal fabrication companies.
It would help if you considered several factors, such as the time it will take to finish the job and the materials used for the engraved product.
When more material needs to be removed, it may also need significant time before it’s done. The bigger the engraving project, you will expect the higher cost for the project.
To give you a better idea of how most laser-engrave stainless steel companies calculate the price, here are some of the following factors that add up to the entire cost:
- Number of items
- Design charge
- Material cost
- Minimum fee
Remember, each laser-engrave stainless steel project is different, so we highly recommend asking for a quote before heading out to your local stainless steel manufacturer.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
If you have further questions or other related questions regarding stainless steel laser engraving, you might find them below.
Can You Laser Engrave Stainless Steel?
Of course! But always remember engraving and etching are two different methods when marking different types of metal.
For example, etching is less invasive than engraving because cuts are more shallow.
On the other hand, engraving is more invasive because once the stainless steel reaches its melting point, deeper marks are achieved.
As long as you have the right cutting tool for stainless steel materials, it’s a great metal for laser-engraving personalized and industrialized products.
Is Stainless Steel Easy to Engrave?
Like aluminum and silver, stainless steel is also easy to engrave. But due to its durable properties, it may require pre-treating the stainless steel material before using the machine.
It’s also great when etching on a light surface, and you can also engrave stainless steel jewelry, stainless steel tumblers, and other personalized products.
Can You Hand Engrave Stainless Steel?
Yes, but it doesn’t provide the best results compared to laser engraving. Remember that stainless steel is a very hard material, and engraving it using your hand requires a certain amount of force to mark it.
While hand engraving has been used since the 5th century, technological advancements have paved the way for engraving to be more efficient and effective, as well as for creating complex designs.
Why Is Stainless Steel Good for Engraving
One of the best features of stainless steel is its bright, durable, corrosion-resistant, and versatile material that is cheap and highly available.
Wood might be a great material to engrave, but it doesn’t last long enough to last you than you would normally experience from laser-engraved stainless steel using a laser machine.
In addition, when it dulls, you can polish this metal with ingredients right around the corner of your home—no need for professional help.
What Is the Best Speed For Engraving Stainless Steel?
Every engraved project requires different cutting speeds, so we recommend testing first to find the optimal speed, as each material is different.
Therefore, the best thing to do is try looking for the best speed and power combination, whether high-speed or low-speed.
But the best combination for engraved stainless steel projects is high power and lower speeds. This combination will give you better and deep contrast.
Always remember each laser engraving machine works differently. Some produce different colors and power and speed settings depending on the type of material they are cutting.
Do a power-speed test before your project starts to give you a good idea of the best settings.
Engraving stainless steel is a big industry, which is why having the right knowledge and equipment can go a long way to producing the best results possible.
This versatile material is great for many reasons, one of which is its ability to make cuts and markings for a more personalized touch.
With our complete engraving stainless steel guide, we hope you enjoyed and gathered plenty of ideas moving forward on your journey toward becoming an excellent engraver.