Laser Engraving: The Basics Part Two - The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade.
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Laser Engraving: The Basics Part Two

If you've put off diversifying your shop by venturing into laser engraving because of equipment costs, this should relieve some of your worries.

By Diane Bosworth

The applications for laser engraving equipment are vast and versatile, making it an attractive technology for many shops. If you donít own one already, you may have thought about getting one at some point or another. Maybe youíve been scared off by the thought of high prices, high technology or high learning curves. You donít have to be. Todayís laser engraving equipment has become increasingly easy to learn, operate, maintain and is more affordable than ever.

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  • Getting Started
    If youíre serious about getting into laser engraving, then start at the beginning. Learn as much as you can. If youíre online, take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge available about the process of laser engraving and educate yourself. The more you know, the better able you will be to make decisions that result in profitability for your company.

    Talk to the manufacturers and distributors of new equipment, job shops, and potential customers. Use industry directories and online searches to locate suppliers. Read their literature and donít be afraid to ask questions.

    If you are buying a laser engraving system for a specific product, ask to see a demonstration of your part being laser engraved (or cut) or get a spec sample done. Make sure you understand the entire process: how it is done, the required steps, and the time it will take. This will help you to best determine if a purchase is economically feasible for you right now.

    If your needs are more general, make sure the equipment will work for what you estimate will be your most common jobs. You can always upgrade capabilities as your expertise on the equipment improves.

    You will also want to keep in mind that some of the equipment manufacturers will offer options for their systems such as rotary attachments (for engraving on cylindrical items), special lenses (for intricate artwork), air assist, and vector cutting tables. Knowing what you need immediately and what you might be able to add later on will also be useful. Additionally, some systems allow for the laser to be split into two beams for dual run capabilities. Others will allow for laser power upgrades.

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    As important as anything, knowing up front what type of support you can expect from the manufacturer. What about training and ongoing technical support? Make sure these questions and all others are answered to your satisfaction.

    Ready for Action
    Prior to any purchase of laser engraving equipment, you will want to make sure that your building is ready to accommodate one safely and efficiently. Planning ahead will save you time and difficulties in the long run.

    For starters, you need electrical power capabilities of 110v and 15 amp per system (for a typical 25-watt engraver). A surge protector is also recommended.

    You also need an exhaust system to remove the vaporized material from your shop. Talk to the manufacturers about what they recommend. Your needs will be dependent on how you are going to use the system, OSHA requirements, local regulations, as well as what materials you are going to laser.

    Todayís machines are small and compact, some actually fitting on atop a table. You will want space for the system, as well as room to operate it safely and efficiently. These machines do work best in an area that has an ambient operating temperature of 60 to 80 degrees, an area that is relatively dust free, and free from high humidity, vibrations and loud noises. You will also want adequate space for the computer, scanner, and for storage.

    Computers generally are not included and need to be supplied by the customer. Manufacturers usually recommend a minimum of 120 MHZ Pentium processor with at least 32 MB of RAM (or better) 16 MB of RAM (or more), a 2 GB hard drive (or bigger), one 3.5" floppy disk drive, CD-ROM Drive, 17" VGA monitor, mouse, and windows (check with manufacturer for version). An optical resolution scanner with a minimum of 600 dpi is also recommended for the use of existing artwork. Keep in mind, as is true with other computer applications, more memory and power will result in faster processing speeds. You will also want a scanner with a minimum of 300 dpi (600 is preferred) for scanning in existing artwork.

    When your system arrives, open the crate and remove the machine, per the manufacturerís recommendations. You will want to first find the manual so you can proceed with the proper instructions. The manuals that we are familiar with are written to be easy to understand and follow. Make sure that you also have phone numbers available for tech support and the salesperson, so that, if and when you do need assistance, help is readily available.

    Once you do decide to take the plunge into laser engraving, you will find that in no time at all, you will be profitably and efficiently laser processing a wide variety of products that fit the bill for your customers.

    Diane Bosworth, long recognized as an expert in the field of laser engraving, currently, with her husband, Rob, owns and operates Access Business Solutions, Inc., the headquarters for quality used laser engraving and marking equipment. (CO2 and YAG).

    You may contact Diane at Access at 715-386-8021 or online at

    Access Business Solutions, Inc

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