Can You Engrave Using Laser Cutters?

Cutting is only a part of making things, while engraving gives it the ultimate design. In other words, cutting brings out the shape while engraving adds details to it. Laser cutters can cut materials perfectly. But can you engrave using laser cutters?

This article provides you with the answer to it. It further explains how a laser engraver works, what can be engraved, the advantages of laser engraving, common mistakes to avoid while engraving with a laser cutter, and much more.

How Does A Laser Engraver Work?

How Does A Laser Engraver Work?

A laser cutter is a versatile machine as it can perform different operations alone. It works according to the settings configured. Laser cutting, laser engraving, marking, and laser etching can be done by a laser cutter while different operating conditions are applied.

Laser engraving is the process of carving a design onto a hard material with a super-focused beam of light. An engraver uses a high-powered laser to vaporize the surface of the material, leaving a visible mark with a depth between 0.02″ and 0.125″. The surface instantly absorbs enough energy to change from solid to a gas without ever being liquid.

Tips To Engrave with A Laser Cutter

While using a laser cutter is general for all, some tactics can bring out the best output in the most productive way. Here they are.

First of all, cover the surface with masking tape because smoke caused by the engraving can stain the edges of the surface. Just take it off after the engraving is done.

Printing multiples reduce production time. A study says that users experience up to a 37% increase in time savings while engraving multiple items in one batch. If a project requires engraving more than one item of the same design, we should print multiple pieces at the same time.

Color mapping can reduce engraving time. It enables the machine to skip the vacant white spaces and directly work on the design parts. Customization is a very popular feature. We can pre-engrave items and use them as templates and just customize them when new orders come.

How Long Does It Take to Engrave Using A Laser Cutter?

How Long Does It Take to Engrave Using A Laser Cutter?

We know that laser engraving is an automated process. It works based on computer programming. So, it takes a little time to be engraved.

Laser engraving usually takes about 3 to 5 minutes. However, it can range from five seconds to several hours. It depends on different factors like the material, the power of the laser, the size of the design, etc.

What Can A Laser Cutter Engrave?

A laser cutter can engrave anything. For example, wood, metal, glass, plastic, glass, leather, or fiber. In general, anything with a hard surface can be engraved. But we need to change the power of the light and the number of pulses of light per inch (PPI) as per materials.

Softer materials require less power and PPI, such as wood or plastic. This is because extreme power can burn through the material, while extremely much or less PPI can give it an ugly burn. Tougher materials like steel require more power and PPI to have a mark.

We need to keep a good balance between the power and PPI as per the type of material so that the burn comes out and also doesn't damage the integrity of the object.

Why Laser Engraving Is the Best?

We can engrave materials in many ways. Based on the way, there are many types of engraving such as hand engraving, laser engraving, CNC engraving, rotary engraving, etc. Among them, laser engraving is the best one. Here’s why.

  • Hand engraving is a labor-intensive, long, and expensive process while laser engraving isn’t.
  • Laser engraving is versatile. It has a wide range of applications as the laser beam is a universal tool.
  • In the laser engraving process, the material doesn’t have to be fixed with a vacuum unlike in mechanical engraving. The processing is contactless here and it saves both time and money.
  • Laser engraving provides maximum precision and the finest details.
  • No Tool Wear Is Required. Since there is a non-contact material method in the laser engraving process, no tool costs for cutters and drills are required.
  • Laser engraving is a better method economically too. The production of both small and large series is cost-effective, thus economically feasible.

5 Common Mistakes In Laser Engraving

We may make some common mistakes. These mistakes can cause you to not get the proper output. Thus, make sure to avoid them. Here they are.

  • Engraving fabrics is a mistake as the laser can burn through the fabrics. It is important to configure the settings at high speed (near to 100%) and low power (around 5% to 10%) in terms of engraving fabrics. We should keep DPI (dots per inch) low. Most fabric engravings work at 150 to 300 DPI.
  • Two types of acrylics are there. They are cast acrylic and extruded acrylic. Cast acrylic gives a frosted white engraving. So, using the latter won’t work.
  • Laser often fractures but doesn’t engrave the glass perfectly. A lower resolution of about 300 DPI, will produce a better result.
  • Wood is one of the most laser-friendly materials. Maple and alder are the most popular woods for engraving because of their rich contrast. Smoke and debris from bare wood engraving can get stuck in the grain of the wood. To wipe the smoke away, always start at the bottom and work your way up. If the wood is colored, remaining smoke and dirt can be cleaned off the surface with a damp cloth after engraving.
  • Dust can reduce the productivity of laser cutters. So, we should clean it if it doesn’t work as fast as before.

Conclusion

So, can you engrave using laser cutters? Yes, you can. However, to get the best output it is necessary to avoid the common mistakes and to follow productivity tips as this article suggests. A laser cutter can not only cut materials but also engrave designs. Now, it’s time to utilize it.

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