June '21

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5 8 G R A P H I C S P R O J U N E 2 0 2 1 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M alongside laser technology, Stevens ex- plains. Today's lasers require less main- tenance, are capable of faster speeds, and can be operated with minimal experience. From the usability to the ability to get up and running quickly, along with the speed of systems, laser operators' expecta- tions of a system have also changed, ac- cording to James Stanaway, Epilog Laser. "The laser gets to top speeds faster than ever before, and that equates to higher productivity," he explains. Along with faster speeds, the most note- worthy changes include higher wattage, advanced software and features, and the products that shops have pivoted their business with. Higher wattage: Higher wattage sys- tems can engrave and cut materials at fast- er speeds, especially thicker materials like acrylics, steel, and aluminum, explains Katlyn Dykhoff, Kern Laser. These la- sers can now be used for many applica- tions that used to require multiple tools for a single process. Software and features: Newer, more user-friendly web-based operational soft- ware offers more control and ease of use, and improved material settings, Stevens points out. Additionally, features like cameras and vision systems have further expanded the ability and diversity of mar- kets for laser technology. With many la- ser machines today, camera recognition capabilities provide operators a real-time image of the laser bed. Power utilization on some machines has also dropped, which means that users can plug the machine into a standard electrical outlet, according to Kevin Rosen, Roland DGA. In addition, integrating multiple machines has become simpler, allowing a smooth workflow that incorporates both laser cutting and UV print personaliza- tion, for example. Products and materials: Some of the most common materials that can be pro- cessed with a laser include wood, glass, textiles, and acrylic. In the past year spe- cifically, there has been an uptick in the use of acrylics and plastics to accommo- date for signs, lighted graphics, lettering, and PPE, Dykhoff says. Laser shops have expanded their busi- ness in other ways as well. "We didn't anticipate it, but the real estate market boomed during the pandemic," Stanaway adds. "We saw a lot of customers target- ing real estate agents to customize their promotional products (water bottles, tum- blers, mugs, etc.), as well as personalize closing gifts for buyers — wine glasses, cutting boards, and home decor." Left: The unique products fabricated with a laser continue to grow. (Image courtesy Epilog Laser) Center: Higher wattage sys- tems can engrave and cut materials at faster speeds, especially thicker materials like stainless steel. (Image courtesy Kern La- ser) Right: In the past year specifically, there has been an uptick in the use of acrylics and plastics to accommodate for signs, lighted graphics, lettering, and PPE. (Image courtesy Kern Laser) Over the years, more sizes, wattages, and accessories have emerged, as well as materials that have been developed specifically for lasers that have evolved alongside the technology. (Image courtesy Roland DGA) The possibilities are almost endless when it comes to personalization with laser equip- ment. (Image courtesy Roland DGA)

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