What Is Laser Engraving, and How Does It Differ From Laser Etching?

Many people use the terms laser engraving, laser etching, laser marking, and laser cutting interchangeably, but they differ. What is each process, and how does it work? What benefits might a person see when using each process, and what can they make?

The following guide answers these questions and more. 

Laser Engraving

Laser engraving involves the transfer of a specific image onto a material by engraving it. Experts refer to this as subtractive manufacturing, as the laser removes some of the material to create the image. The user sends a file to the machine controller and inserts the material to be engraved. The machine then reads the file and recreates the image on the material with the help of the laser beam. This beam emits high heat that burns or evaporates the material. 

How Does This Differ From Laser Cutting? 

When the laser is used to cut material, it delivers clean cuts with a smooth finish. The laser doesn’t make cuts during the engraving process described above. Instead, it removes the surface of the material to the specified depth, leaving the image behind in the process. If help is needed in determining whether engraving or is right for the project you have in mind, contact Boss Laser. Be sure to see Boss Laser reviews and learn why this company remains an industry leader.


When is laser engraving appropriate? People often have awards or trophies engraved to create a clean surface suitable for presentation. However, they might use it when creating a letterhead or for decorative markings. A company might engrave barcodes into its products to ensure they remain when the part is used. This allows the barcode to be scanned in the future, and many companies now use engraving when creating QR codes. 

Jewelers frequently benefit from laser engraving. They can customize pieces for customers while they wait. The medical and electronic industries also use this technology for part identification. However, these examples serve as only a few of the countless ways laser engraving is of benefit to businesses and individuals. 

Laser Etching

While laser etching and engraving are very similar, the etching process melts the material as opposed to vaporizing it. As the material is etched, it expands, leaving behind a raised cavity. With engraving, the material retains the original shape. 

Laser Marking

Furthermore, laser marking serves as an entirely separate process. The machine doesn’t vaporize the material when marking it, so the surface never changes. When marking the material, the laser uses low power to bring about oxidation. Any place the laser beam touches turns black. The result is a high-contrast, permanent image. 


Users find they can select from a range of materials when using their laser machine. A few examples of materials suitable for this process include acrylic, glass, leather, metal, and plywood. A person should try a range of materials to find one that’s ideal for a specific project. 

Why Choose Laser Techniques? 

Why should a person consider laser techniques over the many other options available today? The process takes very little time, so a business can meet the needs of its customers rapidly. As a result, customer satisfaction increases. Furthermore, the customer can choose the desired materials thanks to the wide range suitable for this process. They have more control over the project.

A person finds they can easily work with small items thanks to the precision of these machines, and the complexity of the design is never of concern. Finally, laser techniques remain very reliable, so business owners experience less waste and save money. They can then pass these savings on to customers. 

If you have a project in mind and aren’t sure which process you should use, consider a laser. Many people find their project turns out just as they envisioned. 

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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