A Beginner's Guide to Laser Engraving

Laser engraving is a highly versatile process in the signage or product labelling industries. It usually involves using computer-controlled machines and lasers to create a variety of signs on almost all kinds of materials. What's more, it comes with many advantages. It's a non-contact, high-speed, low-cost and environmentally safe process that results in highly durable and clear markings or labels. However, precision is the key to all these. And if you are new to laser engraving, you are likely to make a few costly mistakes. Therefore, here are some tips worth knowing that will help you avoid such occurrences.

Set Your Laser Cutter Correctly

Power and speed are among the most crucial settings for your laser cutter. Typically, power can be set from high to low, with high power being ideal for thick materials. On the other hand, speed often entails how fast your laser head moves, and higher speeds are often best for engraving thin materials.

Understand the Medium or Material You Are Working On

Laser engraving can work on a wide range of media or materials. Some of the most common materials include most metals, wood, glass, plastic and acrylic. However, no one laser engraving technique fits all materials because of their varying densities, hardnesses, thicknesses, etc. Wood, for instance, is among the best materials or media for laser engraving. For wood, lighter-coloured options such as cherry are often ideal for laser engraving. Wood tends to discolour easily after laser engraving, which is why lighter-coloured woods are usually more laser-friendly because they help bring out a clear contrast. However, you can still achieve the contrast with darker-coloured woods like walnut by colour filling.

To colour fill your wood the right way, start by applying a paste wax to the surface and start engraving without wiping the wax. Don't wipe any excess wax after the engraving is done because the wax prevents any of the colour filling from absorbing into the wood surface. Fill your engravings with the colour filling before wiping the wax with a wet sponge. Any mild cleaning agent may also come in handy here. Denser woods such as hardwoods will often require more power. Also, the depth of your engraving will dictate the amount of power you need. The deeper you need to go, the more power you need.

If you are working on acrylic, remember to use low power levels to avoid distorting the material. Similarly, for metals, especially anodised aluminium, it's also best to use high speeds but with low power to create a crisp image and prevent the anodise from overburning and distorting the image. On the other hand, for glass, medium speed is usually the best, especially when working on bottles and curved glasses to prevent frosting on the soft spots.