Introduction: Laser Engrave Metal

Being able to engrave metal was one of the main reasons, why I got a laser cutter.

In this instructable I am going to show you some of my experiences.

Please share your results and experiences in the comments, I would love to learn more about engraving metals.

A word of warning: The process of engraving metal after applying an agent to the surface is patented. So please inform yourself, before doing so commercially.

Step 1: Engraving Stainless Steel

In the picture you can see the different things I tried to engrave stainless steel.

  1. Just the metal
  2. CRC Dry Moly Lube
  3. Weicon MoS2
  4. MoS2 Powder
  5. MoS2 Paste
  6. markSolid 114

In order to use the powder I mixed it with isopropyl alcohol until I had a thick paste an applied it with a disposable brush.

Step 2: Engraving Stainless Steel

As you can see I used different speed and strength setting to see what works best. The first number is the speed and the second the energy percentage. I have a cheap 60 W Chinese CO2 laser and as you can see some of the setting worked really well.

Out of all the metals I tried to engrave, stainless steel definitely worked best. As you can see in the picture out of all the things I tried, CRC Dry Moly Lube and markSolid 114 gave the nicest results.

materialvisibilityscratch resistantalcohol resistant
1. Just the metal(✔)(✔)(✔)
2. CRC Dry Moly Lube ✔✔✔✔✔✔
3. Weicon MoS✔✔✔✔
4. MoS2 Powder✔✔✔✔
5. MoS2 Paste✔✔✔✔
6. markSolid 114✔✔✔✔✔✔

"-": didn't work

"(✔)": kind of worked

"✔": worked well

"✔✔": worked really well

Step 3: Engraving Copper

Most of the engraving agents I tired didn't work. Only markSolid 114 gave some nice results. I was even able to polish the results. Sadly the engraving wasn't really scratch resistant.

materialvisibilityscratch resistantalcohol resistant
1. Just the metal---
2. CRC Dry Moly Lube (✔)--
3. Weicon MoS---
4. MoS2 Powder---
5. MoS2 Paste---
6. markSolid 114✔✔(✔)(✔)

Step 4: Engraving Aluminium

Once again most of the engraving agents didn't work. Only after using markSolid 114 the engraving was still visible. Sadly the result was not at all scratch resistant and was easily removed with alcohol. Overall you can definitely say that the cheap alternatives aren't working for copper and aluminium. Btw. covering the engraving with sealer helped a lot with the result.

materialvisibilityscratch resistantalcohol resistant
1. Just the metal---
2. CRC Dry Moly Lube ---
3. Weicon MoS---
4. MoS2 Powder---
5. MoS2 Paste---
6. markSolid 114--

Step 5: Engraving a Hip Flask

Lately I have been engraving a lot of hip flasks. Due to them being out of stainless steel, it works really well.

Start by cleaning it with isopropyl alcohol and mark your focus point. Afterwards place it into the laser, as well as something that helps you to later find the position. Focusing is a bit tricky, due to the bend surface. I focused between the start point and highest point and it worked really well.

As you can see in the picture I used CRC Dry Moly Lube. Cover the surface with it and let it dry for about 5 minutes. Afterwards you can place it back into the laser and start engraving. To remove the residue you can use isopropyl alcohol.

Comments

author
k8e (author)2017-08-19

- Please explain the 'patented' comment - regarding the commercial work - I know MANY people are doing this - so, What is the warning for specifically? Like this - thanks for the tutorial.

author
MarioB137 (author)2017-08-16

Very nice work and quite a scientific aproach! I tried the Weicon MOS spray too, but the result were as underwhelming as in your case. Might pick up the CRC lube. Thank you!

Another thing I want to try is covering the steel with paint or spray plastic and burning it off with the engraver, then etching with vinegar and an adjustable power supply. After that just removing the plastic/laquer with paint thinner. Should give a nice deep etch where the laser removed the masking. :)

author
EwgeniyK (author)2017-08-15

Guys, try heat-conductive paste applied to the CPU heatsink computers. In Russia this КТП-8. On any metal well. Apply a thin layer.

PPFcsJSSoBA.jpg21J_mqG6Fw4.jpg9HAPNixfY7U.jpgu77R1Bow6GQ.jpgjh5f-BNQfiY.jpgkpt_8.JPG
author
brichtl (author)EwgeniyK2017-08-16

Thanks a lot for the tip! I am definitely going to try that.

author
levasc (author)EwgeniyK2017-08-15

Спасибо за инфу!

author
EwgeniyK (author)levasc2017-08-16

Пожалуйста. Не моя идея, один добрый человек, года 3-4 назад, поделился на форуме mir-cnc.ru

author
fred_dot_u (author)2017-08-15

It's amazing to consider that there's one other marking compound that should be used for stainless steel. It's grey poupon mustard!

https://youtu.be/B60nXwhK9gk

author
brichtl (author)fred_dot_u2017-08-16

Very interesting, thanks for posting that out

author
jpfalt (author)2017-08-15

What power levels and travel speeds did you use for the engraving?

author
brichtl (author)jpfalt2017-08-16

The first number is the speed and the second the energy percentage.

author
diverdale (author)2017-08-14

I've been wanting to get/build a laser engraver for sometime now. Just never pulled the trigger mainly due to the lack of the ability to engrave metals. Never looked into why...just figured it was a power thing I suppose (or laziness) Thanks for sharing this. What types of lasers will engrave metals with no added agents? Or do they not exist?

Nice 'ible,

Dale

author
liquidsands (author)diverdale2017-08-15

A fiber laser will engrave metals but is considerably more expensive than a CO2 laser. I have a 100W laser and I too use the CRC Moly Lube spray. The IMark spray is much better but is 6-7 times the cost of the CRC MolyLube. You can't hardly screw up the IMark product. Just do a test sheet and you will likely do just fine. One caution though! Shake up the spray can for at least 2 minutes before using if it has sat for more than a day first or you may have erratic results. There is so much sedimentary material that if it is not mixed well, it sprays out unevenly.

author
plasteek (author)diverdale2017-08-15

You would need a fiber or a yag

author
ElectroFrank (author)2017-08-15

I would guess that aluminium and copper will be difficult because they have high heat conductivity, the heat being dissipated (as in a heat sink) before it burns away (vapourises ?) the metal. So metals with lower heat conductivity (and lower melting/boiling points) will probably work best.

author
gm280 (author)2017-08-14

We own a large bed Universal LASER engraver. But it won't do any metals at all. And that is because the type LASER used. Ours is a CO2 LASER system and therefore doesn't have the proper LASER frequency to do metals. They make dual LASER systems that have a CO2 LASER and another type used for metal engraving. I tried things and the CO2 system merely does nothing to even copper.

author
brichtl (author)gm2802017-08-14

I have a CO2 laser as well. Without any engraving agent it only left some visible markings on the stainless steel, as you can see in the pictures

author
DrewM13 (author)brichtl2017-08-15

What is the wattage of your C02? Do you think the K40 Laser would etch metal using this method?

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