Stainless Steel Laser Engraving: The Ultimate Guide
We use many products that are made of stainless steel or contain several parts that are made of it. It is a commonly used material because of its shiny surface, durability, and corrosion resistance.
Stainless steel engraving is also in great demand. It is engraved for the personalization of objects, identification marks, labeling, and other purposes.
Stainless steel is a hard material, which is why people have doubts about engraving it using a laser machine. Secondly, there are various laser machines available, and it becomes difficult for a new user to pick the right machine.
However, laser engraving could be a perfect option if you know everything about machine selection, best practices, and some awesome project ideas.
In This Article
- Can You Laser Engrave Stainless Steel?
- What Kind of Laser Can Engrave Stainless Steel?
- 10 Laser Engraved Stainless Steel Project Ideas
- Best Laser Engraver for Stainless Steel
- 5 Best Practices for Laser Engraving Stainless Steel
Can You Laser Engrave Stainless Steel?
Yes, you can engrave stainless steel using a laser machine. The laser beams are powerful enough to engrave the material or object, but this engraving is not very deep, which is why it is often called laser etching.
Laser Etching Stainless Steel
When the laser beams react with the surface of the stainless steel, the temperature of the material increases rapidly and reaches the melting point of the material. After that, you see the marks on the surface.
This temperature only melts the surface of stainless steel, but it is not enough to evaporate it because it is not at the boiling point.
Can You Oxidize Stainless Steel Using Laser
A powerful laser can also oxidize the metal surface in no time. Due to oxidation, the metal is etched with a certain color. Usually, you see black markings on metals, but if the laser is powerful enough and it can oxidize the material with perfection, you see a wider range of colors that make etching or marking more beautiful.
On stainless steel, there is no need for pretreatment. You can get visible marks on the surface, but if you want to get darker marks, it is better to use a special compound. Usually, it is called metal marking spray. A thin and even coat of spray is applied to the metal. After that, the laser beams react with this compound and leave a darker mark that is more visible.
Many applications required stainless steel engraving. The most common is the marking of barcodes, company names, tags, and other things. Other than that, it is also used to create designs on various objects. For instance, you can laser engrave a stainless-steel tumbler for customization.
What Kind of Laser Can Engrave Stainless Steel?
It is a must to know the right laser for stainless steel engraving before you buy one or test it out. There are various types of laser engraving machines available, but not all of them offer the best results. Each machine has its pros & cons.
The laser engravers that can engrave stainless steel are,
- Fiber Laser
- Diode Laser
- CO2 Laser
- Infrared Laser
Fiber laser is the most preferred option when it comes to laser engraving stainless steel. The first reason behind its phenomenal performance is the wavelength of the laser.
The commonly available fiber lasers have different wavelength ranges from 780nm to 2200nm. The wavelength depends on the doping of the core, which is done according to the application of the laser.
The wavelength of a fiber laser can be absorbed by metals, including stainless steel. Therefore, it can easily engrave or etch the material. Due to this, they are usually used for large-scale businesses.
The optical power of fiber lasers varies from 20W to several thousand watts, depending on the application. Some lasers can even cut various materials. But as far as the engraving of stainless steel is concerned, small fiber lasers of 20-100W are also suitable.
The engraving results of a fiber laser are exemplary. With only one pass, the engraving is quite clear and visible compared to other types of laser machines. The best part is that there is no need for any pretreatment.
A diode laser engraver is not as powerful as a fiber laser, but it can still etch stainless steel and make the marks you want. It is usually a blue laser, which has a wavelength of 450-455nm.
This wavelength can also be absorbed by stainless steel, but you don't get dark etching results in one pass. You might need to have two or more passes without pretreatment. However, it is better to apply marking spray and etch the metal in one go.
Keep in mind that the results depend on the optical power of the laser. The commonly available 10W laser machines require more passes. But if you have got a 20W laser machine, it can easily engrave in one pass. But again, using metal marking spray is quite beneficial for achieving phenomenal results.
A CO2 laser is also a good option that can be used to engrave on stainless steel. These lasers are more powerful than diode lasers but still lesser than fiber lasers. However, they can engrave steel with perfection.
CO2 lasers have a much higher wavelength than other types of lasers we have discussed. It is usually 10,000nm. However, it can also be absorbed by some metals, including stainless steel. The important thing about C02 lasers is their power. They usually have a 40W or higher optical power, which is good for engraving stainless steel at a better speed.
Similar to diode lasers, CO2 lasers also require pretreatment for better results. You can use a marking spray to etch the surface of the material. You can also try without marking spray, but the engraving will be a bit light.
Infrared laser (IR laser) is another type of laser you can use for stainless steel and other metal engravings. It is also a kind of diode laser, but its wavelength is quite higher than blue lasers.
The main purpose of this laser is to engrave metals, especially precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum. However, it can also engrave other metals, such as stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and titanium.
The result for metal engraving is excellent. It is because the 1064nm laser beams are easily absorbed by metals. Therefore, you see clear, clean, and visible results without any pretreatment. Other than metals, these lasers are also excellent for plastic engraving and cutting.
10 Laser Engraved Stainless Steel Project Ideas
Laser Engraved Stainless Steel Tumbler/Cup
Steel tumblers and cups are the favorite items you can engrave with a laser machine. These are personalized by writing names, creating intricate designs, and other things.
People also love to give these personalized cups and tumblers to their loved ones. Even if you want to make it for yourself and your family members, it is a great idea.
Stainless steel tumblers are available on the market. You can buy these from online stores as well as local stores. Once you have them, they can be easily engraved using a fiber laser, CO2 laser, infrared laser, or diode laser. However, in the case of CO2 and diode lasers, you need to apply the laser marking spray.
You also need a rotary attachment to rotate the tumbler or cup during engraving. Without it, engraving won't look good.
Stainless Steel Laser Engraved Pendant
For lovers, stainless steel pendants are exceptionally attractive. They can engrave the name of the person, a special date, or anything they like. It is a very simple idea that beginners can also try. Secondly, you can also sell customized laser-engraved pendants online.
You can easily find pendants on the market. After that, you only need to engrave them. You need to be very careful as it is a small and delicate item. The right placement of the pendant under the laser machine and perfect focus alignment are necessary.
Finally, insert a chain, and your engraved pendant is ready.
Laser Engraved Photo on Stainless Steel
Photo engraving is also an attractive art piece. People like to hang their engraved photos in their homes. It is also an amazing anniversary or birthday gift item.
You can easily engrave a photo on stainless steel. For better contrast, you should use laser marking spray. All you need is a piece of stainless steel, and then engrave the photo on it. Later, you only need to make two holes to attach a string to the engraved piece to make it a wall hanging. Moreover, you can put it in a photo frame or on a photo stand.
Make sure the piece of stainless steel has no scratches or dents. It should be cleaned before engraving the photo. All these practices make your photo more attractive.
Stainless Steel Keychain
Stainless steel keychains are quite trendy because they look beautiful and are durable as well. Using a laser engraver machine, you can make personalized stainless-steel keychains.
There are many choices for engraving a keychain, including a personal photo, celebrity photo, logo, quote, etc. It is used for gifting purposes. It is also an excellent gifting idea for businesses to engrave their company logo and information on stainless steel keychains and give it to their clients, visitors, and workers.
A nameplate is a must for every house or office. Stainless steel nameplates are unmatchable because of their shiny appearance and durability. They can withstand any weather condition, so they can be placed outside the home without any worries. Other than the house signs, you can make name plates for office doors and desks.
People often need these customized nameplates and signs. You can start a new business using a laser machine. You only need a small piece of stainless steel, and you are ready to engrave it.
An engraved steel bowl is a very unique and simple gifting item for lovers. It is nothing but a handmade bowl, and then the bowl is engraved using a laser machine. You can write a message, quote, or anything else for the lover.
Anniversary steel bookmarks are traditional gifts for couples. People give it to their husbands, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend on their anniversary.
There are many choices for engraving it, including a date, name, photo, quote, etc
Finally, you need to attach a tassel or ribbon to the bookmark to make it more attractive.
For Christmas and new year, it is a nice item. If you are looking for a unique gifting idea for your loved ones or customers, this is it. It is a simple stainless-steel snowflake that you can make using your laser machine.
Take a small piece of metal and cut it into a circular shape. Then, you can engrave the snowflake design of your choice.
Customized bracelets are quite trending these days. You will find various designs on which the name of the person is usually engraved.
There are premade bracelets available on the market. You need to purchase them and engrave them using your laser machine. But keep in mind that you need to make sure the material of the bracelet is stainless steel.
If the bracelet is entirely made of stainless steel, you also need a rotary attachment to rotate it during engraving. But if the bracelet is of leather and it only has a flat piece of stainless steel, you can engrave it directly on the laser machine.
An engraved knife is a traditional gift that people give to their loved ones. Some people like to collect these items.
You can engrave a stainless-steel knife using a laser machine without any hassle. You can make an attractive design to make the knife eye-catching. Other than that, you can engrave the names and dates. It can also be used as an anniversary gift for friends and lovers.
Best Laser Engraver for Stainless Steel
xTool D1 Pro
xTool D1 Pro is a diode laser machine that you can use on a wide range of materials. It is a desktop laser machine suitable for homes, small businesses, DIY, crafts, and other purposes. It offers optimal accuracy and amazing results.
xTool D1 Pro comes with the world's most powerful diode laser module, which has an optical power of 20W.
It can easily engrave and cut materials in one or fewer passes compared to other diode laser machines. You can also engrave stainless steel with this machine at an exceptional speed and complete the job in only one pass.
The most important thing about the laser module is the color engraving. Due to high power, the laser beams oxidize the metallic surface instantly, which ultimately brings vivid colors.
Other than stainless steel, you can engrave other materials, including wood, acrylic, stone, ceramics, glass, etc. Therefore, you can fill up your inventory with a wide range of products.
The best part is that you can also attach an infrared module to the xTool D1 Pro. You can buy it separately and engrave precious metals, such as gold, silver, and platinum, and other metals, like stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium. Therefore, you have different options for selecting the desired laser for the right material and purpose.
xTool D1 Pro is equipped with some advanced and exceptional features.
Firstly, it offers incredible movement accuracy of 0.0004 inches and a repositioning accuracy of 0.0007 inches. Thus, you get perfect results every time.
Secondly, it has made focusing the laser easier than ever before. With the built-in focus lever, you just need a few seconds to adjust the focus.
Other than that, it has specialized software that is suitable for beginners. You can start without any prior experience.
The machine has a large engraving area that can accommodate multiple products or large items.
You can get various accessories for the machine, such as the extension to increase the engraving area, rotary attachment to engrave cylindrical/spherical objects, air assist to help in fine and clean cutting, etc.
Moreover, the machine has safety features to prevent accidents. It has an automatic turn-off system if the machine is tipped or there is any spark.
It is a beginner-friendly, upgradeable, and powerful machine that can not only engrave stainless steel but a wide range of other materials.
5 Best Practices for Laser Engraving Stainless Steel
If you are new to engraving stainless steel using a laser machine, you should look at these tips and best practices. These will bring perfection to your work and make it easier.
Clean the Surface
Cleaning the surface of stainless steel is very important, and people usually ignore it. There can be dust, grease, and other particles that can create a hindrance for the laser. Therefore, you must clean the material first before engraving it.
Cleaning is pretty simple. You need rubbing alcohol and a soft cloth. Clean the surface of the metal, and then it will be ready for engraving.
Adjust the Focus
Without the optimal adjustment of the focus, you won't get the best results. The laser cannot perform or engrave the material if it is not focused properly. You won't get a better contrast, or you might need to run more passes.
Therefore, make sure to adjust the focus in the first place before you start engraving. It is a must for every material.
You cannot guess the right power and speed required to engrave an object or material. Therefore, you must do a power-speed test. It will tell you the right power and speed combination.
For stainless steel, it is recommended to engrave on high power and low speed. It will give you a better contrast. But when you do a power-speed test, you get a complete idea of the power and speed you need to select.
Moreover, some laser engravers produce various colors on different power and speed settings. With the help of the power-speed test, you get to know about the exact settings to achieve the desired color.
Apply Laser Marking Spray
Laser marking spray saves you from multiple passes. If you are using a suitable laser engraving machine, then one pass will be enough, along with the laser marking spray. With xTool D1 Pro 20W, you get phenomenal results in one pass, and there is no need to run more passes.
The spray is cleaned easily, so you don't have to worry about it. You can remove it using water and a cloth.
Try on a Cheap and Spare Material
Many times, people mess up with laser engraving. Due to wrong decisions and practices, they end up wasting the object they are engraving. Sometimes, the object is precious, and you cannot take any risk.
It is better to try on a cheap or extra material before engraving the real object. You can take a piece of cheap stainless steel and then try engraving it. It will save you a lot of time and money.