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Laser Engraving Opportunities for Screen Printers

(May 2007) posted on Tue May 08, 2007

Find out about the features and functions of laser engravers, what applications the machines support, and how they can be used alongside the screen-printing process.

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By Jerry Loya

Another creative use of the laser engraver involves 3D engraving and then running the engraved piece though a flatbed printer. This will give the engraved piece color, depth, and a unique look.

CO2 lasers can mark on a variety of materials, such as acrylics, leathers, fabrics, denim, marble, rubber, and most plastics (Figure 2). However, the laser cannot mark or cut metallic materials. This is because the laser beam will reflect directly off of metal surfaces, with no effect to the material at all. But if the metal is painted, coated, or anodized, the laser will remove the top layer to expose the metal underneath. The result is a sharp, crisp marking that is ideal for plaques and trophies.

Laser engravers are typically equipped with a Windows-based driver. Users can choose their own graphics-editing programs. Most laser engravers function simply as a printer, so no special software is required. Graphics programs that are commonly used to edit images for laser engraving include CorelDRAW, AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. You should use the software that you prefer, but it should be able to work effectively with the file types you commonly use. Some programs may work great with bitmap images but cannot process vector images. Other applications written specifically for laser engraving may also be used.

Some systems offer the capability to contour cut printed graphics based on the original digital design file. These systems use an integrated camera to recognize the contour lines of an image and cut them out. Some laser engravers offer an optional CCD camera module that allows users to do precise contour cutting. Using a laser for cutting really opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Not only will you be able to contour cut, but you also will be able to vector cut around the details of an image or even engrave into the material as well. By using a laser, you are not restricted to outside perimeter contour cutting alone.


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