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CO2 Laser vs. Fiber Laser vs. Ultraviolet— Which is Part Marking Method is Best for You?

Choosing the best marking system for your parts depends on the application and your messaging (marking) requirements. Also, choosing between marking methods can be a tough call as there are trade-offs with each. However, when making any decision, your unique business needs come first. Here, we compare three popular marking methods and the pros and cons of each: CO2 Laser vs. Fiber Laser vs. Ultraviolet (UV).

CO2 Laser

CO2 laser marking uses CO2 gas in a sealed tube as a laser medium. This type of laser is excellent for organic materials like rubber, wood, paper, glass and ceramic. Operating at a 10,600 nm wavelength, they are best for non-metallic materials and most plastics. CO2 lasers can be used for stationary bench-top use or mark-on-the-fly installations. They also have a wide array or applications, including industrial and high-duty cycle, as well as job shops and hobbyists.

Pros

  • Can mark organic materials and glass
  • Fast engraving speeds
  • Cost less than fiber lasers

Cons

  • Shorter lifetime on laser medium than fiber systems
  • Difficulties marking metals without assist solutions

Fiber Laser

Fiber lasers operate at a 1,064nm wavelength making them the ideal choice for parts traceability purposes. They are best used on metal surfaces but have an array of material applications. The quality of a fiber laser beam is virtually incomparable and can be altered for depth. Fiber lasers are popular for their ease-of-use, flexibility and low maintenance—most machines have a minimum of 100,000 operating hours before any maintenance is required.

Pros

  • Longevity on laser source
  • Fast engraving speeds on metals

Cons

  • More expensive than CO2 lasers
  • Difficulty marking some organic materials

Ultraviolet Lasers

UV Lasers operate at a 355nm wavelength, making them a shorter wavelength. They are a “low power” form of marking, meaning that they do not alter the part’s surface. UV lasers are best for specialty plastics, silicone, Teflon and some glass-marking. They are also ideal for precious metals, like gold and silver.

Pros

  • Good on delicate surfaces
  • Can etch non-metal materials and glass
  • Use less power than fiber lasers

Cons

  • While stronger than C02, UV is weaker than fiber on metal surfaces.

As you can see there is plenty to consider when choosing the right laser system for your business needs. At Laser Marking Technologies, we’ve developed hundreds of laser systems solutions for part manufacturers and businesses. If you’d like to learn more about the best laser system to mark your parts, please give us call. We’re happy to help in any way we can.