Understanding lasers (III)



Running one of today’s laser engraving systems, all in all, is a fairly simple process. Most of the systems manufactured today are made as Class 1 enclosed units and were made with simplicity in mind.  The most important thing is to follow all of the original manufacturer’s recommendations when running your system.  This will allow you to get maximum results with minimal problems.

Plan Ahead
Prior to getting your system in-house, you will want to do certain things to ensure the safe and efficient running of your system.  First, pick a spot for your system.  These systems run clean and can be operated in most environments.  However, it does pay to pick a place that it relatively dust free, humidity free and not exposed to continuous vibrations or otherwise loud noises.  Ambient temperatures of 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit are generally recommended.  Also, make sure that you have adequate space not only for the system, but also for the pc and the storage of product and cleaning and finishing supplies.  Additionally, you will want to invest in a fire extinguisher that is made for electrical fires.  

If you’ve ever installed a printer on your pc, then you know how to install a laser engraving system.  Find the manual first and you can follow along.  Again, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when unpacking and setting up your system.  You will get a driver with your machine that is installed into your computer as a new printer driver.  You will then connect your system to your pc using a parallel printer cable.  Stick with one that is less than 20 feet. You will also want to hook up your exhaust fan to the system so that all vaporized materials are exhausted to the outside.

Ready to run
At this point, no doubt you are anxious to get started, so pick some material. At first, I would pick something that you don’t mind seeing destroyed as it is strictly experimental time.  You can choose any artwork.  However, first make sure that you set up your table size in your graphics program to match the table size of your machine.  This will ensure that you positioning is not a problem. Once your artwork is what you want, set your power, speed, and resolution.  Go ahead and use the recommendations in your manual.  You will quickly learn what settings suit you and your jobs the best.

Getting Stuck
No doubt, your learning curve will provide some challenges for you. Your manual is a great resource.  It is something you will want to read and then have available as a reference tool.  It will guide you through installation, operations, maintenance and safety issues, as well as provide trouble shooting assistance and recommendations for your settings. Additionally, it is important to know whom to call when you are truly stuck.  Many problems are solved over the phone or via e-mail with the technical support staff of the manufacturer of your system. The companies we know provide the majority of service via fax,  e-mail or phone.  Replacement parts are shipped out as needed and service techs assist customers with the installation of new parts.  Manufacturers are also using websites more and more to provide technical information for their customers.  There are also other websites as well as trade journals available that regularly provide tips and techniques for laser engravers. Additionally, seminars are available at industry trade shows that provide education for both beginning and advanced users. 

Don’t let the technology scare you.  By investing a little time and effort, in no time at all, you will be producing laser engraved items that impress even the most finicky customer. And don’t forget, learning is a lifelong process. By keeping abreast of current trends, processes, options and new materials, you can continue to provide cutting edge products for your customers for years to come.

By Diane C. Bosworth