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Machine Tools & Metal Working Blog

The Machine Tools & Metal Working Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about metal cutting, tools & fixturing, metal forming, grinding, industrial machine control and anything else related to the metalworking industry. Here, you'll find everything from application ideas, to news and industry trends, to hot topics and cutting edge innovations.

Decorating Glass: Sandblasting or Laser Etching?

Posted September 10, 2017 12:00 AM by Epilog Laser

When it comes to decorating glass, there is more than one method to choose from. A popular alternative to laser engraving is sandblasting. Both methods have their pros and cons; many shops that offer glass decorating use a combination of methods to achieve the best results.

Sandblasting uses a pressurized abrasive stream to etch into the glass surface, creating a deep and permanent mark. The mark is smooth and even, and allows for considerable intricacy of design. Sandblasting is labor-intensive: each glass item is prepped with a hand-applied film (also called a resist) and protective taping, blasted individually in a special cabinet, then rinsed clean of residue. Because of the equipment and labor involved, sandblasting tends to be a high-quality—but costly—method for decorating glass.

Laser engraving, by contrast, uses the laser like a writing instrument to vaporize the glass surface as it makes contact. This creates a micro-fracture that permanently marks the glass; not unlike sandblasting, the mark will have a frosted white appearance. A major advantage of using the laser for glass decorating is a reduction in both time and labor. It also does not require any additional special materials, such as sandblast resist film. The optional rotary attachment, available on most Epilog Laser systems, enables engraving to be performed all the way around the glass surface.

Image caption: Example mug designs. Stainless steel (left) created by sandblasting; black mugs (right) created by laser engraving. (Source: Laser Custom Creations)

Choosing the Best Method for the Project

Laser Custom Creations is a small shop that does about a 50/50 split between laser and sandblasting methods. According to co-owner Terry Larkin, a key consideration is budget. Larkin mentions that the owners of a craft brewery approached him for a price quote to put their logo on glassware. Larkin suggested sandblasting for its smooth finish. His quote came in much higher than a quote the brewery owners had received for laser engraving. Larkin created a prototype, with the logo sand-etched onto one side and laser-engraved onto the other. After seeing the difference, the owners decided to go the more expensive route. At the same time, Larkin’s shop produces a steady volume of awards that are done strictly with laser engraving. It’s a quicker process for the business and a less expensive option for the client. As awards are not a product that is regularly touched, the smoothness of sandblasting is less crucial.

Image caption: Photographic decoration applied to wine bottle via laser engraving. (Source: One Stop Awards)

Learn more about Epilog Laser and how the company is providing valuable services to a wide variety of industries.

Editor's note: This is a sponsored blog post from Epilog Laser.

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Laser Engraving Applications in the Industrial Space

Posted August 14, 2017 9:00 AM by Epilog Laser
Pathfinder Tags: epilog laser laser engraving

The ability to customize specific items, protect intellectual property and include safety measures is leading to the growth of laser engraving for industrial applications. Beyond use for businesses looking to add a logo or specific branding to items, laser engraving offers a way to leave permanent marks on an item in the industrial segment, providing checks and balances against counterfeit products or replicas.

One of the biggest areas of growth in the industrial market for laser engraving is the identification security segment where laser engraving is ideal for credit cards, ID cards, sensitive documents and other items that require increased safety measures.

Image caption: Laser engraving is an invaluable tool for the industrial segment looking to protect parts from fraud. (Source: Epilog Laser)

Not surprisingly, laser engraving has become an important tool in part identification, inventory control and tracking, safety and warning notification as well as loss prevention. As a result, many new industrial segments – including robotics, 3D printing, inventory management, banking, security, government agencies and the automotive sector – are beginning to flock to laser engraving in order to provide an added layer of security.

Image caption: Serial numbers, bar codes, part numbers, data matrix code markings and more can be etched onto materials. (Source: Epilog Laser)

So, how can you identify the best machine for your industrial laser engraving application?

Two types of laser systems often used for the industrial sector are flying-optics fiber laser systems or Galvo systems that are designed primarily for bare-metal marking. Galvo systems are typically faster at the laser marking process, but tend to be smaller than the flatbed flying optics fiber lasers.

Image caption: A G2 Galvo laser engraving machine. (Source: Epilog Laser)

Epilog Laser’s new G2 is the first Galvo laser system that can laser-mark over a larger work area without compromising quality or requiring product indexing. Meanwhile, fiber laser systems provide laser engraving for etching and marking on all types of bare metals and plastics where the laser directly prints from any graphic software program to etch barcodes, serial numbers, images and much more.

No matter what type of machine you choose, though, laser engraving can help to provide that extra layer of security needed to prevent fraud or duplication of intellectual property in industrial applications.

Learn more about Epilog Laser and how the company is providing valuable services to a wide variety of industries.

Editor's note: This is a sponsored blog post from Epilog Laser.

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Why the Laser Engraving Industry is Here to Stay

Posted July 16, 2017 12:00 AM by Epilog Laser
Pathfinder Tags: epilog laser laser engraving

Laser engraving has transformed from a niche technology used by a handful of businesses and craftspeople to a widely used method for designing many aspects of one’s surroundings. Over the past decade, laser engraving has taken hold in many industries around the globe, finding its way into applications too numerous to count. While it’s certainly logical to assume that laser engraving is here to stay, a closer look at a few of the top applications for the technology helps to underscore that point.

1) Deterring forgery and theft. This is one of the most valuable applications of laser engraving, with implications for businesses, government organizations and personal users. The ability to add a name, serial number, company logo or other identifying mark is a powerful tool in the fight against counterfeiting and theft.

Image caption: All types of barcodes, serial numbers and logos can be engraved with the laser. (Source: Epilog Laser)

2) Increasing personalization. Laser engraving allows people to inexpensively create personalized electronics cases, one-of-a-kind wedding favors from champagne flutes to chocolate bars, and 3D-relief carvings, amongst other unique creations.

Image caption: Powder-coated water bottles customized with an Epilog laser. (Source: Epilog Laser)

3) The Maker Movement. In an era where all manner of how-to information is at our fingertips, the ranks of independent inventors, designers and tinkerers are swelling like never before. Epilog, with its strong commitment to hobbyists, has long been a supporter of the Maker Movement.

Image caption: Epilog Laser’s booth at a recent Maker Faire event. (Source: Epilog Laser)

Learn more about Epilog Laser and how the company is contributing to the growth in the laser engraving industry.

Editor's note: This is a sponsored blog post from Epilog Laser.

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Maker Faire Brings Laser Engraving Action to the DIYers

Posted June 25, 2017 12:00 AM by Epilog Laser
Pathfinder Tags: epilog laser laser engraving

Every year hundreds of Maker Faires take place around the world—San Francisco, New York, China, Germany, France, and countless other locations. Families, enthusiasts, hobbyists and DIYers gather in the spirit of creativity to celebrate the Maker Movement. The fairs, which range from mini-events conducted by communities and schools to all-out flagship festivities set up by the Maker Media team itself, are progressive showcases that display new technologies, innovations, and experimentations across the fields of science, engineering, art, performance, and craft. (If you haven’t been to a Maker Faire yet, you need to get there!)

Figure 1: Things you can make with a laser engraver.

If you do find yourself at an upcoming Maker Faire, you may run into Epilog Laser – a well-established company in the laser system space – creating samples for giveaways, and educating attendees about how affordable a high-speed, high-resolution laser-engraving system can be. Epilog has a strong commitment to hobbyists and has been supporting the Maker Movement nearly since its inception. In fact, watch a video demonstration provided by Epilog at the 2017 Bay Area Maker Faire!

Figure 2: An Epilog laser system. The company manufactures its systems at its headquarters in Golden, Colorado, and over 95% of component parts are made in the U.S.A.

An Epilog laser isn’t simply a tool; it’s a vehicle for transferring your ideas onto almost any material. Most people who purchase a hobbyist laser do so because they want professional-looking engraving results. Often, they are looking to bring their ideas from concept to salable item—whether through prototyping, embellishment engraving, or even starting their own custom engraving business.

Figure 3: Photo captured at Epilog Laser’s Booth @ Maker Faire.

When you stop by the Epilog booth at an upcoming Maker Faire, you’ll witness for yourself how easy it is to cut and engrave all kinds of materials. The company will have a variety of samples on hand so you can see exactly how powerful laser systems engrave and/or cut wood, acrylic, fabric, tech gadgets, and even glass.

Learn more about Epilog Laser and it countless projects for the DIYer.

Editor's note: This is a sponsored blog post from Epilog Laser.

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Extended Robot Arm for Greater Welding Reach

Posted March 24, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

A new robot arm with a 3.3 m reach promises greater joint access on large parts and weldments in automated welding applications. The offering from Wisconsin-based Miller Electric Mfg. Co. can be paired with Miller Auto-Continuum™ and TAWERS robotic MIG welding solutions.

Editor's Note: This news brief was brought to you by the Machine, Tools, & Metal Working eNewsletter. Subscribe today to have content like this delivered to your inbox.

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