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What laser do I need for laser etching? Answered

The questions says it all; I am planning to build a custom 2-axis computer controller etching machine out of a modified ink-jet printer. The motorisation and computation part it not a problem yet, however I have no clue where to start from about looking for a laser. I am looking foward engraving/etching wood, metal, plastic and some other soft materials. I do not plan to CUT these however. I do not know what kind of laser I am exactly looking for, nor it's power or anything else I should be aware of, including where to order it from. Even, will a DVD burner diode do the job? If you have any past experience with laser etching, or laser technology, please contribute as I would be very grateful. Thank you.


Well that is extremely difficult all for one laser! You would have to have multiple lasers with different strengths for metal, wood, and plastics. You would need a high power laser for metal, a lower power for wood, and even lower powered for some plastics, such as PET. For metal I would recommend maybe 4 or 5 laser maybe if they exist. For wood I would recommend a 1w IR laser diode. For Plastic I am not really sure! I have never had etched plastic with a laser before. Like I said Before It would have to be extremely low. Sorry if this response is not that helpfull. But after all the timing and money that would go into this you may end up wishing you just bought a Dremel mini mite and done it by hand. If you do pursuit it, I wish you luck.

I came to this post looking for power for cutting wood but I was searching for OK priced strong lasers before. I can tell you that a 10W IR laser can be bought for less than 150 USD (just diode - you have to design cooling and driver yourself; can be found on ebay)

Sorry for late (6 years late...) response but hope someone will benefit form this anyway


9 years ago

You should check out EBAY. item number 270436537918.  We are selling these straight out of the US smokeless tobacco facility in Nashville. These lasers sound like exactly what you need.


9 years ago

DVD and Blu-ray should work for anything up to aluminum foil or 1/16" wood. Anything more would be a problem. If you really have to carve into metal, dremel or cnc would be a preference because of how powerful the laser would have to be and possible melting of something or other in there. Also, foams tend to just melt and get gross under too little power.
When done, I would be very interested in an Instructable.
Also, to changing input power to your laser would not pose a major problem, so you wouldn't need multiple laser mounts.