Laser Engraving vs Sand Etching

Date: May 5, 2016 Author: Tammy Kim Categories: Blog

Ok, so you’ve decided that you want to present someone with a token of appreciation, maybe it’s employee recognition, an award of some kind or a retirement gift. You’ve even gone so far as to source online options for this award / gift. But now you are presented with the options for engraving that item. You can either laser engrave or sand etch (also referred to as sandblasting) your recognition copy and or logos onto your chosen piece. But which do you choose? Well let’s look at the difference in the applications.

Laser engraving is a process in which a computer generates a beam of light (laser) that actually drills into the surface of the product and removes the top layer thus leaving you with your engraved recognition copy and or logos. This process is best suited for glass, crystal, leather, marble, metals, plastic, stone and wood. It does have its advantages in that the process is quick therefore projects can be completed faster and tends to leave behind a clean, crisp and permanent mark that is easy to see. This engraving method is ideal for photos, logos, and detailed graphics. However, this process is best used for smaller items, for example you would not laser engrave a large panel as it would not fit in your machine.

Sand etching, also referred to as sandblasting, is done by hand. A stencil (mask) is produced from artwork and applied to glass, crystal, marble, slate, and wood. This item is then placed in a sandblasting booth where tiny grains of sand and high-pressure compressed air is forced through an airbrush and directed at the applied stencil. The sand blasts away at the open areas of the stencil on the surface of the glass/crystal or other material and erodes / roughens the surface leaving behind your engraved design with a frosted appearance. The advantage to this method is that the engraving has depth, as this is done by hand you can engrave deeper but need to be careful as you can actually cut through a piece of glass! Colours can be applied to your sand etched items to accentuate your design.

There are pros and cons to both methods. One method may be more suitable for certain applications. For example, when engraving a complex logo laser engraving is usually the best way to go. But laser machines have limitations in terms of sizing, it can only accommodate pieces that fit in/on the machine. Also, the engraving is very superficial and does not allow for colour-filling. If you need something larger engraved sand etching may be the right application as the booth can be made bigger to accommodate those oversized pieces. Also, sand etching is deep enough to allow colour to be added. Then there is the perceived value! Sand etching has a much higher perceived value. Despite all that, in the end it is nice to have options that accommodate different applications and budgets!