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How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

Posted October 15, 2017 12:00 AM by Epilog Laser
Pathfinder Tags: epilog laser laser engraving

Whether you are an experienced engineer or a novice maker, learning the proper uses of design equipment to avoid pitfalls and mistakes takes time and experience. From time to time, issues come up that leave designers wondering what they did wrong or how they could do something better. This is true in any field and laser engraving is no different.

Knowing how to avoid these mistakes so they don’t come up again is half the battle. With that in mind, Epilog Laser offers five of the most common mistakes when it comes to laser engraving and suggestions for how to avoid them in future projects.

  • Mistake 1: Engraving Fabric but the Laser Burns through the Material. The first step in avoiding burning fabric with a laser engraving/cutting machine is to understand what fabric can withstand the process and at what temperatures. Heartier fabrics such as denim, canvas and leather can withstand higher power settings during engraving. But when it comes to delicate fabrics, it is important to start on a high speed setting and a low power setting—maybe 5 percent to 10 percent. Then if the fabric can withstand it, increase the power from there until you get the results you are looking for.

Image caption: Hearty fabrics can withstand high power but lighter fabrics may work better with a lower power engraving. (Source: Epilog Laser)

  • Mistake 2: Acrylic Doesn’t Produce a Frosty White Engraving. More than likely, this is caused by using the wrong acrylic in the application. Two types of acrylics are typically used in laser engraving and both are suitable for different applications. Cast acrylic sheets and objects are made from a liquid acrylic that is poured into molds that then can be set into various shapes and sizes. This type of acrylic is ideal for engraving because it turns a frosty white color when engraved, making it suitable for awards and plaques. It can be cut with a laser, but it won’t give projects flame-polished edges.

Image caption: To get a frosty white finish, use cast acrylic materials. (Source: Epilog Laser)

  • Mistake 3: Inconsistent Glass Engraving. Oftentimes, when a laser strikes glass it will fracture the surface but not engrave deeply or remove the material needed to engrave fully. The fractured glass surface will produce a frosted appearance, but can be rough and chipped depending on the type of glass that is being engraved. While the frosted look is desired, no one wants a rough surface or chipping.

Image caption: Using a lower DPI or 80 percent black may help glass engraving avoid cracking or a rough finish. (Source: Epilog Laser)

  • Mistake 4: Wood Engraving Produces Different Results on the Same Setting. Wood is one of the most laser-friendly materials available not only because it can be cut very easily, but also because it engraves very well. However, different woods have different reactions when they are laser-engraved and produce different characteristics.
  • Mistake 5: Laser Engraver Doesn’t Perform as Fast Anymore. Clean your machine! Much like other types of design equipment, a clean machine produces better results than one that is not properly maintained.

These mistakes are common among makers and designers that use laser engraving machines, especially those just beginning to use the equipment. But as you can see they are easily avoidable if you have the knowledge to correct the mistake.

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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#1

Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 10:50 AM

Let's not forget alignment of the mirrors.

Let's also be specific that a clean machine means a clean optics.

Little bits of smoke and debris can fall down into and onto the lense assembly and slowly drive you bonkers.

Knowing how to quickly clean the lense without putting calibration out of whack is in the first order of business for the novice.

Knowing programming issues is right up there as well.

Fantastic machines of great reliability once you get familiar with them.

Different material issues are easy to deal with.

..did you know that the 1/4" Birch plywood from Home Depot is superior to a similar 1/4" Birch plywood from Menards?

It cost more, but cuts beautifully.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 10:57 AM

All great points - especially the clean optics part. Maintenance/cleaning probably warrants a post all its own. Thanks for chiming in!

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#4
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Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 4:07 PM

No problem. I enjoy the blog. I'm not using a mighty Epilog mind you, but I'm quite happy to be in the arena.

I'm assembling some laser cut and engraved parts at the moment so the subject of maintenance happens to be fresh on the mind.

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#3

Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 2:29 PM

I cut my teeth in the early 90's on AB lasers. We were engraving the black coating off of white buttons for radio bezels. These lasers were water cooled YAG lasers and if you didn't keep the 24k gold plated YAG chamber or mirrors perfectly clean, you were not engraving anything. The d.I. water have to filtered to keep it clean as these things generated so much heat that the YAG rod and excitation chamber were filled with circulating water. The water was then cooled by an external chiller. All that just to burn acrylic paint off. Wouldn't do much of anything to metal.

Looks like lasers have come along way since then.

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#5
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Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 4:15 PM

Chiller? A big ole' bucket of distilled water is all you would need now. It's can be hundred or more hours of continuous use between lens cleanings on the new CO2 lasers. (depending on use/user)

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#6
In reply to #5

Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 7:15 PM

Like I said, they have come along way since then. Pretty sure AB Lasers is no longer in business. Although a German company, they were based in Worcester MA. I went several times to learn programming / maintenance.

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Re: How to Avoid Common Laser Engraving Mistakes

10/16/2017 7:39 PM

Pretty wild that it took so much effort and tech to etch a radio button. Must have made a lot of buttons!

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