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F.A.Q.

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  1. How much does it cost?
  2. How long does it take?
  3. What materials can and cannot be laser cut and engraved?
  4. Can I supply my own materials?
  5. Can I supply my own designs?
  6. Can you offer technical support?
  7. How fast / accurate / precise is this?
  8. Can you engrave my laptop / tablet / phone?
  9. Are all materials the same? eg is all acrylic the same?
  10. Is something that has been lasered toxic
  11. Can you cut metals?
  12. What about nesting?
  13. What is kerf?
  14. How thick can you cut?
  15. Can you laser engrave in 3D?
  16. Some of what you say about CO2 lasers doesn't agree with what I have read elsewhere
  17. What colour codes do you use for layers etc?
  18. Is your laser better than anyone else's?
  19. Who operates your laser?
  20. It all sounds very expensive and commerical, do you want me as a customer?
  21. What is this Digital Production Revolution?
  22. Do you do anything apart from Laser Cutting and Engraving?
  23. Do you do Business to business?
  24. Why should I use Exeter Laser and not anyone else?
  25. Operator discretion

 

  1. How much does it cost?
  2. Excluding materials, which either you supply or EL supply if you choose, the cost is essentially down to machine time. Many factors determine machine time, for example the more complex a design, the more machine time it takes, also if the job involves cutting, a material that can be cut at 100 millimetres a second is going to be twice as quick as a material that can be cut at 50 millimetres a second, so it does tend to be a bit of a "how long is a piece of string" question, but we will be adding examples to the gallery which will give you a much better idea.
     
  3. How long does it take?

    See question #1 above, the simpler your task, the quicker it is. There is also the question of materials supply and lead time for the workload. But, unhelpful as the preceding sounds, if we have the design and we have the materials to be Laser Cut and / or Laser Engraved, then turnaround can be 24 hours.
     

  4. What materials can, and can NOT be cut and / or engraved?
    1. Fabric and Leather

      Cutting fabric with a laser produces “sealed” seams without fraying. Multiple layers of fabric can be laser cut into designs that are impossible to achieve with traditional cutting methods. Fabric can also be laser engraved to produce unique effects.

    2. Glass

      Laser engraving on glass creates a clean, frosted, precision-etched look without putting physical pressure on the glass. Even bottles filled with liquid can be laser engraved.

    3. Metal

      Most bare metals can be laser marked with the use of marking compounds. Anodized aluminum can be directly marked with a laser and the high contrast image produced is ideal for serial tags, identification plates and two-dimensional barcodes. Laser marking on metal delivers highly durable marks without sacrificing material integrity.

    4. Natural Materials

      Intricate designs and tight corners can be laser cut into natural materials such as mother of pearl with exact precision. These materials are typically used as inlays in wood and other materials.

    5. Paper

      Paper can be laser cut for precise control on curves and tight corners. Papers of varying thickness can also be laser engraved to produce unique effects.

    6. Plastic

      Plastic, including acrylic, can be laser marked, engraved and cut to controllable depths while maintaining tight tolerances. Some plastics are designed to work specifically with CO2 lasers to achieve optimum results.

    7. Rubber

      Rubber is an excellent material for laser cutting and engraving. Intricate art and text can be quickly and easily laser engraved to produce rubber stamps, without chemicals. 

    8. Stone

      Text and photographs can be laser engraved on stone, including marble and man-made materials like Corian®. Results are far better than can be achieved with other methods. This includes laser engraving photographs and text onto marble headstone and bases / trophies.

    9. Wood

      Transfer complicated designs, logos and photos to wood with laser marking, cutting and engraving. Curves and sharp corners can be laser cut with wonderful precision.

    10. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but PVC and Polycarbonate are NOT laserable, to be specific, they are laserable, but the process liberates hydrochloric acid vapours which will damage the machine and lenses, so we absolutely refuse to touch these materials,

  5. Can I supply my own materials or things to be engraved?

    Absolutely, indeed in many instances there is no other option, if it is your property such as a laptop or tablet or phone etc. Even if it is generic material, eg acrylic, we are more than happy for you to purchase the material yourself direct (for example for acrylic we recommend Plastexe) or we can purchase it on your behalf.
     

  6. Can I supply my own designs?

    Absolutely, a large part of starting this business is to cater to those who have everything at their fingertips, including the design they want, but do not have access or affordable access, to a high quality large capacity laser cutter and engraver.
     

  7. Can you offer technical support?

    Yes, we will help you turn your dreams into reality, however it should be noted that if technical support includes doing a lot of your design work for you and so on, and starts consuming significant amounts of our time, then we will start charging for it. We don't mind helping you or teaching you or working with you at all, but we are going to try to avoid becoming a free design and production house, preferring to be a helpful production house, as we have enough of our own design work on backlog already.
     

  8. How fast / accurate / precise is this stuff?

    Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving can be done at speeds UP TO 60 metres a minute, or 1,000 millimetres per second, please note that is a maximum, XY location accuracy up to 0.02 mm, repeatable accuracy up to 0.05 mm, however in real world terms you should assume an accuracy of 0.1 mm, which means it is very very accurate in real human terms. (For the Imperial die hards amongst you 0.1 millimetres is a fraction under 4 thousandths of an inch)
     

  9. Can you engrave my laptop / tablet / phone?

    Yes, if your device has a removable rear cover, then that is all that needs to be engraved, if it doesn't, then we need to take some care, either by placing the design or by masking out, that we do not accidentally engrave over the rear camera lens etc.
     

  10. Are all materials the same, eg is all acrylic the same?

    No, no, and again no. In short, whenever it is humanly possible, we should always use a spare test area of the exact same batch of material for calibration purposes before proceeding with the main cutting / engraving process.. if you are supplying the material to be cut or engraved, please make sure there is a little excess so we can do the calibration. Even if it is a repeat order, and allegedly the same design and allegedly the same material some weeks later, even though we will have a record of exactly what settings we used last time, we will still want to do a calibration test, so don't be too "that's exactly enough and not a square millimetre to spare" when you supply your own material.
     

  11. Is something that has been lasered toxic?

    Not unless it was toxic before hand, eg many hardwoods are toxic, so they will still be toxic after they are lasered, but the actual lasering process itself will not turn something that is non toxic into something that is toxic... you can laser engrave an apple and eat it, and it is as safe as it was before... the only caveat is that some material do give off toxic fumes WHILE BEING LASERED only, for example some types of rubber can give off a toxic vapour, but this is only during the lasering process, afterwards it is as "safe" as it was before.
     

  12. Can you cut metals?

    Yes, but that is one service we will not be offering to customers at this time, although we are quite happy to engrave metals for you. Being blunt, any modern machine shop will have a metal cutting laser, so it's not a sensible business strategy for us to compete with them on their own turf, while consuming limited machine time that could be used Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving other materials and products and indeed quantities (eg 1 to 1,000) that they cannot compete with us on. (Any laser over 100 watts with good optics can concentrate sufficient power to cut thin steels of various grades, you just need to use gases other than air to cut with, the downside is the residue on the bottom of the machine is messy, and if the metal is ferrous, magnetic too... hence our refusal to cut metal for customers.)
     

  13. What about nesting?

    Nesting is the process of fitting shapes together and rearranging them in such a way as to get the maximum possible number of pieces in the minimum area of material with the minimum wastage. Due to our engineering and CNC background, we have some extremely powerful software for nesting and many other tasks that go towards doing a first class and efficient job. Yes, Corel and other software offers basic nesting features, but professional nesting software is far more efficient (CPU cycles are always cheaper than material) and in addition to nesting this software also optimises the laser tool path, maximising the proportion of job time that the laser is actually hot, and minimising the time it is cold and travelling from one path to another.
     

  14. What is kerf?

    The laser beam is parallel, but in the final stage before meeting the material it goes through a focusing lens, if you imagine this from the side, the beam makes an X shape, and the angles of the X depend on the focal length of the beam used, and you should use a different and correct focal beam length for different jobs. Shorter focal length beams produce a smaller spot, more energy per square mm of material, and more kerf, longer focal length beams produce a larger spot, less energy per square mm of material, and less kerf. Lasers are like everything else in life, swings and roundabouts... The thicker the material, the longer the focal length lens you should use, and the less kerf you get. Short version.. Kerf is the amount of material removed by the laser beam.
     

  15. How thick can you cut?

    See question 13 above, for any given focal length lens used, the thicker the material you use, the more kerf it will show... we will give some actual real world macro photography examples in the gallery in due course, but for now, the quick and dirty answer is how much kerf are you prepared to accept? Anything up to 20 mm thick acrylic, using a 100 mm focal length lens, you probably won't notice the kerf unless it is pointed out to you.... but using the same lens for 40 mm of wood, you will see the kerf with the naked eye.
     

  16. Can you laser engrave in 3D?

    Technically speaking all engraving is done in 2 dimensions, however, if your photo or design to be engraved is converted into a 256 level grey scale raster file, rather than a simple black and white monochrome file, then each of those grey scale levels can be treated as a different laser power, and therefore a different depth of engraving can be achieved, again, in time there will be examples in the gallery, as always, done 100% in house.
     

  17. Some of what you say about CO2 lasers doesn't agree with what I've read elsewhere.

    This is a business site, not a learning resource, so yes, you may find a little bit of oversimplification, but no deception and no lies. If you want to learn and want the straight dope about CO2 lasers, head on over to the CO2 laser section of Sam Goldwasser's repair FAQ site, I *thoroughly* recommend it.. go here.
     

  18. So what colour codes do you use for layers and what other rules do you have?

    We have seen all sorts, some want you to include a specific shape, say a rectangle 50 x 100 mm in the drawing to show you have everything to scale, some want you to use red for cutting layers and green for engraving layers, some want you to send in Corel draw files, some want pdf, what it boils down to is that there is not an industry wide standard that you can send to any laser company chosen at random and still be guaranteed to get the exact same results... We are currently working on a document to address this specific problem, to ensure that you and us are speaking the exact same language, and when done it will be under the How To Order menu.
     

  19. Is your laser a better quality machine than anyone else's?

    Our lasers are brand spanking new, latest hardware designs, latest technologies, latest software (the lasers themselves run a variant of the Linux OS now, proper onboard GUI and all that) all this is true, but, it is also true to invoke the old photographer's mantra that the best camera to take a given shot is the one you actually have with you... the unspoken part of that is that yes of course some cameras are much better than others, but so are some photographers, and a good photographer will take a far better picture with a merely average camera than a poor photographer will take with a top end camera.
     

  20. So, who are your laser operators?

    This is a follow on from Q18 really. Exeter Laser is probably unique in that we can give a 100% guarantee that at no time, anywhere in the process from initial discussion to final production and delivery, does anyone who is not a time served engineer with at least 20 years of experience of CAD, CAM, CAE, CNC, ever go anywhere near your work. To use the photographer analogy again, 20+ years of professional photography plus the very latest high end kit = guaranteed eye popping results.
     

  21. It all sounds a bit too high end and commercial for me, do you actually want customers like me?

    To invoke bad analogy guy... we have friends and associates who run shops with 2.5 kW to 15 kW lasers that are running 16 hours a day, two shifts, in printing terms they are the commercial printers, they want to print 10,000 copies of the local paper, 100,000 brochures for the tourist board, and so on, the machinery costs from hundreds of thousands to millions per machine, and the results are industry standard, but they just can't do 1,000 business cards for you, it's not that they lack the ability, it's the set up time, your business cards will cost them as much to produce as a copy of the local paper. At the other end of the scale, everyone at home has their own inkjet or laser printer, and they produce good results, but if you ever tried to produce even a single business card or brochure on one, you'll know how inferior the results are. The last few years has seen the growth of the high street print shop, it's the middle ground, their machines cost merely tens of thousands of pounds, but you can walk in with your files on a USB stick and walk out the next day with your 1,000 business cards or brochures, done to the same quality as the commercial print house, but at low / bespoke volumes. In a bad analogy sense, Exeter Laser is the high street print shop, but for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving.
     

  22. So what's this "Digital production revolution" stuff I've been reading about?

    Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving is digital production, so is 3D printing, indeed, so is the aforementioned high street print shop... the revolution bit comes about because as the technology progresses, we are now at a point where entirely professional grade facilities that were once the exclusive realm of those wanting 10,000 copies of a magazine (to continue the bad analogy) is available to those who want one copy, the difference between the commercial / industrial kit and the high street print shop kit is no longer the quality, it's just the per unit print/production time and therefore cost.. 
     

  23. So do you do anything else apart from just Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving? Because I'd like some edge lit signs manufactured.

    mmmm.... Exeter Laser is in the business of Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving.. that's it.. having said that, in the same workshop as the lasers sit CNC vertical mills and lathes, compressors, vacuum pumps, welders, industrial power supplies, oscilloscopes, and a plethora of other kit... so yes, prototype and development work can be undertaken, and we can get you to the point where you can do all the assembly yourself, just wait for the orders to come in and use us as your component manufacturer. We are perhaps uniquely qualified and able to do the proverbial turnkey, one-stop-shop, services as a result of this.

    We do produce Edge lit acrylic signs

     

  24. Do you do B2B / Business to Business?

    Yes, yes, and yes again. With the emphasis on the fact that we really like the smaller, local, entrepreneurial and dynamic. We do not have a problem if you are a sole trader, or like the idea of having your stuff Laser Cut or Laser Engraved, but are frankly snowed under by all the unknown variables and complexities and costs. We walk miles in those shoes every day... Exeter Laser itself is the product of such a process.
     

  25. So why should I give you my business, and not ACME Laser? (fictitious company inspired by Wil E Coyote, so I hope there is no actual Acme Laser company

    Very good question. The reality of the world is you can pick any one single thing, and go out and look, and find someone else who can do that same thing, and possibly do it better, and possibly do it cheaper, and possibly do it in higher volume.

    The one area that any small business such as Exeter Laser can actually compete in is therefore not in that single thing, because that single thing is just what you do... you compete on how do you do that single thing. In short, service, service, service, and service again. After all, your reputation depends on our quality of work and level of service to you.
     

  26. Operator discretion -

    There is always an element of this, even in the most tightly specified and complete design files, and in more "fluid" jobs where much of the design and layout is left to the operator, there can be quite a lot of discretion used.

    This is the nature of the beast, the more complete and tightly specified your design files, the less discretion needs to be used by the operator, the more fluid your design files, the more discretion needs to be used by the operator.