There are two main types of laser marking systems, each with its own way of directing the laser beam to make marks:
Dual-galvanometer (shortened to galvo) lasers use two precision mirror galvanometers to direct the beam at any angle within the marking window of the laser. This allows the beam to mark continuous, vector-style characters very quickly. The result is smooth, high quality marks without the pixelated look of raster-style characters.
Galvo lasers are fast enough to be used on a production line as materials move past the marking head. When used in a stand-alone marking workstation, single parts or even trays of fixtured parts can be marked very quickly for high-volume production needs.
Dual-galvanometer lasers are best for:
- High speed marking & engraving
- Marking parts of different heights
- Marking parts directly on the production line and communicating with PLCs or host systems (lasers with embedded controls can also operate without a PC)
These lasers use a lens with a fixed mirror to direct the beam straight down. The lens moves on X/Y axes like a plotter printer. As the lens moves back and forth on the X axis, it creates text by marking one line at a time (as shown in the video below), which results in raster-style characters. The outlines of some text and graphics can also be marked as vector-style by moving the lens on the X and Y axes at the same time.
Flatbed lasers are suitable for marking flat products one at a time or in batches. Parts are arranged inside the laser enclosure and the marking job is created in the software. Once the door is closed, the lasing process can begin.
Flatbed lasers are best for:
- Marking batches of products at a dedicated station
- Marking flat products
- Working with thin materials that need to be marked and/or cut
Raster: When laser marks are made one line at a time, the edges of characters and images have a pixelated look which is the hallmark of raster images.
Vector: When characters and images are created in continuous lines, they have the clean edges of vector images.