Frequently Asked Questions

What can you engrave with a CO2 laser?

CO2 lasers can cut and engrave the widest range of materials, such as acrylic, cardboard, paper, fabric, plastics, wood, and rubber. The CO2 laser can also engrave on ceramic, glass, stone (granite, marble, brick to name a few), and coated metals such as anodized aluminum. It works by vaporizing the material, leaving an indentation or cut in the material. (A fiber laser basically does what a CO2 laser cannot.)


What are the differences between cutting, etching, engraving, fusing and marking?


 visual image of laser cutting through material

The process of “laser cutting”, is when a focused laser beam contacts the material surface and heats it so intensely that it melts or vaporizes the material, causing it to separate.  Once the laser beam has completely penetrated the material at one point, the actual cutting process begins. The laser beam path follows the selected geometry, or cutting line(s) and separates the material in the process.
Laser cutting happens when you apply enough power at a very slow rate of speed to completely vaporize material all the way through. Even if a material is flammable, it may be conceivable to cut with a laser.

visual image of a laser engraving a material

The process of “laser engraving”, is when the laser beam exposes the material to a tremendous amount of heat. This results in a color change and contrast mark, or the material will vaporize or burn depending on the duration of time a workpiece is exposed to the heat. The finished engraving is both permanent and extremely durable as well as resistant to outside influences, such as abrasion.

Laser engraving works by vaporizing some of the base material with a focused beam that delivers enormous levels of energy to generate heat required for vaporization. The engraving depth capabilities depend on the specific lasers power and the rate of speed utilized. Examples of materials well-suited for laser engraving include wood, Veg-tan leather, rubber, and acrylic, just to name a few. 


visual image of a laser etching a material

The process of “laser etching or marking” is the technique of marking or labeling material(s) and workpieces using a laser device. Different applications may require special techniques, but engraving, staining, removing, annealing, and foaming are the most common methods. Each method has its own unique advantage and disadvantage, conditional on the material(s) being used and the specific requirement.


During the process of laser etching, the first (top or cover) layer of your material is heated to a point that will discolor or vaporize, producing little to no depth but usually high contrast marking. Laser etching works well on materials with two or more layers, coated metals, anodized aluminum and engravers plastics. 



The process of “laser fusing”, uses the laser as the heat source to fuse a ceramic glaze compound to various materials. All this occurs within milliseconds as opposed to several deca-minutes (kiln fusing), consuming less energy and, consequently, without damaging the material being marked.


Fusing is a means of adding a layer with ceramic powders onto the surface of materials such as ceramics, glass or metals, producing a fusion of the materials to add contrast. This process is accomplished using specialized products such as Cermark, Laserbond and Thermark.

Can a CO2 laser add color?

The process of "lasering" removes the top layer or surface by vaporizing the material, this process does not allow you to alter or change the color. An example would be to laser a piece of wood and have the wood become blue, as the laser heats and vaporizes the wood it will only burn the remaining material allowing a burnt or brownish tint. Color can be added by fill with acrylic paints and with some materials by using foil. There are some compounds (Cermark, LaserBond, Thermark) that can be applied to certain materials (Ceramic, Glass, Stainless steel) to create a fusion that will create a certain color (Black, Blue, Bronze and White). For more information contact your local engraving company.