How To Use a Laser Cutting Machine

Beautiful engraving and etching is no longer done by hand. Maybe there are still a handful of artisans and craftsmen who do this the old-fashioned way with a chisel and a mallet, but when it comes to volume jobs, you can no longer rely on manual labor to get this done.

Designs and text engraved in wood, glass, paper, and even epitaphs on gravestones need the expertise of a well-designed and properly engineered laser cutting machine to do the best work.

From simple to complex designs that are flawless, you can rely on a laser cutting machine.

Here’s how to use a laser cutting machine:

  1. Machine type. Brands like Universal and Epilog make laser cutting machines that are great for all types of jobs but at $8,000, you will most definitely be paying through the nose or leave you thinking more than twice before writing a check for it. There are many types of laser cutting machines that can address woodworking or stone engraving requirements such the as CNC machine, the plasma cutting machine, the cylinder working machine, and stoner cutter so knowing which machine type goes with what kind of specific job ensures that your money won’t be spent needlessly. If budget is a grave concern, you can nosey around the Internet for manufacturers or sellers of used laser cutting machines that offer machine leasing or have flexible payment terms for buyers. If you are ill-equipped about the machinery and skill involved in laser cutting, there is hope yet for you in the form of your local technical school or college. You may inquire about their programs on Engineering, Architecture, or the Arts where engraving or etching is a minor subject or a short certificate course. This will serve as your crash course into Laser Machinery 101. Go for it, as this is something you cannot learn only theoretically.
  2. Laser-friendly materials. Laser-cutting machines can cut through almost anything except Polyvinyl Chloride or PVC and Vinyl, which aren’t only messy, but damaging to the machine as well. Never use these materials on your laser-cutter. You can be sure that this will damage your machine and will ultimately doom your warranty protection. Other than these, you can laser cut Cast Acrylic, Aluminum, Wood, Stone, Brass, Glass, Plastic material made of ABS and polycarbonate, and Paper. It’s also exciting to know that you can laser cut designs on meat, chocolate, and desserts. For instance, Crème brûlée is actually heat-lasered to caramelize the sugar on top.
  3. Software. The laser-cutting machine executes the design or etching fed to it but it cannot do it alone without collaborating with the software that makes it possible for the design or etching to be executed. Your role as the artist will be to create the design or etching in your mind and draw these   using software like Corel Draw or Adobe Illustrator and creating a vector file that the laser machine can interpret. You may also create a raster file depending on what you will deem more appropriate for the type of laser machine you’re working with.   
  4. Precautions. Laser cutting machines when in operation cannot be left alone or unattended. As you can see, most of the materials used in laser design and etching are very prone to catching fire so it is absolutely a must that you are present for the job from beginning to end. You must also read the operations manual because everything that you will need to know is right there.

Armed with these helpful tips, you are now ready to get beamed up in the world of laser-cutting.


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