Posted on 07.02.2018 by Aaron Grimes

Your Definitive Guide to 3D Laser Engraving

Last Updated on Jan 26, 2024

Your Definitive Guide to 3D Laser Engraving

As many companies and industries have discovered over the years, the benefits of laser marking, etching, and engraving are widespread, with precision, speed, reliability, and cost-effectiveness all being key attributes of laser systems.

We’ve previously touched on laser marking’s benefits over processes like dot peen marking, electrochemical marking, and inkjet marking, but in this post, we wanted to highlight one major selling point for laser systems, namely, their 3D marking capabilities. Check out our definitive guide today or contact our team to learn more!

What Is 3D Laser Engraving?

As industry and laser marking experts are aware, 3D laser etching or engraving is the process of marking a predetermined design onto an object in three dimensions. Throughout the process, the 3D laser engraving machine follows a 3D model and uses high-level software to translate the initial design to your desired product. Along with traditional laser engraving practices, 3D laser engraving can further expand graphic possibilities and create prominent, high-contrast designs of your choosing.

3D laser engraving

What Is the Process of Using a 3D Laser Engraving Machine?

If you’re looking to utilize a 3D laser engraving system for your projects, here are the steps that we recommend for the best results:

  • Design creation and conversion – Using 3D modeling software, such as CAD, create the design that you wish to engrave. Once complete, you will convert it to a file that is compatible with the 3D laser engraving system, like DXF, DWG, or IPT.
  • Material surface preparation – The surface of the material must be properly cleaned prior to the marking process. With that in mind, we recommend smoothing or polishing your product so it is completely free of any excess debris that may be lingering on its surface.
  • Object setup and configuration – This is when you will secure your chosen material into the 3D laser marking From there, you will adjust the workstation’s settings, so the speed, power, and focus are tailored to your specifications. You may even want to run a quick test to ensure that the markings meet your standards.
  • 3D laser engraving your product – When 3D laser etching or engraving your material, the process will include slicing the 3D model into designated layers to make the application easier to navigate. Because of this, multiple passes will be needed to achieve your desired results.
  • Cleaning and inspection – It’s important to look over your finished product to ensure that what you are seeing aligns with the predetermined specifications of the design and laser settings. If it does, feel free to start the cleanup process so the 3D laser engraving machine is ready for its next use.

About the 3D Laser Marking Workstations from TYKMA Electrox

Learning to 3D laser mark your parts is quite simple, with the process sharing many aspects of 2D laser marking. Our Zetalase™ XL laser marking system utilizes our Minilase™ Pro 3 software which lets operators quickly and easily design, edit, and select 3D laser marking programs.

Just like with 2D laser marking, 3D laser marking provides a computer-controlled beam that supplies micron accuracy and eliminates operator errors. Implementing a 3D laser marking system into your operations can bring with it a host of advantages, which we’ll examine below.

This video features our versatile 3-axis laser marking system that is designed to deliver a large continuous marking field for 3D laser contour marking and 3D laser engraving.

With the use of a high-speed dynamic focusing optic, the marking field is expanded to 10″ x 10″ or 250 mm x 250 mm. With an industry-leading 100 mm (4″) Z-axis dynamic focus, the need for mechanical focal height adjustment when marking variable height components is eliminated. In addition, loss of focus and marking distortion are eliminated when marking uneven surfaces.

The Benefits of Working with 3D Laser Engraving Machines

Utilizing a 3D laser marking system can supply your company with a variety of benefits, including:

  • Diverse marking capabilities – While 2D laser marking provides significant versatility for applications, 3D laser marking expands them even greater. When using 2D marking on a non-flat surface the mark can become faded or distorted, but 3D marking allows you to mark on diverse surfaces, including uneven ones, maintaining a clean presentation of text, graphics, logos, and serial numbers. Some surfaces capable of being marked include:
    • Cones
    • Cylinders
    • Spheres
    • Concave surfaces
    • Convex surfaces
    • Slanted/sloped surfaces
    • Triangular surfaces
  • Ideal for molds – For companies that regularly utilize molds or plastic injection moldings as part of their operations, 3D laser marking is particularly useful because of the concave and convex capabilities listed above. Clean, clear markings or engravings can be made on such molds quickly and efficiently.
  • Ability to facilitate stairstep marking – 3D marking excels at marking parts that feature a stairstep portion. Normally, when using 2D laser marking, an operator would need to alter the Z-axis to change the laser’s height. But during 3D laser marking the height compensation is changed very quickly, allowing for stairstep marking without any axis motion.
  • 3D computer modeling – By utilizing 3D laser marking software like our Minilase™ Pro SE software, operators are able to import any 3D model into their system, along with graphics and logos, allowing for a wide variety of potential applications. Once you have determined exactly how you want your part marked the system will follow the 3D model and render a clean, crisp mark on your finished piece in a 100% correct geometric reproduction.

Additionally, our Zetalase XL laser marking system can dynamically adjust the focus of the laser beam up and down up to 100 mm max, mark tall and large parts through numerous configurations, allow for programmable focal height adjustment, and more.

Customers can also acquire the optional full-size rotary device which can facilitate 360º radial marking around a round part or cylinder.

On top of these applications and benefits, it’s worth remembering all of the diverse materials that TYKMA Electrox’s MOPA fiber lasers are able to mark, etch, and engrave upon. Materials include:

FAQs About 3D Laser Marking and 3D Laser Engraving Systems

Want to learn more about 3D laser etching? Luckily for you, our team of experts is here to provide you with the definitive answers to our most asked questions.

What types of objects can go through the 3D laser engraving process?

One of the main benefits of working with a 3D laser engraving machine is the various items that can be marked in the process, including items that have uneven surfaces. If you’re wondering what you can 3D mark, here are just some applications that we’ve worked with:

How deep can 3D laser markings be?

Depending on the material you’re using, as well as the power and speed settings of your 3D laser engraving machine, the typical MOPA fiber laser can create markings approximately between 1 mm and 3 mm in depth. These depths can be larger or smaller than those specified depending on the hardness of the material.

What safety precautions should I implement when working with a 3D laser engraving system?

For the safest application possible, our team recommends following these precautions:

  • Wearing protective eyewear throughout the laser engraving process
  • Avoiding direct contact and exposure with the 3D laser engraving machine
  • Having and using a closing system during 3D laser engraving applications
  • Maintaining proper fume extraction and ventilation protocols

Additionally, TYKMA Electrox offers 3D laser engraving accessories to promote safety and efficiency within your workspace. Whether you are looking for a handheld pendant to control your 3D laser marking workstation from a distance, or protective eyewear designed to handle Class 4 laser systems, our team wants to provide you with the tools you need to complete any task at hand.

Should I perform regular maintenance for my 3D laser etching machine?

Absolutely. Small routine maintenance should be performed after each use of your 3D laser engraving system. Those steps include:

  • Clean the laser lens and focus optics with a lens-cleaning solution
  • Remove any excess debris from the laser marking process with a vacuum
  • Empty out the exhaust plenum and trays of vaporized debris
  • Check the belt tensions of the X-Y carriage, and adjust if necessary
  • Lubricate linear motion rails if your workstation is not self-lubricating
  • Mark the usage hours to prepare for more preventative maintenance

Larger routine maintenance may also be needed, but not as frequently. This can include replacing the air filters and cleaning the cooling systems to prevent future debris buildup. Testing the motors, replacing the laser tube, and updating your 3D laser engraving software may also be necessary to achieve the best results possible for your application.

Considering a 3D Laser Marking System? Reach Out to Us!

If you’re thinking about adding a 3D laser marking system to your operations and reaping the benefits of all it can provide, be sure to contact our team. We’ll discuss options with you, as well as your future applications, to help you determine the best system for your business.

Fill out the form below and one of our team members will get in contact with you as soon as possible.

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