Today, laser engraving has become a much more common technology in office and even home environments. In an era reserved exclusively for industrial manufacturers, today more and more small companies, product designers, creators and even amateurs use laser engraving.
In some cases, a laser engraving machine may be the most advantageous manufacturing technology for your specific needs.
Laser machines are a very versatile tool that allow you to make a large number of products focused on decoration, crafts, ornaments, packaging … Also to work with different types of materials such as wood, felt, cardboard, leather, fabric, foam, rubber, anodized aluminum, slate, etc.
The advantage of these machines is that they usually do not require a software installation or professional level management of the program that manages it. You create everything you want to record and cut with your usual design programs and then upload them to your own web application.
Here is a detailed guide that contains a compilation of everything you need to know about laser engraving machines before investing in this great technology.
What is it?
A laser engraving machine is an electronic engraving instrument with which a wide variety of materials can be processed. From wood to metal, depending on the laser strength, jewelry items, for example, can be engraved with relatively little effort. These devices are available in compact dimensions and can be operated via USB connection via the home PC, which ensures uncomplicated use, even for the layperson.
How does it work?
The desired shape of the engraving to be projected onto the material is created on the computer using any graphics program, which is also possible via the mobile app. The graphic is then sent to the laser printer. This is usually done by the printer driver. During the engraving process, the surface of the material to be processed is strongly heated. As a result of the heating and evaporation process created by the laser, the engraving is immortalized on the material surface.
Advantages and disadvantages
You should carefully consider in advance what you want to use this device for. Since laser engraving machines are already very cheap and extremely easy to use, they work like standard printers, there is a lot to be overlooked.
It is important to look at the size and material of the pieces to be lasered. Both the size field and the motifs are ultimately limited. If someone is particularly creative and likes to try out many different motifs, sizes and materials, they are better served with a simple engraving pen.
In the professional and corporate sector, where series are usually produced, one is certainly better equipped with a professional engraving laser device. The modern engraving technology of the lasers guarantees constant quality and the CO2 lasers and fiber lasers are maintenance-free.
Things to consider before buying
The first thing you need to consider is your needs. Think about what materials you will primarily work with. Not all machines can work with all materials equally successfully. Then there is the difference in the work area. Will you work with smaller or larger objects. It makes a big difference whether you are an enthusiast who buys for DIY or you plan to make it your business. Professional machines are of course more expensive, and there is no point in spending a lot of money if it is intended only for home use. On the other hand, if you are planning a business, then invest more money, it will pay off in a long run.
Of course, the budget will also influence your decision. The most expensive are machines that can cut different materials. The positive side of the more expensive ones is that they consume less electricity, so in a long run they can pay off more than if you save in the beginning. Prices vary a lot, so you can find models for fifty dollars, and also for 20 thousand. Many factors affect, primarily the power of the laser and the materials that can be worked on.
- Replacement Parts
As with anything you buy, spare parts are very important. Pay attention to the price and availability of spare parts. You may find it attractive to buy a cheaper product, but if spare parts are not available near you, it will not pay off to wait months for them to arrive. Also, some companies, such as heatsign.com, offer customer support 24/7 and if you intend this to be your business, it is best to buy from someone who will always be at your service when you need spare part or advice.
Find out if you can do the maintenance yourself or you need to call a professional. In case you want this to be your business and the maintenance is complicated, you may have to hire a worker to maintain it, because you cannot rely on someone who is not always available to you or you will face constant problems.
- How much space do I have?
Machine sizes vary greatly. From small, which you can put on the table, to very large, which resemble factory machines. So before you decide to buy, think about how much space you have. And think again what your needs are, because there is no point in buying a huge machine that you don’t need. Then a small, desktop size is a better choice.
What types of are available?
Most work with Co2 lasers. They work best with non-metallic materials. They are a good choice if you want to work with textiles, paper, wood, glass, etc. They are very efficient and high quality, spare parts are not expensive, which is why they are the most common you can find.
There are also fiber models, which are incomparably stronger, some up to a hundred times. They are also not too difficult to maintain. Crystal types work similarly to them. They can engrave even ceramics, but maintenance is quite expensive. Certain parts need to be changed quite often, so they are not an ideal option for DIY use.
It is essential to know that not all materials can be engraved or cut with this type of technology. The PVC for example can produce vapors or hazardous substances to be in contact with the laser and may even damage the equipment.
Furthermore, working with some materials of certain colors such as transparent, white and blue (similar to the color of the laser) is not recommended.