I wasn’t sure how to interpret laser engraving devices when I initially learned about them. Could a novice actually create something cool with one, or are they only for experts? I decided to invest in my first laser engraver, the Ortur Laser Master 3, after considering my alternatives and viewing a number of videos.
I wanted to share the laser engraving basics I wish I had known when I first started using this machine because I’ve learned so much in the short time I’ve owned it. With the fundamentals covered, I believe it will enable you to decide if a laser engraver is the correct choice for you and get a solid foundation.
Making your beginning laser engraver purchase
For newcomers, this is probably the most scary part. On websites like GearBerry, there are a ton of possibilities with different specifications, brands, and pricing. My suggestion is to kick off a little and inexpensively. Don’t spend all of your money upfront on a luxurious machine.
I chose the Ortur Laser Master 3 for a number of reasons, including its reasonable $599 pricing, favorable feedback, and decent 400mm by 400mm engraving space to try out multiple assignments. There are still many comparable choices, but I preferred the Ortur’s rotary control dials.
Recognizing the components of a laser engraver
Obtaining an extensive knowledge of your machine’s basic components will allow you to optimize it effectively. The following are the key elements I believed were crucial for me to become acquainted with:
- Engraving Head – This includes a laser diode that produces the beam, a lens to concentrate it, mirrors to guide the laser beam, and stepper motors that move the head left to right and front to back in response to machine commands. To produce exact engravings and markings on your material, the engraving head follows the pattern you’ve prepared.
- Z Axis – Moves the engraving bed up/down. You’ll adjust this to focus the laser and engrave at different depths.
- Engraving Tray – The Z axis describes the up-and-down vertical movement of the engraving bed. You may change the distance between the engraving lens and your material by raising and lowering the engraving bed using the Z axis. By adjusting the distance between the lens and the material, you can focus the laser for a razor-sharp engraving and also etch at varied depths.
- Laser Tube – Generates the laser beam. Greater power facilitates thicker material engraving at a greater price.
- Auto Focus – Some more expensive laser engraving machines offer autofocus systems that automatically recognize the surface of the material and adjust the Z axis for flawlessly precise engraving without manual adjustment using a light sensor or camera.
- Exhaust Fan – Dangerous laser fumes must be expelled in order to engrave. Ensure that it is operational and powered!
Materials required for starting projects
Once you’ve chosen a laser engraver, it’s time to shop for materials:
- Acrylic Sheets – Often called plexiglass, this is a classic starter material. Many thicknesses are available from 1/8 to 1.
- Wood – Pine: A softwood that is inexpensive and simple to operate. Pine boards that are 1/4 and 3/8 thick work well for producing trivets, name plaque sets, and plaque signs.
Basswood: Even softer wood that leaves less burn marks is basswood. Excellent for making elaborate ornaments, jewelry boxes, and name stamps. I have tested this material with my Ortur Laser Master 3.
Maple: This hardwood is still user-friendly for newcomers. It is appropriate for custom cutting boards, trivets, and boxes. Durability is provided by 1/2 maple.
- Leather – You can engrave leather bags, journals, and accessories. Suede leather yields the best results.
- Stickers/Decals – Create custom stickers and decals using adhesive-backed vinyl sheets.
- Engraving Paper – Specialized paper specifically for engraving text and simple patterns. Often used for making labels and gift tags.
Ensure that you have the required clamps, squares, and measurement equipment. Based on the complexity, some projects may require specific templates or jigs.
Getting software training
The majority of laser engraving machines include exclusive software for planning and designing engraving tasks. My GearBerry laser engraver also owns it. When using the software for the first time, remember the following important details:
- Speed – Determined by material thickness and density. Start slow at first then increase for faster engraving.
- Power – Higher power means deeper engraving but can damage some materials. Start around 10-20% and adjust from there.
- Pattern – Choose hatch, crosshatch, zigzag etc. Depending on the desired result.
- Direction- Engrave either horizontally or vertically for the best surface finish.
Examine the effects of changing the settings for a particular material. Before switching to more sophisticated design tools, take your time understanding the ins and outs of the provided software.
Although laser engraving is enjoyable, it’s vital to use your equipment responsibly. The key safety measures I advise are listed below:
- Wear proper eye protection whenever the laser is on.
- Never engrave batteries or materials containing chlorine.
- Ventilate the area well and avoid inhaling laser fumes.
- Keep fingers, hair, and loose clothing away from the engraving head’s range of motion.
- Avoid engraving materials that produce toxic gases like some types of plastic.
In conclusion, laser engraving can seem intimidating at first, but with the right machine and some practice, it can be a fun and rewarding hobby. This overview of basics should help you get started with your own laser engraver. If you’re prepared to choose one, GearBerry offers a wide range of high-quality solutions. If you have any further inquiries, please message me or leave a comment. Although I still have a lot to learn, I’d be pleased to impart what I’ve learned thus far. Tell me how it goes and show me your creative endeavors!