Sign & Digital Graphics

May '19

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58 • May 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL U pgrading a laser engraving machine may seem like a way to handle a larger workload, expand offerings and bring in more business, but in some cases, too much power might not be the best option. "It is important to choose an initial system configuration that gives you the quality results you need," says James Rabideau, strategic planner for Universal Laser Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona. "Speed is secondary. If a laser system does not produce the quality you need, then making it faster adds no value." Laser System Operations Laser systems use lasers instead of blades to engrave or cut images, words and shapes from a variety of substrates from acrylic to metal for clean, accurate lines. The systems have a wide variety of applications, such as fabricating metal and plastic, engraving plaques and awards and cutting acrylic for point-of-purchase displays and commercial signs. "It's sort of like a glorified printer but instead of using ink, you're using a laser beam to engrave on or cut the material," says Derek Kern, president of Kern Laser Systems in Wadena, Minnesota. With engraving, a laser beam moves back and forth to create an image, simi- lar to the movement of an inkjet printer head, and with cutting, the beam moves in lines and curves similar to how a router controls a cutting head, Rabideau says. The laser removes material with both the engraving and cutting processes, set at the desired depth for engraving or to penetrate completely through the mate- rials in the case of cutting, he says. "We call laser engravers laser material processing systems because they do more than engrave," Rabideau says. Two popular types of laser sys- tems include the Flatbed and the Galvanometer, or Galvo. Flatbed laser systems are operated by a computer and allow the choice of graphic soft- ware to create image files, says David Stevens, industrial applications man- ager at Trotec Laser Inc. in Plymouth, Michigan. Flatbeds, operating about 10 times slower than Galvo systems, operate on an X and Y axis in a generous work area and can handle batches and large- MORE POWERFUL Upgrading laser engravers involves multiple considerations B Y S H E L L E Y W I D H A L M Shelley Widhalm is a freelance writer and editor and founder of Shell's Ink Services, a writing and editing ser- vice based in Loveland, Colorado. She has more than 15 years of experi- ence in communications and holds a master's degree in English from Colorado State University. She can be reached at or BENEFITS OF A L A S E R E N G R A V I N G Photo courtesy of Kern Laser Systems.

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