Common Laser Engraving Mistakes and Tips to Avoid Them

laser-engraverWhether you are a novice maker or an accomplished engineer, it takes time and experience to master the proper use of a laser engraver machine so that mistakes and pitfalls can be avoided. Like any other equipment, these machines also encounter different issues from time to time. Many of these issues result from the mistakes we commit while using the machines. This is why it is important for all users to know how these mistakes can be avoided. Mentioned below are some of the most common laser engraving mistakes and ways to avoid them.

Burning Fabric: We often hear about the material getting burnt while using a laser engraver or cutting machine. In order to avoid this problem, it is important to understand a material’s capability to withstand the process at different temperature ranges. Leather, canvas, denim, and other heartier fabrics are capable of withstanding higher power settings. However, if the fiber is delicate in nature, it is always advisable to start the settings at low power and high speed. Take some spare material to test the initial settings and increase the power, if the fabric can withstand it.

In the case of direct-to-garment engraving, lowering the dots per inch (DPI) is highly recommended. A lower DPI while engraving ensures that only the top layer of the fabric is slightly vaporized by the laser instead of burning through it entirely.

Use of the Wrong Acrylic: Cast acrylic and extruded acrylic are the two types of acrylics used for laser engraving. Though both are suitable for different applications, cast acrylic sheets are considered to be ideal for laser engraving. This is because this type of acrylic turns into a frosty white color after engraving.  On the other hand, extruded acrylic is not capable of creating that frosted appearance. Therefore, if a frosted white finish is essential, only cast acrylic should be used for laser engraving.

Inconsistent Glass Engraving: When struck by the laser, the glass surface often gets fractured and there is no deep or complete engraving.  A frosted appearance is created by the fractured glass surface. However, depending on the type of glass engraved, the surface can be chipped and rough. Though a frosted look is desired, a chipped or rough surface is not.

Follow the tips mentioned below to get a smooth frosted finish.

  • Use a resolution of approximately 300 DPI on glass for better results.
  • In your graphic, change the black to 80 percent black.
  • Use the Jarvis Dithering pattern while running your engraver machine.
  • The engraving process may improve in some cases by applying a thin and wet paper sheet to the engraving area.
  • Apply a thin coat of liquid dish soap to the engraving area.
  • If engraving results in shards of glass, use a non-scratch scour pad to polish the area.

Different Results in Wood Engraving: Though wood is amongst the most laser-friendly materials, laser engraving causes different reactions and results on different types of wood. In the case of cherry, maple, and other types of lighter woods, the wood is burnt away by the laser to create a nice contrast.  On the other hand, more laser power is required for cutting or engraving denser wood.

Mentioned below are some useful tips for wood engraving.

  • If you are looking for rich contrast, maple and alder are your best options.
  • Smoke and debris may be produced and get embedded into the wood grain during the bare wood engraving process. Engrave from the bottom up to reduce this effect.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe off the excess smoke and debris after engraving stained wood.

Slow Engraver Performance:  Just like any other type of design equipment, better results can be delivered by a machine that is properly maintained. If a drop in performance is noticed, the first corrective measure should be to check and clean the optics. The lenses and mirrors should be inspected weekly and cleaned as needed. If the machine is used for cutting high-residue materials, frequent cleaning may be required.