Laser engraving machines have many advantages over traditional engraving methods like sand blasting, diamond cutting or chemical etching. They can cut, mark and engrave plastic, metal, wood, glass, stone, ceramic, rubber, acrylic, textiles and many other materials quickly and easily. By not physically touching the material, laser engraving machines do not wear down and have lower maintenance costs than the other methods. In addition, these engraving machines do not require harsh chemicals which can be expensive and troublesome to dispose. When paired with a computer, laser engraving machines can become a powerful and convenient design tools. The computer treats the laser engraving machines as if they were printers and allows the user to use scanners or common drawing software to make new designs. Modern laser engraving machines are now more compact and cheaper than ever before.
The first decision to make when you are in the market for laser engraving machines is the maximum size of the materials to engrave. The larger the size, the more expensive the system. As It can be very frustrating to consistently not be able to realize your designs because the objects are too big for your machine, you should invest in the largest size that will often use.
The next decision is to determine how fast of a system you need. The speed of the laser engraving machines is directly proportional to the power of the laser. If you have to do many engravings at a time, it may be worth the extra money to get a faster engraving machine. On the other hand if you only do one or two pieces at a time and can wait for them to process, a cheaper system may be more than suitable. Finally you should consider that if you are also interested in cutting materials, a more powerful laser can cut more materials.
Look for servo motors or high precision motors and enhanced laser options if you need fine detail etching. If you are working with small objects with very fine engravings, better motors give the computer more precise control during the etching process. Beam enhancing optics makes the laser beam more precise. The auto focus capabilities allow the laser to adjust its focus on on curved or irregular surfaces.
Many engraving systems have a light that shows exactly where the laser is pointing. This is very useful during the engraving process as it allows you to watch the laser cut and determine if the the result is what you expected. This is becoming a very common feature on most laser engraving machines, but it is not always available on the older models.
Consider whether you want an air blowing system, which puffs cool air across the material as the laser cuts. The process removes debris and smoke during the etching process. It is standard on many systems, but not on all. However, it is critical safety feature when cutting things like acrylic or other flammable materials.
Consider whether you need an integrated vacuum table to hold thin materials flat so they do not curve during processing.This feature is critical for cutting thin plastic, wood aluminum or any material that can warp or curl. It is not very useful if you plan to only cut thick or bulky items.