Sign & Digital Graphics

August '18

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66 • August 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL the optics clean. Use a soft cloth and either water or a citrus-based cleaner, like Go Green, to keep the debris off the lens. Epilog includes an optics cleaning kit with all of its engravers. It includes optical paper and lens solution. You just dab the lens solution onto the optics or mirrors and wipe it off with the lens paper or a cotton swab. "That's the biggest part of mainte- nance and for some reason it seems dif- ficult for people to keep their machines clean. Usually they let the smoke or residue build up and start gunking everything up. If you spend five minutes a week cleaning your machine it will last a lot longer," Dean says. If you don't clean debris from your machine, it will destroy the bearings. He says that Epilog machines come with a warning. Don't try to engrave on PVC. If you do, it voids your warranty. "The residue eats the machine from the inside out. It can be nasty," he says. On some lasers, it may be required to replace belts and bearings on a regular basis. On other lasers, this isn't a com- mon occurrence because everything is sealed off so it will last longer. The belts are what move the carriage on the arm. The carriage, which sits on the X-axis, has optics to direct the laser beam onto the surface of whatever you are engraving. It moves horizontally. The Y-axis moves back and forth. The Z-axis dictates how high the carriage moves up and down. You want to get the laser to its optimal focal point, Tugwell says. "If you draw an upside-down triangle, that tip of the V is your focal point. You want to have that match right onto your surface. That will get you the best results," he says. Any damage or debris on the optics will skew the laser beam causing poor-quality engraving or marking. Alignment of the laser beam and lev- eling of the laser engraver itself are also very important. Before you start using your laser engraver, it is important to not only level the device to the floor or struc- ture it is located on, but also the table itself that supports the material you are processing. The reason that is important is that you want the focal point of the laser beam to be precise. "If the system is not level and your beam is moving across the X-axis, back and forth, if it is not level it will go out of focus at one point of field or the other. If it is out of focus, it is going to provide poor results," says Tugwell. The alignment is also key. As the laser beam comes out of the laser it reflects off mirrors, focusing the optics through the carriage and down to the surface. If the mirrors are out of alignment, by the time the beam "gets to the final output in the carriage to the surface that dot in the mid- dle of the circle is off to the upper right or lower left. If it is off, there is a cone—a little cylinder on the bottom of our laser— it will clip the edge of that cone and you lose some of the strength and focus and power of the beam and it will give you very poor results," Tugwell says. Another thing that gets neglected by laser owners is the exhaust system. It is crucial that laser owners remove all the debris and fumes they are generating from the extraction unit at least once a year, more if the machine is experiencing heavy use. The few times laser engrav- ers have caught on fire were because of operators neglecting their machine maintenance, Stephens says. "If you don't maintain the exhaust system and keep it running well, if it gets bogged down, it won't be removing debris and fumes and could cause materi- als to ignite," he says. Before you start using your laser engraver, it is important to not only level the device to the floor or structure it is located on, but also the table itself that supports the material you are processing. (Image courtesy of Epilog) Alignment of the laser beam and leveling of the laser engraver itself are also very important. The reason that is important is that you want the focal point of the laser beam to be precise. (Image courtesy of Epilog)

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