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Laser Engraving

Laser Engraving is like Laser Cutting, in the sense that the beam generates intense local heat, but instead of going right through and parting the material, engraving does anything from mark the surface to producing a 3 dimensional relief of varying depth... although the efficiency of the depth engraving varies from material to material.

Laser Engraving does not have to be raster, it can be vector too, just as an artist can do either a line drawing or a full realistic sketch.

Exeter Laser can cut or engrave a maximum size object of 1.3 metres wide by 3 metres long, if it is flat and not more than a few inches thick, such as a house door. If it is bulkier then the maximum object size is 1.3 metres wide by 0.9 metres deep by 0.25 metres high. Please note the maximum working area for laser engraving or cutting in one pass is 1.3 metres by 0.9 metres.

1.3 metres by 0.9 metres is also expressible as 1,300 millimetres by 900 millimetres, and at 25.4 millimetres to the inch, as 51.18 inches by 35.43 inches, but please note very well we only ever work in metric, which means we work in millimetres ONLY, please do not send us work or dxf files with dimensions in inches, or in centimetres, or metres, always use millimetres.

Materials

  • Acrylic
  • Anodized Aluminum
  • Carbide
  • Ceramic Substrates
  • Cloth
  • Coated Metals
  • Composites
  • Delrin
  • Fabrics
  • Fiberglass
  • Foam
  • Glass
  • Kevlar
  • Laminated Plastics
  • Leather
  • Marble
  • Masonite
  • Matte Board
  • Melamine
  • Mylar
  • Nylon
  • Paper
  • Painted Metals
  • Plastics
  • Polycarbonate
  • Polyester
  • Pressboard
  • Rubber
  • Silicon
  • Stone
  • Styrene
  • Veneer
  • Wood

As a very rough guide, you can approximate engraving times by calculating from the dimensions, the detail setting, and the speed.

The quick and dirty ballpark number for the vast majority of raster engraving is £5 for a 100 x 100 mm square.

For example if you want to engrave an area 100 mm wide by 50 mm high, and at a detail setting of 0.1 mm per line (254 lines per inch) and at a speed of 200 mm/sec...

Height divided by detail, gives 50 / 0.1 = 500, so 500 lines, each 100 mm (the width) long = 50,000 mm, and divide that by the speed, 50,000 / 200 = 250 seconds, which is a shade over 4 minutes, so approximately 15 per hour.EL

The image on the right is a 100 x 60 mm engraving on to toughened glass at a detail level of 0.08 mm per line, which works out about 320 lines per inch.

There is a full size version of this image in the gallery.

Because this was toughened glass and because we wanted the quality, it was done at 100 mm/sec, obviously this is half the example speed above of 200 mm/sec, and yes there is a linear inverse relationship for any given design between engraving speed and engraving time, double the speed, halve the time.

This also holds true for the detail level, halve the amount of detail from say 0.1 mm per line to 0.2 mm per line and you halve the engraving time.

Obviously you can't just do everything at the maximum speed and minimum detail, depending on the job and the material being engraved, you have to go slower and/or finer to get decent quality results.

The toughened glass being an example of something you do slower, hence it being done at 100 mm/sec.

For quality purposes we aren't prepared to raster engrave at speeds higher than 400 mm/sec (which would cut that 100 x 50 mm example discussed above down to 2 minutes per copy) or at detail levels lower than 0.2 mm per line (127 lines per inch)... At the other extreme, there is little point setting the detail level higher than 0.05 mm (508 lines per inch) as it is not visible to the naked eye. 

The final image on this page is a 420 x 297 mm sign made from 1.6 mm thick Lamflex, the colour code is 554/400 (You can see more about Lamflex signage here) and took approximately 24 minutes to laser engrave and then laser cut, plus another couple of minutes prior to this for cutting out the slightly larger master piece and removing the protective coating, so all in just under 30 minutes of laser machine time, which at £1 (exc) per minute means approximately £30 (exc) plus materials to make this sign.

Depending on how we buy it (quantities etc) and shipping costs Lamflex comes in to as at around £40 a sheet by the time it gets in the door here, and we could get four or five of these out of one 1200 x 600 sheet so you're looking at around £10 material costs.

In this case of this sign it is being sandwiched between two sheets of clear 4 mm acrylic, so the thickness of the whole thing is just under 10 mm, and wall mounted with standoffs which go through the four laser cut 10 mm diameter holes you see here.

This photo was taken as it was in the laser after an initial quick wipe down with isopropyl alcohol, a video of the manufacturing process will be uploaded to the Exeter Laser Vimeo Channel shortly.