Different types of laser sources for engraving machines

There are a variety of laser machines on the market today, most machines have the same standard, but there are some differences. They are different in the mechanics of how they operate. One key thing that varies is the laser source that they use.

Due to the different types of laser sources available it can be challenging picking the best laser for you. However, an understanding of the sources and the materials they can be applied to our critical in making a good choice. There are a variety of laser sources available and the most popular ones used include:

  • Co2
  • YAG
  • Fiber

Each laser source has its own advantages and disadvantages and each is suited to be used on different materials.


Co2 lasers are also known as gas lasers because it uses carbon dioxide. They are mainly suited to working on non-metallic materials and are ideally used on plastics. These are the most common type of lasers available on the market as they have a high beam quality and are effective engravers. They are most suitable for wood acrylic glass paper textiles leather and stone. One drawback is that it cannot engrave metals but can it can mark some metals. 

Fiber Lasers

Recently fiber lasers were introduced into the market. They are believed to be reliable as they are generally maintenance free and have a long operational life. This source is suited to both uncoated and coated metals and plastics. They are air-cooled and thus do not have overheating problems like some other sources.

YAG lasers

YAG also known as crystal lasers is a solid state laser that was first introduced over 25 years ago. It has a shorter operational life than fiber lasers and its bulbs require replacement regularly along with other large amounts of maintenance. Expensive to purchase and maintain it is believed to be an outdated source. As the produce large amounts of heat and thus need cooling.

These can mark many types of metals and some plastics but is not a good choice for organic materials such as wood rubber and acrylic.

The benefit of YAG laser source is that it as most metals are reflective it can engrave onto metal with deep engraving and clear crisp marks. Depending on how it is set up it can be faster than the Co2 source.

Selecting what type of laser source to use largely depends on the material that you will engrave. YAG source is ideal for engraving and cutting metals and is faster than Co2. However, Co2 works well on organic materials. One big difference between the laser sources is the size of a wavelength each type emits.

As metals are reflective therefore Co2 cannot penetrate the metal surface. The less reflective the metal is the easier the Co2 can penetrate its surface.  YAG sources have a smaller wavelength and therefore cannot penetrate organic materials.

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