A Little Bit About Laser Engraving- When another machine is better for your needs than ours
A lot of people think that engraving is engraving, but that's not necessarily true. There are different styles of engraving and each has it's own strengths and limitations. Most of our lasers are CO2 machines and they are very versatile. A CO2 laser can engrave on wood, glass, stone, some ceramics, acrylic, plastics, and coated metals. It will not engrave on bare metals without chemical aid and vinyl will actually damage the machine. Here is a little bit about how it works with different materials.
Metals: We can not literally engrave into metal with a CO2 laser. It has nothing to do with the power, it's the frequency of the light that causes this limitation. However, we can mark anodized aluminum with permanent white markings and laser the coating off of coated metals to reveal the surface below. We can mark on brushed stainless using a ceran based chemical that bonds to metal under the right level of heat, leaving bold, black markings.
To actually engrave into metal, we have a few options available. Our mechanical engraver can scratch into metal creating a traditional engraved look. It is a fantastic option for lettering on items that require a classic look. For a more modern, more solid look, we also have a fiber laser which can engrave and mark almost any metal and most fabricated materials.
Glass: Our laser creates micro-fissures in glass. This means the heat causes super small cracks that alone, would be invisible to the naked eye. The end results creates a frosted glass look. No material is really being removed, just broken up. To remove material from glass, we recommend finding a sandblasting service. Sandblasting is the only reliable way to create deep etchings with high detail into glass. We can not cut glass with our laser.
Wood: Our machine vaporizes wood, removing it cleanly and efficiently. Other systems leave residual pieces behind, but a CO2 laser makes a perfect indentation. Whether or not the engraving has a dark, burned in appearance depends on the type of wood used. The best woods for solid, dark markings are beech, alder, mahogany, and baltic birch. This is why we only do engraved wood photos using those woods. We can cut wood or MDF with our laser up to 1/4" thick efficiently.
For thicker wood cutting or carving, we use a CNC router. Using our CnC, we can cut wood up to 2" thick, cut out perfect shapes, do prototyping, and even intricate carving. Typically, our CnC router is reserved for creating products we well in our store, though we will use it for wood engraving from time to time as is needed.
Other materials vary, depending on how the material is made, it's tolerance to the frequency of the laser, and what the goal is with the final image. I am always happy to answer any questions about different engraving methods so you can be sure to use the right process for the job. Feel free to ask me a question any time.