What is the difference between rotary and laser engraving?

Laser and rotary engravers are similar in that they are both used to engrave a variety of materials with amazing results. They are also different in numerous ways including the mechanics of how they operate, the different results that can be achieved, and the applications to which each method is best suited.

Rotary engraving is the process of using a mechanical engraver that utilizes a motorized spindle and a cutting tool (bit) that rotates with the spindle, removing areas of the material being fabricated. Rotary engravers can engrave on most machinable bare metals including aluminum, brass, stainless steel, silver, gold, pewter, titanium and platinum, both coated or uncoated.

Another profitable area for rotary engraving businesses is ADA signage! When creating signs that adhere to the specific guidelines for ADA, rotary engravers offer a distinct advantage over lasers. In addition to cutting the 1/32” tactile letters, rotary engravers offer excellent control over the depth, size and shape of the Braille bead holes.

Laser engraving is the process of a beam of light being reflected through a series of mirrors that points the beam down through a lens concentrating the light into heat at an exact point. This process ablates the surface of the material exposing either a contrasting color or leaving an etched mark in the material. Their extensive versatility and ease of use has enabled many engravers to branch out into new and unique markets. Substrates receptive to laser engraving include wood, acrylics, fabrics, paper, card stock and rubber, as well as most solid surface materials and stone.

Whether you are new to the industry or considering a business expansion, you will want to consider both laser and rotary engraving depending on the products and services best suited to your customer base.