Until the 1970’s, the industry relied on manual engraving machines for engraving: watches, trophy plates, wooden signs, shovels, you name it. Following this era, rotary engraving machines, either manual or automatic, dominated the engraving industry, which allowed engravers to import graphics directly into the computer and leave the machine to work. This ability meant there was less need for time and manpower. But this all changed with the development of cheaper and more precise laser engraving equipment. The laser engraving machine simplified the process further with the use of a light beam to mark materials.
The technology is nothing short of revolutionary. Once again, the time and labor involved in completing jobs were significantly less, and it became possible to engrave a broad variety of materials.
How Laser Engraving Works
Laser engraving machines work a lot like the printer you have in your home or office. A laser head will move along the material to be engraved using precise bursts of heat to engrave an image. The laser engraved surface will either darken or lighten depending on the material. Unlike rotary engraving machines, laser engraving uses bitmaps instead of vectors, giving it more freedom and precision. The process can also be ‘non-contact’, meaning the laser doesn’t physically work with the material is it is marking. It only affects the area being heated without causing any damage or abrasion to the surrounding areas.
A Wide Array of Materials
Wood, acrylics, ceramic tiles, marble, granite, and a host of other materials can easily be engraved using lasers. Lasers etch letters or graphics precisely, creating minimal damage to the structural stability of the material. This is especially important with regards to wood, glass, and other materials vulnerable to cracking. Acrylic engraving is also one of the most popular uses of lasers, especially since company logos and other graphics can easily be encompassed in the engraving design.
Wood laser engraving is another popular type of laser application, enabling businesses to diversify their offerings and achieve high-profit markets. Since wood is a natural material, it can have inconsistencies that make wood engraving challenging. The results can vary across different types of wood, power settings, speeds, and other similar factors. In general, you want to go for wood species that are easy to work with and generally known to deliver excellent output. Some examples include Cherry, Maple, and Alder.
Precision and Detail
The use of bitmaps gives laser engraving machines the ability to produce very detailed graphics. Photos and other complex images can easily be produced with minimal work. This opens up a whole range of possibilities that wouldn’t be possible when using vector-reliant rotary machines. Scanning a photo from a client and engraving the image is a simple process and can be done in minutes. Engraving complex designs on wood and stone create beautiful imagery, perfect for advertising or just showpieces.
When it comes to producing precise and detailed graphics, laser engraving is vastly superior to rotary machine engraving. Laser engraving is more versatile, easier to use, and gives clients a wider range of options when it comes to what they want to be engraved.