What types of laser systems are available?

Right now laser systems fall into three categories: XY Gantry Tables, Cylindrical Engravers and Galvo Laser systems. Within the three categories there are a few different types of Laser Power sources. Let's take a look at the differences between each category and type of laser system.

XY Gantry Laser Engraving System

The most common type of engraving table is the XY Table where the work piece remains stationary and the engraving head moves along the X and Y axis. This style of engraving system works in both a raster mode and vector mode for engraving. Raster mode means the engraver quickly moves back and forth pulsing along the X axis to build the image while slowly moving along the Y axis. This is the same method most inkjet printers use to build a printed image on a page. The XY Table can also work in a vector method to produce work. The engraving head moves along the X and Y axis to trace line paths. This is usually reserved for cutting work out or drawing basic shapes. The vector method does not require pulsing the laser, but rather relies on the speed of the XY movement to determine depth. Examples of the XY Table available from Hansen Supply are the LS100 or LS900 CO2 systems.

Cylindrical Laser Engraving System

Most XY systems sold today have the option of adding a 4th dimension to the engraving process. This 4th dimension allows us to engrave around an object such as a wine bottle or writing pen. Laser systems with the cylindrical attachments can be used in both raster and vector modes. Almost all Laser Engraving Systems available from Hansen Supply can be sold with a 4 axis rotary attachment. The 4 axis system is a bolt on accessory available at time of purchase or often as an added part down the road. The one thing to keep in mind is software capability. Most software packages require an upgrade to add a cylindrical attachment.

Galvo Laser Engraving System
 

The galvo laser system works with a stationary work piece and a stationary engraving head. The laser beam is directed by mirrors over the work surface. The galvo systems work in both raster and vector mode. The movement of the mirror allows for an extremely fast engraving process. Galvo lasers are often used in high production environments or where a long focal length is needed. Most galvo systems allow a greater distance between the engraving head and the work surface. For instance the Fiber200 Laser System allows for almost 9 inches of vertical clearance.

Types of Laser Engraving Sources

There are two general types of laser sources Fiber and CO2.

CO2 Laser Engravers

CO2 lasers are the most common wavelength found in engraving systems today. CO2 lasers are best suited for wood, rubber, acrylic, rock, engraving plastics, glass and leather. Will a CO2 engrave metal? The short answer is no, but CO2 lasers can make a mark on metal that has a coating. Metal such as anodized aluminum or painted brass work well. The CO2 laser also works with a chemical spray which is applied to obtain a black mark on otherwise uncoated metal such as stainless steel. CO2 remains the most popular and more affordable option among laser engraving technologies. Checkout the Gravograph LS100 (12"x18"), LS100EX (12"x24") and the LS900 (24"x24") laser engraving systems from Hansen Supply.

YAG/Fiber/Green Laser Engravers

YAG, Green and Fiber lasers differ from CO2 in that the wavelength of a Fiber beam is ten times smaller than a CO2 laser. This allows the beam to absorb into the metal material thus leaving a mark. Unlike CO2, Fiber laser systems do not have a wide range of materials that work well for engraving. YAG, Green and Fiber systems are primarily used to engrave metals like stainless steel, gold and silver. They are most often configured in a galvo system and are very fast for high production environments. At Hansen Supply we carry two styles of Fiber laser systems the gantry based LS100EX Fiber and the galvo based WeLase.