Laser Etching vs. Engraving

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An engraving requires painstaking effort.
An engraving requires painstaking effort. (Image: Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Engraving and laser etching are two ways to personalize glass, wood, metal or even plastic items. These techniques are used to add decorative details or names, and are commonly seen on wedding champaign glass momentos. There are differences between the two techniques, and those should be considered before selecting a service provider or machine for your business.

Cost

Engraving can be done with a tool that costs a fraction of a laser etching machine. As a result, getting an item like a piece of jewelry engraved at a jeweler may be less expensive than taking it to a laser etching business. For individuals or businesses who need to mark items, laser etching machines can cost thousands of dollars and a small tool for engraving can be purchased at a home improvement store for as little as $20.

Simplicity and Precision

Laser etching is often more simple to do than engraving. Many laser etching machines are computer-powered and are used like a typical printer. Engraving requires a person with skill and a steady hand. The computer-guided laser etching machines can reproduce graphics at more than 1,000 dots per inch, and engraving is generally limited to line-based designs.

Risk of Damage

In laser etching, the material being etched is not touched by anything or held down. A small laser removes material to create the image, causing less risk for damaging your item. Engraving, especially rare or special family heirlooms, can be accidentally damaged in a slip of the hand. However, skilled professional engravers often carry insurance for these types of incidents.

Other Differences

Laser etching machines also can leave color behind during the etching process, which can create special designs. A business that purchases an etching machine can also etch many types of materials with one machine. Engraving machines are commonly limited to glass, wood, metal or other specific materials. These simple machines, though, can be used to personalize items at home, unlike laser etching machines.

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