LASER is Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A process when applied to anodized aluminum and other materials produces a permanent mark that won't rub or scratch off. Laser engraving is a superior marking process to conventional screen printing and pad printing which wears off over time. Laser engraved products will keep your name, logo or message visible at all times...a clear advantage for a promotional product. Dog tag lanyards, aluminum face badge reels and whistle lanyards can all be imprinted using laser engraving.
So how does a laser work it's magic? There are two types of laser engraving systems being used in the promotional products industry to produce permanent marks on aluminum, steel, plastic, wood and other materials: CO2 systems and Nd:YAG systems.
To engrave, both systems focus a beam of high intensity light through a lens. This high-powered focused beam of light has enough energy to vaporize the material surface thus producing a visible mark on the material. A CO2 system manages the forming of the image much like a conventional dot matrix printer scanning left to right as it moves down "through the image" while pulsing it's vaporizing beam onto the material. The Nd:YAG laser system achieves the surface image by steering the beam of light through a lens by means of mirrors controlled by a computer.
When it comes to producing marks on anodized aluminum both systems are not equal. The much slower CO2 system produces marks of varying quality depending on the product color (anodized coating) being marked. Quality is defined in terms of brightness of the mark. The brighter the better. A high quality laser engraved mark appears bright white no matter what the color of the material. With CO2 systems, some marks take on the color tint of the material being marked resulting in a less desirable looking image. Trouble colors include Red, Blue and Black. Rarely, if ever will a CO2 laser mark these colors bright white. Take home message: When placing an order for laser engraved aluminum products always inquire about the equipment being used. If it's a CO2 laser you can expect that your image on some colors will not look very attractive (for example it will look pink on red, light blue on blue and grey on black colored products).
A more consistent and higher quality image on anodized aluminum is achieved with Nd:YAG laser systems. Not only are they much faster than CO2 lasers (resulting in lower run-time costs and savings for you), but they produce the desired bright white mark that screams quality resulting in a finished product that will sure to make a great first and lasting impression on the recipient.