Find out about the features and functions of laser engravers, what applications the machines support, and how they can be used alongside the screen-printing process.
By Jerry Loya
The capabilities and options of the laser engraver greatly depend on the driver. At this stage, the user can select the raster style and resolution, set the home position, and adjust power and speed settings. Some drivers even allow users to adjust the pitch and sharpness of engraved edges for applications such as rubber stamps. The user then inserts the substrate into the machine, typically into the top left corner of the table, which is commonly used as the home position and is the starting point of the laser. After focusing the laser on the material (most machines offer an auto-focus function), the user pushes the start button and the laser fires away.
Most systems are capable of performing cutting and engraving functions. When choosing a laser, it's important to consider which of the two functions you will need most frequently, because some systems may perform one function better than the other. Wattage plays a big role in how well the machine will work. When it comes to photo engraving, a 30- or 40-watt laser usually will suffice. However, when it comes to cutting, particularly with thick materials, you may consider a laser ranging from 60-100 watts, or even 200 watts. You'll need more power to cut completely through material, whereas in engraving you are cutting to a depth of only a few millimeters.
The use of a higher wattage machine certainly opens more doors. Not only will you be able to cut or engrave more materials, but you will also do so much more quickly and cleanly than you would with lower wattage machines. Therefore, when purchasing a new laser engraver, consider purchasing one that has a higher wattage than what you think you might need. This will give you room to expand and take on jobs that you may not have been able to complete with a lower powered laser. Purchasing a machine with room to grow is simpler and typically less expensive than trying to upgrade your machine to a higher wattage down the line.
Opportunities for screen printers
Laser engraving systems allow users to etch very fine and detailed graphics (including 4-pt type) onto wood, rubber, or any carbon-based materials to create stencils, which can then be used in screen-printing applications. The laser engraver also can be used to cut printed images.
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