How should you choose a Handheld Laser Engraver?

Choosing a handheld laser engraver might sound simple and straightforward as there are so many versions available in the market. Besides its power, capacity, and material compatibility, there are a few issues that you should look at before buying a handheld laser engraver.

In this article, we will try to analyze your needs and offer an expert guide to choose the right handheld laser engraver for you.

What’s your need?

Before choosing a handheld laser engraver, you first need to assess your needs. For instance, you need to analyze whether you need a laser marker or a laser engraver. Other than that, you might end up buying the wrong product even at a higher price.

A laser marker is typically a fiber laser or an infrared laser which can print marks on the hard surface such as stainless steel, aluminum, plastic, gold, and platinum. So, if you need to print a logo or any pattern on the metal tag and plastic, a laser marker will do the job.

The main difference between laser marking and laser engraving is the depth of the pattern. Usually, a laser marker prints the pattern on the material surface with no penetration or very little penetration. In comparison, a laser engraver penetrates/burns the material slightly to place the patterns through etching.

Questions might come such as – how the laser marker places the design without burning or penetrating.

The method of laser marking on stainless steel and titanium is called ‘Annealing‘ where the heat generated from the laser beam results in oxygen diffusion underneath the material which further creates oxidization and color change. The perfect example of annealing is the small printed logo we see on the fork or the tablespoon.

Here’s an example of laser engraving through annealing

watch engraving done by the xTool F1 handheld laser

There is another way of laser marking in the metal and metal allow items which is called ‘Laser Carbon Migration‘. In this process, the laser beam sends carbon in a forced manner to the material surface which results in darker laser marking.

In a nutshell, If you do not want the material to get burned or penetrated heavily, you need a true laser marker which can either be a fiber laser or a handheld laser marker such as Atomstack M4. On the other side, if you need a portable laser machine to perform etching and laser engraving through slight, medium or heavier penetration then the true laser engraver will be the option for you. In this case, you can go with either the xTool F1 (the fastest portable laser of 2023) or the LaserPecker LP4 which comes with higher versatility.

If you are not sure of your need, we suggest you buy a handheld laser engraver such as xTool F1 or something similar that can perform both laser marking and laser engraving in different types of material. Choosing such a multi-function laser engraver will have one disadvantage You cannot perform laser marking like the professional fiber laser which is why we referred to the Atomstack M4 for the professional laser markings.

Be aware of power

Looking at the laser power is the next thing you should do. There are plenty of handheld laser engravers available in the market it becomes difficult to choose one, especially for beginners. Handheld laser engravers such as xTool F1 and the Laserpecker LP4 come with dual lens technology where one laser head appears with 2W infrared laser for laser markings whereas the other blue diode laser performs laser engravings.

Choosing a handheld laser engraver

However, Professional handheld laser markers such as Enoywood or Atomstack have the power of 20W IR laser which can reach up to 2000W with pulse peak optical power technology.

In laser marking, the pulse peak optical power refers to the maximum power of an individual laser pulse. It’s a crucial parameter because the intensity of the laser pulse determines how effectively it interacts with the material being marked. For better understanding, you may look at the differences between the Q-switched laser and MOPA fiber laser. Laser marking involves creating marks, patterns, or engravings on a surface using a high-energy laser beam. The ability to achieve a high pulse peak optical power has significant implications for the marking process.

What is High Pulse Peak Optical Power?

A 20W IR (Infrared) laser reaching up to 2000W pulse peak optical power might seem counterintuitive, but this phenomenon is a result of pulsed laser operation. While the average power output of the laser might be 20W, the laser can generate very short bursts of incredibly high power during each pulse. This is achieved through a technique called pulse shaping or pulse modulation. This is why a professional marker generates perfect laser marking on the stainless steel through annealing whereas the normal laser engravers cannot.

For example, imagine a 20W IR laser that emits pulses that are only 1 microsecond (μs) in duration. The energy of each pulse can be calculated by multiplying the power (20W) by the pulse duration (1 μs), resulting in 20 microjoules (μJ) of energy per pulse. Now, if these pulses are generated at a rate of 100 kHz (100,000 pulses per second), the average power remains 20W, but during each microsecond pulse, the power momentarily spikes to 2000W (20 μJ / 1 μs).

This high pulse peak optical power is crucial for laser marking, especially when dealing with materials that are hard to mark or engrave. When the laser pulse interacts with the material’s surface, the high intensity enables efficient ablation, vaporization, or modification of the material, resulting in a clear and well-defined mark.

Here is an example of gold ring engraving that requires pulse peak optical power:

Gold Ring engraving done by Laserpecker LP4 hadnheld laser

What makes Attomstack M4 (20W) different than xTool F1 (2W)?

We have seen that xTool F1 and the Attomstack M4 both are nominated handheld laser engravers having simple differences in laser power. The xTool F1 is a combination of both diode laser and IR laser which does engraving and laser markings having the Atomstack M4 as the sole laser marker with its 20W IR laser.

Differences Between 20W and 2W IR Lasers for Laser Marking:

  • Material Versatility: The higher pulse peak optical power of the 20W laser allows it to mark a wider range of materials. For example, it can engrave metals like stainless steel and titanium more effectively compared to the 2W laser. This means that the Atomstack M4 will be more efficient in diverse metal engraving whereas the xTool F1 will have limited metal engraving compatibility.
  • Marking Speed: The 20W laser can achieve higher marking speeds because its higher pulse peak power allows it to remove material more quickly. This is especially advantageous for industries requiring mass production. However, for the handheld laser engravers, the marking speed and the ultimate efficiency depend on how quickly the user shifts the laser marker to the next object.
  • Depth of Engraving: The 20W laser can create deeper engravings due to its higher energy per pulse. This is valuable for applications where deeper marks are necessary, such as for creating serial numbers or logos on industrial components.
  • Fine Detail: The 2W laser, despite its lower power, can excel in creating fine details and intricate designs. Its lower energy pulses are better suited for precision work on delicate materials like electronics. For example, the Atomstack M4 engraves at a 4K resolution and the other laser engravers offer lower than that.

In essence, the 20W laser’s higher pulse peak optical power enables it to handle tougher materials, work faster, and create deeper marks compared to the 2W laser. However, the 2W laser shines when intricate precision is required.

Attomstack M4 handheld laser engraver

Overall, pulse peak optical power is a key factor in laser marking, allowing lasers to achieve short bursts of high power for efficient material interaction. The ability of a 20W laser to reach 2000W pulse peak optical power demonstrates the versatility and impact of pulse modulation in laser technology, enabling effective marking across various materials and applications.

So, when should you choose Atomsatck M4 over the xTool & LaserPecker?

Purchasing a handheld laser engraver with high Pulse Peak Optical Power (such as Atomstack M4) can be beneficial for specific needs and applications that require efficient and precise material processing. Here are some scenarios where investing in such a device would be advantageous:

  • Deep Engraving: When deep engraving is required, such as creating serial numbers, part identification, or text on metal surfaces, a laser engraver with high pulse peak optical power can achieve the necessary depth efficiently. In such cases, handheld laser engravers such as Atomstack M4 & Enjoywood beat the efficiency of multi-purpose laser engravers such as LaserPecker LP4.
  • Quick Marking: In industries where time is a crucial factor, such as automotive, aerospace, or electronics, handheld laser engravers with high pulse peak power can mark products rapidly. This is especially important for production lines that require efficient throughput. If you are looking for a handheld laser engraver for industrial purpose, pulse peak optical power can ease the job other wise the multi-purpose laser engraver and marker such as xTool F1 serves the purpose of DIY laser enthusiasts.
  • Hard-to-Mark Materials: Some materials are difficult to mark using conventional methods. Handheld laser engravers with high pulse peak power such as Enjoywood can easily handle these challenging materials, including hard metals, ceramics, and certain types of plastics.
  • Outdoor and On-Site Applications: Handheld laser engravers are portable and versatile, making them suitable for on-site applications. For instance, in construction or architectural work, where marking needs to be done outdoors or in remote locations, a handheld engraver can provide the required flexibility.
  • Customization and Artistic Engraving: These lasers can also be used for creative purposes, such as personalizing gifts, creating artistic designs on various materials, and adding intricate details to crafts and jewelry.
  • Jewelry and Watchmaking: The precision and high peak optical power of these engravers make them valuable tools in the jewelry and watchmaking industries, where detailed engravings on small surfaces are required.
  • Medical Device Marking: Medical devices often require precise marking for traceability and regulatory compliance. Handheld laser engravers can mark medical instruments and devices with high accuracy and durability.
  • Firearm and Defense Industry: In the firearm and defense industries, where serial numbers, logos, and other markings need to be applied on metal surfaces, handheld laser engravers can provide efficient and permanent solutions.
  • Agriculture and Livestock Tagging: Handheld laser engravers can be used to mark tags on agricultural products, equipment, and livestock. The high power can ensure clear and durable markings.

Also, explore: Why handheld laser engravers are not suitable for engraving rubber!

It’s important to note that handheld laser engravers with high pulse peak optical power can be powerful tools but also require proper training and safety precautions due to their intensity. When considering purchasing such a device, it’s essential to understand your specific application requirements, safety protocols, and any regulatory guidelines that might apply to your industry.

Upgradability is a concern

As said earlier, for industrial purposes and faster laser marking, a handheld laser marker with high pulse peak optical power is a perfect choice as it can engrave tough materials in a minimum time. However, if you are a hobbyist or a DIY laser crafter, you should think about the upgradability of the handheld laser engraver.

Laser Marking using an xTool F1

Below are the examples of how a portable laser engraver can be upgraded:

  • Laser head replacement: Some portable laser engravers such as LaserPecker LX1 offer you the option to upgrade the laser head in need. For instance, you can switch to the IR laser during laser marking or attach a powerful diode laser to cut and engrave different materials. In comparison, other portable laser markers such as Enjoywood & Atomstack do not offer you such flexibility due to the fact that their user does not need anything like that.
  • Laser bed extension: Till 2022, there was not a single handheld laser engraver that can be extended with slide extension. Thanks to the LaserPEcker and xTool f1 to introduce that. With a slide extension, you can perform batch processing as well as engraver bigger material. The slide extension would require a higher price and without it larger engravings are impossible due to the fact that the laser head of a portable laser machine cannot move like a benchtop laser in the X & Y directions.
  • Rotary attachment: Laser engravers with rotary are useful if you are going to engrave round / cylindrical shaped items. Nowadays, handheld lasers also offer you the flexibility to do so especially the LaserPecker is a pro in this sector. In comparison, the 20W IR portable IR lasers such as Atomstack and Enjoywood lack this feature as they are not designed to engrave tumblers and Yeti cups.

Let’s wrap

In selecting the appropriate handheld laser engraver, it is crucial to align your choice with the unique demands of your intended applications. Whether you are engaged in industrial manufacturing, artistic endeavors, or precision marking, understanding the specific materials, depths, intricacies, and volumes of work you require will guide you toward the optimal laser engraver. Equally important is prioritizing safety and compliance, as high pulse peak optical power demands responsible handling and adherence to regulations. By weighing your needs against the capabilities of the engraver, and ensuring proper training and precautions, you can confidently embark on your engraving journey, empowered by the precision, efficiency, and versatility of the right handheld laser engraver.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.