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. The engraver we use is a CO2 laser and it's 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. 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. If you actually want something engraved INTO the metal, you have to use a mechanical engraving system. If you want to laser mark metals other than what we can mark, you have to use a different type of laser, such as a fiber laser.
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, you would have to use a mechanical engraver, but that would leave the engraving clear and not very visible unless you fill it with paint or other filler. 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, 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 1/8" thick efficiently.
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.
- Jerry Moriearty