Laser Cutting Process
Laser cutting is a method of cutting out a design with precision from a material using design software to guide it.
Our CO2 flatbed machine fires a laser beam and cuts the material by melting, burning or vaporising it, depending on the material. Lasers achieve a fine level of cutting detail on a huge variety of materials.
Unfortunately, CO2 lasers cannot cut metals or hard materials, such as glass but they can be engraved or laser marked.
If you have any questions about the laser cutting process, please get in touch with your questions, and we'll do our very best to answer them.
Laser Raster Engraving Process
Laser engraving (or etching as it's also known) is a quick and accurate method of marking materials.
Just like an inkjet printer, the laser head moves from left to right but instead of leaving ink on the paper line by line, the laser engraves (or vaporises) the material away leaving the design on the material.
Raster engraving is used for large-area applications like filled letters, images, stamps or wood engraving.
Laser Vector Engraving Process
Vector engraving is a method of marking or 'scoring' a material surface.
Like the laser cutting process the laser head follows the path of vector strokes but without cutting all the way through the material.
Vector engraving is perfect for projects which require thin lines to be engraved, and results may be produced quicker than other methods.
The width of the stroke is made at the kerf of the laser i.e approx 0.2mm.
Laser Metal Marking Process
Metal marking is method that involves the basic raster laser engraving process.
We use the Annealing process which means a chemical marking compound is used on the metal and the laser heats the chemical to the surface leaving a permanent black mark.
Surface depths cannot be achieved with this method.
This process is mostly used for metal engraving but it also works well on other hard materials such as ceramic, marbles and stones.
LASER HEAD AND TOLERANCE
A beam is emitted from a ‘laser tube’ which is reflected by several mirrors into the ‘laser head’ (like a periscope.) The laser head contains a lens which focuses the beam onto the material surface for cutting or engraving.
The 'kerf' refers to how much of the material the laser takes away when cutting through, eg. the width of the groove made whilst cutting. This will vary on different materials and is also dependent on the laser beam tolerance.
PREPARING YOUR ARTWORK
Once we've received your artwork, we'll check to see if it's set up for the laser machine, also taking into account the material you would like to cut.
We will need to check the artwork has the correct colours and line thicknesses for the job.
PREPARING THE MATERIAL
Depending on what material is to be used in the laser, some need some preparation before it goes into the laser.
Metals in particular, need to be thoroughly cleaned and sprayed with the chemical compound for the laser to mark the metal.
Most other materials can be placed in the laser without the need to prepare them first.
CONFIGURING THE SETTINGS
We lay the material on our machine bed and configure the machine to cut your artwork. We will need to adjust the Power, Speed and Frequency to suit each specific material.
We have settings for specific materials, ie. the ones we use constantly. If we've not used the material before, we will need to test it to get the correct settings.
PROCESS YOUR JOB
The laser machine follows the path of your drawing strokes to cut out the components that have been drawn.
Depending on the material used, we usually leave the protective backing on during the laser cutting process to protect the material from heat and burn marks. This can easily be peeled away after the cutting is complete.