It takes time and practice to learn how to use design equipment such as laser engravers. In laser engraving, mistakes will be made, and this is how novices transition into pros. However, this should not always be the path because there are simple things a novice designer can do to avoid common mistakes when engraving with laser equipment. This article will come in handy for first-time designers trying out laser engraving on wood.
Type of Wood -- Although wood is one of the best materials to use with the laser because of ease of cutting and engraving, it can often produce different characteristics even on the same setting. For example, softwood such as maple and cherry need less laser energy for cutting and engraving compared to dense wood such as sugar mum and oak. The reason is that softwood burns faster compared to hardwood. The density of the wood grain affects the uniformity of surfaces when engraving. Notably, softwood has small grains that produce a uniform appearance when embedded as opposed to the rough surface generated in hardwood because of large veins.
Masking -- Laser engraving emits a lot of heat, which can smoke or burn the edges of surfaces that you are working on. The charred look might be undesirable for artistic pieces such as plaques because of the aesthetic appeal needed. Therefore, to prevent such imperfections from forming on a finished piece, you might consider turning the laser power down. However, note that you will not engrave deeper if you adhere to this option. A simple fix is to use a form of masking such as a tape of moist newspaper placed on top of the plaque. The masking material absorbs heat and eliminates the majority of blemishes.
Setup on Laser Table -- When engraving large pieces of wood, designers have to decide whether to use the landscape or portrait orientation. The landscape position is preferable because it takes advantage of the speed of the equipment. Furthermore, with the portrait orientation of a plaque, you have to go through several start-stop cycles before completing the process. Therefore, when working on many plaques in landscape mode, you will spend less time on each piece, and thus, enhance your productivity.
Clean the Engraver for Optimal Performance -- Design equipment should be cleaned as regularly as possible for better results. Use the Owner's manual to guide you in the routine of cleaning the laser engraver. Common parts that should be cleaned after every week include optics, mirrors, rails, and lenses. However, if you are working with wood, you might need to clean more frequently because residue tends to clog most of these parts. A pressure washer and a suction device are the most common tools for cleaning a laser engraver because they remove the entire residue in the laser cabinet and improve the performance of the machine.