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Behind the scenes – The magic of our Laser Engraving Machine

I talk a lot about Laser engraving and Laser cutting and some of our work is based on that. 

Since I invested in this machine, the way I get creativity has changed. It's like a dream come true and this is my Ferrari 🙂Click To Tweet

Today, I’ll share a bit about this world of Laser Engraving / Cutting.

Laser Cutting Machine - PaperSTudioByC

Laser engraving/cutting machine at our studio

You can have a Laser Cutting machine anywhere you want. Before you can start, you need 4m2 free space (machines like mine), a good trainer at the beginning, a lot of material to test and test and test, a computer, electricity, and your creativity 🙂 Simple, right?

 

So, What is a Laser Engraving machine?

The word laser is an acronym. It’s short for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

I know, some of you wanted to fall asleep as soon as you read that phrase, while others are probably thankful you can refer to it simply as “laser”.

The general description of laser engraving is the practice of using lasers to engrave an object or a subtractive manufacturing method, that uses a laser beam to change the surface of an object. This will cause a color change due to the chemical/molecular alteration, due to the charring or melting.

These machines are not printers, and the color can change depending on the material we are using.

 

And, How does it work?

The laser source generates a powerful and precise beam of light able to heat and evaporate the material and its focus point.

Laser engraving is a process that vaporizes materials into fumes. The laser beam acts as a chisel, incising marks by removing layers from the surface of the material.

Laser Cutting Machine - PaperSTudioByC

60 x 40 cm to work with a machine that makes everything we command. YAY!

Here’s a really basic summary of the way laser equipment works:

1. The equipment is hooked up to a source of energy, like electricity.

2. The energy passes through a specialized material inside (laser-tube) and gets the material’s atoms all excited, as if they’ve had too much caffeine.

3. The atoms discharge that extra energy in the form of bits of light called photons.

4. Mirrors inside of the equipment focus the photons and produce a concentrated beam of light – the laser beam.

5. The energy from that light gets converted to heat energy, so using a laser to decorate an item essentially burns the item’s surface (very, very carefully!). The computer calibrates the temperature of the laser beam, the velocity of cut, and the area it covers so it only decorates the spot specified that we pre-select.

I have to clean some items every day before using it again.

Laser Cutting Machine - PaperSTudioByC

I have to remove all leftover materials and clean the black surfaces with baby wipes.
The lenses and mirrors must be cleaned carefully with cotton swabs and glasses wipes. In the end, I have to place the laser at the correct height, for a perfect finish.

The sticky tape you see in the photo is to hold the material (wood, acrylic, or cork), so it doesn’t move, while the laser works.

The x-act is to cut some tiny parts that sometimes (rarely) happen not to cut.

 

What kind of laser do we use?

Our laser is a 40W CO2 laser. This CO2 laser contains chambers that are filled with carbon dioxide gas. It’s a low-energy machine that is great for engraving materials like wood, glass, acrylic, cork, and fabrics. Yes, I said cork. I’ve been working on that, but nothing online yet 🙂

We can cut 1cm or 0.4in of thickness, but I usually use materials that are 3mm or 1/8 in.

 

So, how does the laser engraving create a design?

Firstly, we need a computer to design what we want to engrave. Then, we need a software that translates our graphics files (vector images) into lines. Each machine comes with a program that reads our files. We select different layers to each line depending on our goal. 

The picture below shows you four types of layers. The RED is engraving, the BLUE is a dot, the GREEN and BLACK are cut. Colors are optional, but I usually use those.

Laser Cutting Machine - PaperSTudioByC

The program reads the files we import and we convert each action in different layers (color of the layers at top right).

I want to show you the magic of this machine. We can create so much detail and perfection, and that was always what I wanted. Detail and perfection is my main priority, as you will see in the examples below:

Laser Cutting Machine - Wooden Starfish - PaperStudioByC

Wooden Starfish on our Beach Wedding Invitations

Since we stopped working with natural starfish, we create our own wooden starfish. This is something unique. I don’t know if anyone else produces these, but we create our own and are not for sale. I know, it’s a lot of engraving, but we are saving thousands of natural starfish and that gives me a good reason to continue creating these ones. I didn’t increase the price of my Beach Invitations and I’m so happy that brides and grooms can see the beauty of them and understand the purpose of using wood instead of the natural ones.

It takes 1 hour to produce 80 medium and 120 smaller wooden starfish. It’s a lot of time! But I prefer it this way!

Laser Cutting Machine - Magnet Save the Dates - PaperStudioByC

Find more Engraved Save the Dates

This is a custom magnet Save the Date and you can see the details and perfection that we create, right? Each line, each point is perfectly engraved and that’s a dream come true.

Laser Cutting Machine - LAser Cut Invitations - PaperStudioByC

Details here: Laser Cut Wedding Invitation

I’ve seen a lot of Laser Cut Invitations, but these are made on our Laser Cutting machine. The paper is 275gr / 9.7oz weight that gives a robust finishing, so there is no comparison between that and thin paper such as 80gr / 2.82oz.

It takes 8 minutes to make this pocket. We need the air in the maximum, and have to clean all the ash created while cutting. It took us a whole day just to make a few of them.

 

Now I have a simple question for you and I would love to know your answer 🙂

Look at the picture below. If I used the engraving finishing in the first one (at the top), what finishing did I use in the second one (at the bottom)? 

Laser Cutting Machine - Gift Wooden Tags - PaperStudioByC

More tags: Gift wooden tags


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