Sign & Digital Graphics

May '19

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • May 2019 • 61 the surface of cylindrical objects, such as coffee mugs, glasses, bottles and flashlights. The various upgrades and attachments are dependent on the applications and may be inefficient if the laser is too large for the intended use or material, Kern says. Lasers operate most effi- ciently from 10-100 percent, but below 10 percent will decline in that efficiency, he says. "If the primary application is a real thin plastic, you don't need a big laser to do that. If it's too powerful, it could burn the material," Kern says. A paper application also doesn't require more power if the fastest speed already is employed, Kern says. "You're limited by the speed rather than the power of the laser. An upgrade wouldn't give you more speed," Kern says. Environment Upgrades If systems are upgraded, two good investments in the work environment include a larger chiller to allow for more water flow to cool the laser engraver and a power upgrade with more amps and a larger circuit, Kern says. For instance, an upgrade from 150 watts and a 2- by 3-foot chiller to 400 watts would require a 4- by 4-foot chiller, he says. The needed power would subsequently increase from 150 watts at 70 amps to 400 watts at 100 amps, he says. "Make sure your building has enough electrical capacity," Kern says. "Talk to an electrician for additional changes and bringing in any power." A 100-watt machine can be expanded to 150 or 200 watts without making any changes other than upgrading the laser, Kern says. An upgrade of 200 watts or more will require the upgrade of both the chillers and a higher electrical power to operate the machine with commiserate electrical wiring upgrades, he says. Universal Laser Systems offers a laser engraving system of 150 watts, consisting of two 75-watt CO 2 (gas) lasers, so that the power is combined to produce 150 watts. One of the lasers can be turned off to reduce the power output, allowing for more precise, low-power control and stability instead of using a single high-power laser. "More laser power can mean faster material processing with more material removed in the same amount of time, so having adequate exhaust or filtration and adequate room ventilation is another consideration," Rabideau says. Larger systems able to accommodate larger production runs also can produce more smoke and debris, Stanaway says. "It's important to consider if your current exhaust ventilation setup, whether you are set up to vent outside or use a portable filtration unit, can handle the increased smoke and debris that may come with an increased workload," Stanaway says. The use of a cutting table is another addition to help keep the system and materials cleaner and minimize the burning and melting of materials by reducing the reflection of the beam from the table. "If you want to enter the world of metal cutting, be prepared to spend a lot more money and consider much more power," Rabideau says. The decision on the various upgrades is specific to the laser owner's needs, but too much power may not give the desired outcomes. "Having too much laser power is a very real possibility and can result in reduced control for the laser operator. Attempting to process sensitive materials in an overpowered laser engraver can also make locating the proper power settings extremely difficult and, in some cases, some materials might not be com- patible at all," Stevens says. Another consideration is the fact that the laser source is the most expensive component of the system, Stanaway says. "Upgrades should only be done when you are making a large increase in power. Upgrading by 10 watts would not be normally suggested," Stanaway says. "Another thing to think about is if you have enough business that you want to be able to run more product through your machine, maybe the addition of a second laser makes more sense than just a power upgrade. Then you can be running multiple jobs at the same time to increase your throughput." SDG A larger laser would allow you to process thicker material or cut at a faster feed rate. Universal Laser Systems in Scottsdale, Arizona, demon- strates the results of laser cutting. Photo courtesy of Kern Laser Systems. Photo courtesy of Kern Laser Systems.

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