Laser Engraving Machines: Choosing the right tool for the job

The complete guide to help you find the perfect laser engraver
machine for your business.

So you're thinking about buying a Laser Engraver Machine? If you are new to the topic or are just starting to turn a hobby into a business it can be very overwhelming to research what would be the best Laser Engraver Machine for you. You probably saw a bunch of different machines, terms, and specs, but what does all that mean, and what are the major things you got to keep an eye on before making a decision? 

In this article, I'll help you through this process and make sure that you'll be able to find the right tool for the job. If at the end you still have any doubts feel free to contact us and request a 30-minute talk with one of our specialists. We'll advise you free of charge. 
 

What is a Laser Engraving Machine?

The engraving process exists for generations, but a lot has changed since the European Middle Ages goldsmiths learned how to decorate their metalwork. Engraving is part of our contemporary lives, in jewelry, sports, design, and many more. 

There are mechanical engraving machines that remove the surface materials with milling cutters, and the effects you can get from them are pretty good, especially when working with metal surfaces. But if you're looking for something versatile that can work with paper, leather, wood, acrylic, metal, and many other materials, Laser Machines are the best tools for the job. 

The same machine can be a Laser engraver and a Laser cutter based on what purpose you use it, and the application possibilities are infinite. They are high-precision machines that can achieve a level of detail even with smaller fonts and shapes. Using them you can engrave and cut multiple pieces at the same time boosting your productivity without giving up on quality. On top of that, they are really easy to operate and learn. Sounds great, right? But how do these machines actually work?  

How does a Laser Engraver work?

When engraving, a laser machine processes the font, shape, or picture on the engraved material. The laser moves horizontally through the material on individual lines removing it point by point and line by line. You can engrave many things like photos, logos, lettering designs, and more using this process, which is called Grid Engraving. 

Laser cutting works a little bit differently. It is a thermal separation process, during which shapes are cut through the materials by a laser beam. We use vector-based files (lines, curves, and shapes) to base our cutting process on many materials like wood, paper, leather, and more. 

The same machine can be used for engraving and cutting, you just need to keep an eye on the potency and equipped features like cutting tables and lenses, but more on that later. 
 

What are the different types of Laser Engraving Machines?

If we are talking about turning a hobby into a business we need to think about two types of laser engraving machines, the CO2 Laser Engraver, and the Fiber Laser Engraver. 

CO2 Laser Engraving Machines

CO2 machines work by charging a mixture of gases like nitrogen and helium along with CO2. The electric discharge that this process creates produces the laser beam that is used in the cutting and engraving process. The wavelength of these machines is 10.6mm and they work very well with materials like glass, plastics, wood, and others. But they don't work well with shiny metal, since the surface reflects CO2 lasers. Want to know more about CO2 Lasers? Check this complete article we have on the topic. 

Fiber Laser Engraving Machines

In a Fiber laser, the active gain medium is an optical fiber doped with rare-earth elements such as ytterbium. It is a solid-state laser in which laser and pump lights are guided in those optical (glass) fibers. They have a wavelength of 1.064mm and can work with reflective metals with much more efficiency than the CO2 laser machines. They still can work with organic materials such as wood, paper, and leather. We have an in-depth article about the functionality of the Fiber laser if you wish to take a look. 

The same machine can have CO2 and Fiber Laser? 

With Flexx Technogy™ we integrate these two sources of laser in one machine, allowing you to work with an even higher range of materials and projects. Without any need to manually change the laser tube, lens, or focus the two laser sources are activater alternately in one job. Saving time, and giving you more flexibility to expand and grow your business.

Ok, now we have talked a lot about different types of lasers, materials, and processes, It's time to focus on the matter at hand: "What are the top things you need to keep an eye on before choosing your Laser Engraving Machine?" 

7 things to consider before buying a laser engraver

Buying something like a laser engraver machine, especially when you're thinking in increase your production as a business, demands a lot of research. To help you with it I gathered 7 main topics that you need to really pay attention to before making a final decision. The time you spend thinking about those things can save you from many obstacles you could find in a way to create a profitable laser engraving business. Without further ado, let's get into it.

1. How much have you got to invest?

The starting point of every buying process is to know how much can you invest. It's always good to find cheaper options, but there are things you need to consider before making a price-based decision. Quality matters in moments like these, you can save money on the machine and lose many more on replacement parts and lost contracts caused by a malfunction or poor quality results. 

When looking for a Laser Engraver, look for quality and reliability, especially when talking about production-level. So keep that in mind while choosing. If you find a perfect-match machine but it is outside your price range you can always contact us about second-hand machines. We have more than 180 showrooms worldwide and as we innovate and develop more products our demonstration laser engravers go back to stock. Want to know more about how you can request a used Trotec laser machine? Check this content on the matter or request a 30-minute appointment with one of our specialists. 
 

2. With what materials do you want to work? 

We've talked about the materials that a CO2 Laser machine and a Fiber Laser machine can work with. CO2 Lasers Machines are more common for the variation of materials and the lower price range, but they don't work well with metal. The Fiber ones are more efficient, have a lower maintenance rate, and can work with metal, but don't work with translucent materials and have a higher price range. 

Having a clear idea of what you want to make with the machine you choose goes a long way in helping with the decision process. At the end of this article, we will point out which materials can be engraved by each of the laser types.

If you want to skip to that part, just click here

3. Does the company give good customer service and support?

One of the most important things to consider is the customer service and support provided by the company. Don't hesitate to call them, schedule an appointment, or send doubts, if they leave you hanging before the purchase that may be a spoiler of the support they provide after as well. 

In Trotec, we not only help you to make a decision but also provide: 

• A service hotline with top qualified laser experts;

• Fault diagnosis by a remote maintenance service; 

• A specific hotline for spare parts; 

• And even the Trotec Academy where we develop training, seminars, webinars, and guides to help you grow in the Laser Engraving Business. 

We don't like to brag, but if you like to see for yourself the quality of our support team, don't hesitate to contact us here! 

4. How easy is it to find and purchase parts? 

If you are working with a production-level Laser Engraver business eventually you going to need to replace parts. So it's good to research how fast you can request and receive replacement parts. After all, when engraving a big order the last thing you need is to be kept waiting. 

Trotec has bases in more than 90 countries all over the globe, and we take your time seriously. Our spare parts service keeps the most important spare parts for all our laser machines to guarantee a short delivery time. We also procure rare or discontinued spare parts at short time notice so that we can always respond promptly. 

On top of all that, we have a protection plan for all-around maintenance and technical support called TroCare. Whether you decide on a yearly laser health check or a plan to cover all bases you can count on us to help you keep away from low productivity, missed orders, and unexpected expenses. Know more about TroCare. 

5. What type of laser tube does the machine have?

The laser tube is a consumable asset that you'll have to replace from time to time. There are 3 major types, Glass, Metal, and Ceramic Tube Lasers. But what are the main differences between them? 

Glass Tube Laser

When talking about Glass Tubes Laser Machines you going to need more space for the water-based chiller and compressor. They have a lower cost, but a lifespan of 1 to 2 years. They have a slower engraving capability but are fast in cutting depending on the wattage. Talking about accuracy and beam quality they have moderate to low control for fine detail or delicate materials. 

Metal Tube Laser

Metal Laser Tubes are usually air-cooled, so they don't need a chiller and compressors. They have a longer lifespan, but a higher cost. They have a faster capacity for cutting and engraving and a pretty good accuracy level on details, but mostly all-metal laser sources will suffer over time in the production process from aluminum welds and sealing, which could lead to leaks and early replacement.

Ceramic Tube Laser

The Ceramic Source Laser has a higher cost, but a faster payback rate. It is air-cooled and has a lifespan of 6 to 8 years before needing replacement. They work very fast with engraving and cutting and have very high quality even with fine details. Is the right choice if you are looking for high quality consistent and repeatable results with a higher life span. 

Do you want to know more about these different types of Laser Tubes? Trotec Uk has a really nice video showing firsthand the difference between them. Check it out: 

6. Let's get technical: What is the space, size, power, and wattage you need to do the work?

Production-level Laser machines are big. Especially if you choose one with a Glass Tube that needs the extra space for the cooling system. Make sure that the machine you choose can pass through the door and fit in its final spot in your workshop. 

Laser Engravers come in different shapes and sizes, think about which materials will you engrave or cut, are they small, or large? You don't want to buy a machine just to discover that it isn't big enough to make the pieces you want, on another hand you can save money with a smaller machine if you don't need to engrave large pieces. Also, make sure of the voltage of the equipment, some may require a 220v plug to work properly.

Talking about how much laser power you need depends on your application. If you use your laser machine mostly for engraving the best results may be achieved with a laser power between 25 to 80 watts. If your main use is for cutting the greater the power, the faster and thicker materials will be cut. We suggest a power that exceeds 80 watts. Want to know how to choose the right power for your laser machine? Check this article on the topic.  

7. Take a look at the software and accessories 

Last but not least take a look at the software that the company provides to work on the Laser Machine. Make sure is an easy-to-learn software that doesn't make your life harder. 

In Trotec we use Ruby, it's a very intuitive and flexible system that works like a graphic program. We made a clean and simple workflow where you can visually check and approve even 3d animated designs for rotary engraving, overview all the pending jobs, and many more. Learn more about Ruby here!

You also need to pay attention to the accessories you may need, like rotary engraving attachments, vector cutting tables, and such. 

And that's it, these are the 7 main topics I think you should consider before choosing your Laser Engraving machine. Keep in mind that if you want to do a business out of it you need machines that gonna withstand the job.

What is the best Laser Machine for every material?

To close up this article let's check out which materials work better with CO2 Laser Machines, and which ones get higher performance with Fiber Laser Machines. If you still have doubts about which is the right one for you, feel free to reach us here, we'll be more than happy to help you out. 

CO2 and Fiber Laser Sources: Overview of Material Compatibility

You are able to process a wide range of materials with a Speedy Flexx laser:
  Material CO2 Fiber
Non-Metal Wood  
  Glass  
  Paper  
  Textiles  
  Leather  
  Stone  
  Food  
  Ceramic  
Plastics ABS; PC; PA, PMMA ...
  Rubber
  Laminates
  Foam
Metal Aluminum  
  Anodized Aluminum
  Brass  
  Coated Metal  
  Chrome  
  Copper  
  Precious metals (Gold, Silver, Platinum)  
  High speed steel  
  Stainless Steel  
  Titanium  
NOTE: The metals listed in the table above can also be processed with a CO2 laser. However, this processing method requires an additional work step and the use of a laser marking compund.

What type of laser do you need for personalization?

The laser engravers and cutters of the Speedy series offer a real competitive advantage: They create significant added value for products made of wood, plastic or glass. Discover the speed, intelligent functions and the innovative technical design.

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