CO2 Lasers FAQ's

What is a laser?

The word LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In basic terms it is a source of light energy that is concentrated in a small area using a series of mirrors and a lens. Rather like concentrating the energy of the Sun through a magnifying glass to burn a hole in paper on a hot summer's day!

What are the advantages with a laser system?

If you are comparing a laser with mechanical engraving then there are several advantages. Laser engravers are generally faster than mechanical systems. They are very quiet and a lot cleaner. There are no mechanical forces used in the engraving process so there is no need to clamp or stick your material to the bed. You don't have to worry about the tool size or how sharp it is, the laser uses the same spot size whether the image is 2.5 x 2.5mm or 250 x 250mm. You can use any typeface on your computer and logos are as easy to engrave as text.

How easy is it to use?

Think of a laser as you would a standard printer which you have at home or in the office and that instead of ink you have light energy. You create your image as you would for a normal document in black and white and then send it to print on the laser through a driver or 'Dashboard'. If you already work with graphic design software, you can be up and running in minutes! It will take a bit of trial and error to learn what speed and power settings to use with different materials, but we include a comprehensive guide with your system that has recommended speed and power settings for various materials with which you will be working. New to lasers? DISCOVER MORE 

Do I need to use a dedicated graphic software package?

It depends on the brand of laser you buy. Most DC glass systems use proprietary software and job files may have to be exported to the driver, whereas Epilog laser systems have an open architecture approach which means you can use most mainstream graphic software to create your images and then send them directly to print on the laser via the Epilog driver (dashboard).

What sort of images can I engrave or cut?

You can engrave scanned photos, logos, bitmaps, other images, text, and AutoCAD files. Essentially, if you can print it, you can engrave it. To cut, you will need a vector based graphic, such as an .eps or Illustrator file and again if you can create it the laser will cut it! Keep in mind the higher the quality of the graphic you're working with, the better your engraving results.

What materials can I engrave or cut? 

With a Co2 laser you can engrave and/or cut a vast array of materials including paper, card, textiles, leather, wood and plastics to name but a few. With metals a Co2 laser requires the material to have some sort of pre treatment such as lacquer, anodising or compound like CerMark or Thermark. Glass can be marked directly or also with the aid of a compound. Please note that glass or metal cannot be cut using a Co2 laser source.

Is it safe to use?

Lasers are classified for safety purposes based on their potential for causing injury to humans eyes and skin. Most laser products are required by law to have a label stating its Class. It will be listed either in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3R, 3B, 4) or in Roman numerals (I, II, IIIa, IIIb, IV). The lower the class the safer the device will be. A Class 2 or ll laser is typically an encased system which has interlocked doors preventing the laser firing until these are in the closed position.This class of laser is considered safe if used correctly and without the need for additional PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) like goggles.

In addition ensure that your laser cutter has passed independent safety testing by a recognised body like a CE mark. This means that it has been tested to meet European safety and environmental standards and considered safe to use.

What are the computer requirements?

Investing in a new computer is a great way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your new laser equipment. Most off-the-shelf laptops are adequate and will run laser software however, if you are engraving a lot of large images or photographs consider upgrading the RAM to avoid lagging while processing. Ensure that your computer has both USB and Ethernet sockets available. 

Why do I need fume extraction?

When laser marking or cutting materials they will give off some form of fume as the laser thermally decomposes the substrate to a greater or lesser degree. This fume is a mixture of particulate and gaseous matter which can corrode machine components and be harmful to the operator. Therefore it is vital that a laser has adequate extraction fitted to remove this fume from the cabinet. This can be a simple in line fan ducted from the laser direct to open air or a self contained fume extraction system to suit your chosen laser and create a safe working environment. DISCOVER MORE

What does the air compressor do?

The air compressor is designed to work with the included air assist feature of your laser system. It directs a constant stream of air onto your cutting surface to remove heat and combustible gases from the work area. This jet of air is pushed through the air assist structure, giving better results when cutting. 

Can I engrave cylindrical items? 

Rotary attachment options are available for most Epilog models and are quick and easy to install. Please note that rotary devices are not available for the Zing 16 and all Lotus Blu models however, it is still possible to mark a limited area on some curved objects. 

Which materials are unsafe to engrave or cut? 

Hydrogen Chloride and Vinyl Chloride (mostly found in PVC and other man made materials) are hazardous to the life of your laser system. Engraving and cutting these materials can cause irreversible damage to your machine, so determining the components of your cutting and engraving materials is extremely important. Materials, such as Kydex, contain PVC.

Try to determine the chemical makeup of any product prior to lasering. Where possible request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This sheet is designed to provide the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substrate and contain the elements used to make up the material. It will also indicate whether or not it contains elements that are potentially harmful to you or your engraving system.

What is the cost of a laser? 

The cost of a laser system is determined by a number of variables including the manufacturer, the model,  the speed (stepper vs. servo motors), engraving table size, laser tube source and wattage. They can be bought outright or leased through a finance house. For more information on how to own your own laser please contact our sales team.

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