Galvo marking laser anf flatbed laser plotter

What's the difference between a laser plotter and a galvo laser?

The Trotec range includes many different types of laser machines, including flatbed laser plotters and industrial galvo laser markers. Flatbed laser plotters direct the laser beam using fixed-mounted mirrors that move via the X and Y axes, while galvo lasers guide the beam using fast moving mirrors. The below guide will help you determine when each type of laser should be used.

Differing architectures of laser plotters and galvo lasers

The main difference between flatbed lasers and galvo lasers is the manner in which the laser beam is directed onto the material. With flatbed lasers, the laser beam is deflected along the X and Y axles by means of fixed mirrors. At the end, the beam is focused by a lens and thus applied vertically onto the material. The plotter system is installed in a housing. The larger the machine, the larger the processing area.
In galvo systems, the laser emits onto 2 rotatable, highly dynamic mirrors of low inertia. These are moved by galvanometer drives. Since hardly any masses are accelerated, the laser beam can thus be guided over the workpiece at extremely high speeds with high precision and repeatability. The marking field size is defined by the deflection angle and the focal length of the optics.
The video shows a comparison of the differing functions.

Advantages and disadvantages of laser plotters and galvo lasers

Whether you should use a laser plotter or a galvo laser entirely depends on your chosen application. The following comparison show what you should consider prior to deciding on which laser type to use.

Working area

Flatbed lasers

A flatbed laser typically has a larger working area than a glavo laser, with Trotec laser machines having working areas as large as 87 x 126 inches. The advantage of a larger working area is that you can laser cut and laser engrave large materials and multiple smaller pieces in one laser job. The large format laser cutter series SP lasers are capable of processing large format materials with ease. Some Trotec machines are also available with a pass through option, meaning that you can process materials which are larger than the machines working area.

Galvo Laser

The maximum lettering area for Trotec’s range of galvo laser markers depends on the type of laser. For fiber lasers it is 310 x 310 mm (12.2 x 12.2 cm) and 500 x 500 mm (19.7 x 19.7 cm) for CO2 lasers. These measurements refer only to the marking area.

Mounting the galvo laser onto a laser workstation axle system (x,y) allows you to increase the processing area by up to 1100 x 600 mm (43 x 23.6 cm). A galvo laser can be used with or without housing. Housings featuring a pass through or detachable sides, as well as unhoused galvo lasers allow large and bulky materials to be laser marked.

Production environment and speed

Flatbed laser 

Flatbed laser plotters are usually operated as standalone machines, working independently from other machines or systems. The materials are loaded into the laser machine and processed, and if required additional processing is performed post laser cutting or laser engraving. The type of application has an impact on the processing time. Some jobs can be as quick as a few seconds, while some can take as long as several hours. Typically, one operator will be operating several machines, meaning that when one machine is processing material the others can be unloaded and reloaded with new materials for processing.  

Galvo Laser

Thanks to the high processing speeds of galvo lasers single jobs can be processed within seconds. Semi-automatic workstations with round tables allow users to maximise production capacity and reduce production downtime. The compact design of galvo lasers allows for easy integration into your existing production line, meaning that high quantities can be processed in short times in a fully automated operation. The supply of new parts needs to be ensured, however this can be largely automated with the use of conveyor belts or handling systems.

Laser software

Flatbed lasers

All of Trotec’s flatbed laser plotters come with JobControl® Software preinstalled. JobControl® allows users to work with their preferred software packages including CorelDraw, Photoshop and Illustrator, sending the laser job via a printer driver to the selected laser machine, where the graphics are converted into an object.

More about JobControl® laser software for flatbed lasers

Galvo Laser

Galvo lasers come with SpeedMark software preinstalled. This highly flexible software is user friendly, allowing individual, intelligent and interactive program sequences to be quickly created. No specific programming knowledge is necessary, allowing users to index serial numbers and time stamps, process lists and handle variables among others.

More about the SpeedMark software for galvo lasers

Laser cutting

Flatbed lasers

Due to the “flying optics” design of laser plotters the laser beam will always hit the material perpendicularly, ensuring a straight laser cutting edge, especially with thicker materials such as acrylic and MDF. A perfectly straight edge is a mark of quality and precision, which is important in many instances, especially when the components need to be assembled after laser cutting.

Galvo Laser

A major advantage of galvo lasers is speed when laser cutting, which is particularly noticeable on thin materials such as paper, card and foils. Application dependant, speeds of 10 to 65 times (approx) the speed of flatbed laser plotters can be achieved. The material will be impacted differently by the laser beam depending on its position on the marking field, with either a greater or lesser angle. The slope of the cutting edge will be clearly visible on thicker materials.


Flatbed lasers

Every application requires an individual configuration for optimal results. Lenses (with different focal lengths) and processing tables, in particular impact on the finished result. Flatbed laser plotters can be quickly adapted to various applications, which is an unbeatable advantage when working with various laser cutting and laser engraving tasks.

Galvo Laser

A galvo laser marker is generally purchased for a specific application (which they are optimised for), such as marking dataplates. It is possible to integrate a galvo laser into an ERP system and to laser mark dynamic components (such as counting serial numbers, time stamps and list processing.) A high degree of automation facilitates the marking process and the throughput time.

Other facts

Flatbed lasers

  • All Speedy lasers are available as and can be upgraded to Speedy flexx machines. This patented technology features both fiber and CO2 laser’s and allows the lasers to be activated alternately at the click of a mouse, providing the ultimate flexibility in material selection.
  • Low-priced entry-level machines are available. Laser technology is a cost effective method for even small production runs and quantities.
  • The laser software works just as a printer driver, with connectivity to many popular software packages supported.

Galvo laser

• A high focus tolerance offers excellent benefits when working with products that are not 100% plane, such as tools, jewellery, watches, machine components, medical implants and instruments
• Achieve deep engravings on metals
• It is possible to achieve black discoloration of anodised aluminium
• Colour reproduction on steel is possible

Find out more about Trotec laser machines

Our laser experts are happy to answer your questions about our laser engraving machines. They will help you discover all the possibilities of laser technology and how you can expand your service range with a Trotec laser machine. Remember that one solution offers thousands of possibilities. To see our laser engraving and laser cutting machines in action book a demonstration at one of our regional showrooms today.

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