Sign & Digital Graphics

May '19

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60 • May 2019 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL An upgrade in wattage can add more power to the laser sys- tem, so that it can engrave and cut a wider range of materials at faster speeds, Stevens says. "Lower wattage laser engraving machines can often struggle to process thick and combustible materials, whereas a higher- powered system can efficiently complete the job without slow- ing the job down," Stevens says. "Working with dense materials, such as wood, rubber and glass, can be more limiting based on the systems low wattage over its motion system." The power for most lasers is measured by wattage with many entry-level systems starting at the 30-watt mark, says James Stanaway, director of marketing for Epilog Laser in Golden, Colorado. "On Epilog systems, 30 watts is enough to cut through up to one-fourth inch of hardwoods and acrylics," Stanaway says. "If you will be cutting through a lot of one-fourth-inch thick wood, then you'll probably want a higher wattage, 40 or 50 watts, so you can run the system at a reasonable speed and move through more product." A 150-watt laser able to cut one-fourth inch of material upgraded to 250 watts or higher will be able to cut one inch of material, Kern says, adding that the type of materials also could be expanded. More powerful, higher-wattage lasers also are able to per- form faster or deeper engraving, especially with acrylic, wood and other hard materials, Rabideau says. Additional power, how- ever, would be inefficient for thin engraving or microsurfacing engraving, which does not require a lot of power, making a power upgrade meaningless, he says. "The right configuration of lasers, optics and accessories will give the best quality results with the material," Rabideau says. "Then, adding power will, in many cases, result in higher productivity without sacrificing quality." Universal Laser Systems provides laser systems that are designed to be expanded as a business grows or commercial requirements change, Rabideau says. "A number of laser system companies promote upgrad- able systems, but they don't provide details on what that really means until you ask," Rabideau says. "For some, especially laser upgrades, it means sending out a technician or sending the system back to the factory incurring a down time and a lot of expense. For us, in most cases, it means providing a module that the customer can install in seconds or just a few minutes." Universal Laser Systems focuses more on system configu- rations than upgrades, and customers can opt to reconfigure their laser systems to improve processing results, quality and productivity, he says. But higher power for greater speed and capability also comes at a higher price, he says. "What does more power buy you? What can you do with a higher power system? How much more productive can you be?" Rabideau says. "Sometimes adding power isn't going to do anything for you." Options to Attachments Laser systems can be upgraded in ways that do not require power upgrades, such as the addition of optics. A vision or cam- era system will improve cutting accuracy through the use of magnets, which are better able to align images to the material being cut. The system can recognize any distortions within the design cutting path and automatically adjust the cutting lines to match that design. "If, for example, you had preprinted material and wanted to cut it out and align it to a piece of plastic, the camera sys- tem automatically aligns it for you, so you can cut out artwork precisely onto the sheet," Kern says. "You have a nice finished product when you're done." Another upgrade is to vary the camera's focal lengths, so that shorter lenses have a smaller spot size for height resolu- tion engraving, Stevens says. The longer lenses have a larger spot size that produces better tolerances, allowing for a greater variety of materials and applications to be processed, he says. A rotary attachment can add a third or Z axis to the X and Y axis points for 360-degree engraving, normally limited to two-dimensional, flat materials. This allows engraving around Trotec Laser Inc. in Plymouth, Michigan, provides an aluminum cutting grid table for laser systems. The directional signage is cut from plastic and acrylic, using laser engraving products from Epilog Laser in Golden, Colorado. Photo courtesy of GCC. Photo courtesy of Kern Laser Systems.

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