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Laser Engravers

Old 05-30-2018, 06:10 AM
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Default Laser Engravers

I'm considering purchasing a laser engraver and hoped there might be some THT knowledge on the subject. I have some billet aluminum parts that I would like to engrave my logo into rather than slapping on my sticker like I do now. I have sent parts to local engravers, but typically I have just in time inventory and don't have much of a quantity to send off at one time, that's why I am thinking of doing the engraving in house. For now I only plan to engrave my own parts, but in time I may add it as a service my business provides.

From my initial research, the machines look a little "home made" by small companies. This doesn't give me much confidence I could get parts and tech support years down the road if they go out of business. Also, I need to choose a software package that is well supported. Online tutorials for the software would be a big plus as well.

Is fiber laser vs C02 laser the only two methods of engraving I need to consider? Any suggestions for a company that seems to be leading the small engraver market?

Any advice is appreciated, thanks!!
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:14 AM
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It's been a few years since I looked into these, but the Epilog lasers seemed to be the only real "commercial grade" units out there that I would use to run a business. Also, any kind of metal laser engraving was a little more involved (some coatings you had to put on the metal so the laser wouldn't just bounce off, etc). I have looked at buying some of the Chinese off-brand stuff for person use, but I would not trust those machines for a business purpose.

The good thing is, Epilog had some local sales people that could do demos for you and answer questions.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:30 AM
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Have hundreds of hours using an Epilog laser. I use Corel software.

To do an image on metal, with my Epilog (all co2?), you need to apply something like CerMark(think spray paint) then raster the image. Rastering removes the CerMark coating.

Look at the Johnson plastics website. There are other methods to engrave(mechanical) and sublimation might be another alternative.

I would be be happy to help you do a couple samples, to give you an idea of results.

I work primarily with wood and engineered plastic.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:46 AM
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There are more legitimate brands to choose from than just epilog. But...stay away from a lot of the Chinese junk and cheap stuff you see being sold on amazon. Those won’t work. Expect to spend a minimum of $7k+ for a decent machine and that’s usually going to be something used. If you are wanting to mark metal you have to either use a fiber laser or use products like ceremark with a co2 laser. You also need to verify that you have enough power on the laser to etch what you are doing.
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Old 05-30-2018, 06:51 AM
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Also, have you considered scratch engravers or v-carve type units?
I had the predecessor to this unit several years ago, and it worked will for doing designs on metals:
https://www.signwarehouse.com/p/rola...otary-engraver
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Old 05-30-2018, 07:16 AM
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Thanks for all the great info, I have so much to learn on this subject. I'm not opposed to spending some good money if it means getting a well built machine that will produce a quality engraving. Here are a couple pics of products I currently sell that I would like to engrave.

First pic is an aluminum fuel rail, 6063 alloy. The second pic is a small fuel cell that is made from .080" 5052 sheet aluminum.
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Old 05-30-2018, 07:24 AM
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hold up, tell us more about these go fast parts i see pictures of...lol
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Old 05-30-2018, 07:32 AM
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nice tig welding too btw.
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Old 05-30-2018, 07:34 AM
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Originally Posted by eddie102870 View Post
hold up, tell us more about these go fast parts i see pictures of...lol
I've been into motorcycle drag racing for a while now. Along the way I learned some basic fabrication skills and somehow managed to turn it into my career. I don't do it all myself though, for instance my fuel rails are made by a machinist friend of mine and I work with various local sheet metal and water jet shops on various steps of some of my parts. That fuel cell is 1.8 quarts and I have the panels cut by water jet then broke. I get the material in hand and weld it up from there.
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Old 05-30-2018, 08:27 AM
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We've used Epilog, Universal, DIY and Chinese engravers... if you're a DIY'er and don't mind the extra work, there are a couple Chinese manufactures who actually put out a decent product in the 40-80W CO2 range. There is a lot of junk out there too!

For cutting materials and deep engraving in wood I tend to use CO2. Fiber is great at cutting very thin materials and etching metals. Etching liquids are also available to allow a CO2 to etch metals in a similar way to fiber lasers.

Based on the irregular shape of your products, you may find that a galvo based fiber engraver will work best for you. XY table lasers work great for flat materials and stock, but odd shaped parts are much easier to place under a galvo head. The main limitation of galvo heads is the smaller print area as the head does not move. If your aluminum parts are not anodized, fiber will allow you to mark the bare metal far better than CO2. Plus the etching fluids can get expensive over time.

If you wish to speak to someone in the industry, I strongly recommend Innotech Laser. If you like I can send you the owner's contact information, he is a great resource for all things related to etching and marking!
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Old 05-30-2018, 08:34 AM
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Originally Posted by Tuvix View Post
We've used Epilog, Universal, DIY and Chinese engravers... if you're a DIY'er and don't mind the extra work, there are a couple Chinese manufactures who actually put out a decent product in the 40-80W CO2 range. There is a lot of junk out there too!

For cutting materials and deep engraving in wood I tend to use CO2. Fiber is great at cutting very thin materials and etching metals. Etching liquids are also available to allow a CO2 to etch metals in a similar way to fiber lasers.

Based on the irregular shape of your products, you may find that a galvo based fiber engraver will work best for you. XY table lasers work great for flat materials and stock, but odd shaped parts are much easier to place under a galvo head. The main limitation of galvo heads is the smaller print area as the head does not move. If your aluminum parts are not anodized, fiber will allow you to mark the bare metal far better than CO2. Plus the etching fluids can get expensive over time.

If you wish to speak to someone in the industry, I strongly recommend Innotech Laser. If you like I can send you the owner's contact information, he is a great resource for all things related to etching and marking!
Thank you for the great info Tuvix! If you could forward me the contact info at Innotech that would be much appreciated. So much to learn with these machines!!
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Old 06-04-2018, 11:31 AM
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Thanks again for all the great info everyone. I found a company, Boss Laser, that is about 30 minutes from me. They source parts from all over (the chassis comes from China, the optics from the US) and assemble the machine in house. I'm going to make an appointment to see them in person soon. Does anyone have some experience with their machines or the company in general?

Here is a link to one of their machines that caught my eye. https://www.bosslaser.com/boss-ls-1416.html
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Old 06-04-2018, 12:20 PM
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Looks interesting... I haven't seen their products personally. Assure it will accept 3rd party software, I often hear people complaining about models that force you to use their designing tools...

Your biggest items are:
- CO2 will not etch non-anodized aluminum well without an etching solution. CO2 would normally burn away the anodized layer resulting in a readable marking.
- This is an XY table, bring some of your irregularly shaped items to be marked and assure they will fit under the laser. Looks like this can take up to 8" in height.

Have them demo their FM Desktop model for you too just to see the comparison.

PS. If you're thinking of doing any cutting of plexiglass/wood/plastics, I wouldn't go below 80W.

Good luck!
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Old 06-04-2018, 12:30 PM
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Dang the welding on that fuel cell is well done.
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Old 06-04-2018, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by bayfisher92 View Post
Dang the welding on that fuel cell is well done.
I only take pictures of my pretty welds I have my good days and not so good days! Thanks Bayfisher
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Old 06-04-2018, 01:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Tuvix View Post
Looks interesting... I haven't seen their products personally. Assure it will accept 3rd party software, I often hear people complaining about models that force you to use their designing tools...

Your biggest items are:
- CO2 will not etch non-anodized aluminum well without an etching solution. CO2 would normally burn away the anodized layer resulting in a readable marking.
- This is an XY table, bring some of your irregularly shaped items to be marked and assure they will fit under the laser. Looks like this can take up to 8" in height.

Have them demo their FM Desktop model for you too just to see the comparison.

PS. If you're thinking of doing any cutting of plexiglass/wood/plastics, I wouldn't go below 80W.

Good luck!
Thanks a ton for your insight Tuvix. Boss Laser likes to do one on one demos with potential customers and I am currently scheduled to meet with them the 25th of this month. That will give me time to keep education myself which is a good thing. I asked about the software and I will be able to design in Corel then transfer to the machine. I also will bring some of the material I use to see how the cermark works. Thanks again!
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Old 06-04-2018, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by treadlife View Post
Thanks a ton for your insight Tuvix. Boss Laser likes to do one on one demos with potential customers and I am currently scheduled to meet with them the 25th of this month. That will give me time to keep education myself which is a good thing. I asked about the software and I will be able to design in Corel then transfer to the machine. I also will bring some of the material I use to see how the cermark works. Thanks again!
Sounds good, cermark is great stuff. Corel is also a popular choice for this, sounding promising!

I found video of some of the work I've done in the past:

GALVO Fiber on Polycarbonate:

GALVO Fiber on Anodized Aluminum & XY CO2 on Glass Screen:
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Old 06-04-2018, 03:23 PM
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That is awesome stuff Tuvix!!

A big hurdle I haven't mentioned is that I need to learn Corel. Sorta huge, I know. I tried to teach myself a couple years ago and I just got frustrated with it. My girlfriend (pics already have been posted) is good at Illustrator and she has been helping me with all the graphic arts I've needed but these machines do not talk with Mac. It's time for me learn...no more excuses! I might try the paper back tutorial this time. I just need some guidance and I have no doubt I can become proficient with the software. I am considering buying this book along with the software https://www.mhprofessional.com/97812...55=5&aid=43207.
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Old 06-05-2018, 08:44 AM
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Lately I find myself following YouTube video tutorials more than reading books... search YouTube for "Coreldraw laser engraving" and follow some of the basic tutorials once you have the software. If you know you'll be buying one of these, get the software now and start practicing.
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Old 06-05-2018, 11:07 AM
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I own a sign shop and work with Photoshop and a sign program called Cadlink. Been doing this for 20 years.
When I got away from vinyl cutting and into the large format printing a few years back I was ''forced'' to get more involved with Photoshop.
Pretty good with it.
The thing about these software programs is that they have thousands of features, shortcuts and techniques for getting to the end product or image.
No way are you going to learn the program from a book or tutorial.
You need to jump right in and start off with the basic needs of your application.
If you are just needing your logo on the parts learn how to do that well. Shouldn't take to long to get comfortable with it.
Once you know your way around the equipment then start trying new things. This is the time to search the youtube videos for instruction.
No sense spending time learning some complex steps of a program if you are not going to use it.
I have been using PS heavily for about 5 years now and I don't think I know a third of what the program can do. If I get stuck I google it and
follow the video tutorial.

It is very intimidating at first but once you learn what all of the shapes are on the tool bar it will come to. Don't try to learn too much at once. This
is where you take baby steps.

As mentioned, keep away from the Chinese crap. They can copy a good machine to a ''T" but try and get support once it goes down.
Support and service are key if you are running a production biz, machine goes down and so does your business.

Good luck!
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