November '22

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8 8 G R A P H I C S P R O • N O V E M B E R 2 0 2 2 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M LASER ENGRAVING REPORT S hops that are new to laser engraving should determine what types of prod- ucts they want to engrave before purchas- ing a laser. If they want to engrave on a variety of substrates, a CO 2 laser is a good option. While it can engrave on plastics, wood, glass, and leather, it can't engrave on bare metal, though it can leave black marks on coated metals. If your main mission is to engrave directly onto base metals, a fiber laser is your best choice. Fiber lasers can engrave on silicon, gemstones, plastics, polymers, ceramics, thin films, and stone. Many companies want to get into engraving personalized items like insu- lated mugs, glasses, or leather items. Before attempting to personalize any of these products, Adam Voigt, Kern Laser Systems, recommends doing a test run with different wattages and speeds to find the right settings. Mike Dean, Epilog Laser, agrees, say- ing that learning the power and speed set- tings is something easy to do that becomes intuitive after a while. e settings recom- mended by each laser manufacturer are a good starting point. From there, the shop can play around by changing the power and speed until they get the desired result. Another point new users should con- sider is graphics. Laser engraving is "very straightforward and pretty simple. e learning curve is in creating designs," says Mandi Smallwood, AP Lazer. "e graphic design side is where people get hung up." To help, most manufacturers offer train- ing for their users. For example, every per- son that buys a laser machine from AP Lazer gets eight hours of training—two hours on the laser and learning about laser maintenance and six hours on Corel DR AW, iD Works, and Photograv, the software programs that come with its laser engraving machines. Epilog Laser offers its customers a train- ing suite that walks them through a cou- ple of exercises to teach them how to operate the laser. "Learning the laser is 5% of the process. Anybody that knows Corel DR AW or Illustrator can be up and running in a matter of a few minutes," notes Dean. "Over 90% of our customers already have graphic experience because they are doing sublimation or something along those lines." David Stevens, Trotec Laser, agrees that learning the graphics software is the hard- est part. "If the user is already well-versed with a graphics program, the next step is the preparation of the designs specifically for laser processing," he says. HOW DIFFERENT SUBSTRATES AFFECT LASER ENGRAVING It is important to learn how a laser reacts to various materials, which can take time and some trial and error. "Some manu- facturers offer additional online educa- tional resources as well as in-person work- shops that will support your ongoing laser knowledge. With these means, the user can learn quickly and easily from step-by- step tutorials, get their questions answered promptly, and become comfortable with the laser," Stevens states. Some offer customers cheat sheets with the speed and power necessary to engrave on different substrates. "For instance, wood is typically medium speed and high power because the wood absorbs What products you make determine what machine you should get By Paula Aven Gladych THE RIGHT LASER FOR YOUR BUSINESS A laser engraver is capable of producing high-quality photographs on a variety of substrates, including anodized aluminum. (Image courtesy Kern Laser Systems) Engraved slate makes for an excellent personalized gift. (Image courtesy Trotec Laser)

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