Laser Etching, Engraving & Annealing: What's the Difference?

All companies want the same thing:

  • to deliver high quality products
  • to prove to our customers that they can rely on us.

Today tracking is everything!

That's why most companies in the metal production value chain are tracking their products and have put in place traceability systems. You are probably already tracking your production with technology such as a pin stamp, industrial inkjet or stickers. But due to costs related to maintenance or consumables - or simply the poor reliability of your marking system or machines – perhaps you are looking at laser marking systems to replace your actual systems.

However, being a neophyte with laser marking technology means there are a bunch of new terms to understand. I think that one of the most common questions from our customers is: What is the difference between laser etching, engraving and annealing? Following are a glossary and videos that will help you to better understand each type of laser marking.

Laser etching

When etching is performed, the laser melts the surface of the material. By doing so, the heated surface expands and creates slight bumps. Laser etching creates a good contrast between the material and the marking code. It is an efficient process to create permanent markings on materials.

This type of laser marking is well suited for applications where the tracking code has to be scanned, such as a one-dimensional (1D) or a two-dimensional (2D) barcode.


Like laser etching, laser annealing is about heating the material instead of engraving it. During this process, the metal is heated from underneath its surface which provokes a modification of the material’s color. By using different temperatures we can achieve different colors.

This type of marking can be performed on ferrous metal and titanium. The difference between annealing and etching is that annealing is a chemical modification instead of melting the material’s surface.

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  Publication date: 17/04/2018