It's hard to believe, but the same machine that can engrave an intricate pattern on wood, cut shapes out of plastic, and surface etch on glass can also make rubber stamps. For those who have been using a laser to perform basic engraving, being able to make rubber stamps means offering more options for your customers.
Rubber stamps are used every day for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Common uses include office needs, bank deposits, addresses, logos and signatures. In addition, there is a growing industry dedicated to the creation of art stamps, used for a variety of purposes including those made for special occasions, photo albums, scrap books, custom stationery, crafts, home décor, gift wrap, and party decorations. When you think of all the possibilities for rubber stamp usage, it's easy to justify wanting to make and sell them.
ADVANTAGES OF A LASER
The use of a laser over traditional stamp making methods allows easier set up, provides quicker turn around times, and eliminates the need for traditional films, chemical solutions, and costly chemical disposal.
One uses the same machine to engrave and cut out the stamp and also allows for the easy manufacture of one stamp or a whole sheet at a time. The machine driver allows for the tapering or profiling of each engraved character so that the base of the character is wider than the top. This allows for stability when stamping.
In addition, suppliers of rubber stamp materials are now manufacturing materials that are made exclusively for making rubber stamps with a laser. With continued improvements in the equipment and accompanying hardware and software, making rubber stamps is easier than ever.
The first place to look, if you're interested in making stamps with your laser engraving equipment, is at the equipment itself. While you use the same machine to make rubber stamps that you use to engrave, you do need a special driver. If you didn't get one initially with your machine, call the manufacturer and find out if your machine can be upgraded to include this feature. Most machines can be upgraded. A 200 MHz Pentium computer, or greater, with at least 32MB of memory, is also recommended for this application.
A 25-watt system will engrave small numbers of rubber stamps adequately. If you are planning on making large quantities of rubber stamps, you should consider a 50-watt laser (or higher) engraving system. You may also want to re-evaluate your exhaust system. Even the new laser- friendly rubbers will tend to smell when vaporized by a laser and may require a different approach to your exhausting needs. Many suppliers of equipment and air filtration systems offer fairly inexpensive odor removal units. It may be best to address this issue before complaints by employees or neighbors arise.
Using a graphic arts software package, the artwork is generated similarly to other jobs that involve raster engraving and vector cutting. The main difference is that the artwork is mirrored prior to engraving.
Read the manual for your machine so that you know the best way to accomplish this. As you generate your artwork, you will also want to keep in mind that what is black will be the raised area / s), and what is white will be the rest. To make future jobs easier, you might want to save basic default settings for text and fill. Also creating templates for your basic rubber stamp jobs will save you time in the long run.
TURN THE LASER ON
Once your artwork is set, you're ready to raster engrave. Set your dpi at 600 or better. Your power and speed settings will vary depending on the polymer mat material you are using and the wattage of your machine. Look in your manual for recommended settings, but keep in mind experimentation will give you the best idea. You will also need to set the vector power and speed. After the engraving is done, the machine will automatically begin vector cutting the designated areas out.
For multiple pieces, use a low ppi (pulses per inch) setting for the cutting (if your system allows for this). This will keep your polymer mat sheet together until you are ready to separate the individual stamps. When you are ready, they will come apart easily. There may also be available options for setting shoulder and character width. Again, read your manual and experiment for optimal results.
Some of the newer laser-engraving systems come with an air-assist option. This option allows for a thin stream of air to be blown across the engraving area at the point of burn. Using this option will help to reduce the amount of rubber dust left on the polymer mat after engraving. Some suppliers will also offer this option as an upgrade on older systems.
FINISH IT UP
When the stamps are through vector cutting, remove from the machine and mount with your choice of marking device. If you haven't already, you will also want to blow any remaining debris off of the product. Compressed air is one way to accomplish this, although blowing rubber dust can be messy. Another method is to use a shop vac to remove the dust.
In addition, blow or vacuum debris out of the machine and exhaust system. Due to the rubber material that is removed during this process, keeping your machine clean from debris is vital to keeping your machine and exhaust system in good working order. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for best results.
Rubber stamps are but another product that can be successfully made with a laser engraving system. Once you get the hang of it, you may find that many of your current customers may also be potential customers of rubber stamps. If you're going to start making them, keep some on hand as stock items, samples and for display items. This will let your customers know that it is one more item that you can provide for them, using a tool that is invaluable for other applications, too!
By DIANE C. BOSWORTH