WHAT IS A LASER?
The word "laser" is an acronym for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". Lasers create an intense beam of light by the emission of photons from excited molecules. The power of that beam of light is then focused to a single point, creating enough energy to heat or ablate (vaporize) the material. Lasers can be used on many different materials for a wide variety of applications, like drilling and cutting, measurement, and surgery.
There are are many different types of lasers used in our industry - CO2, Fiber, Nd-Yag, and others. Our in-house equipment is CO2, (the original type of laser) which has far-reaching applications. CO2 lasers interact with items by melting, charing, fracturing, fusing, or ablating (vaporizing) materials.
WHAT IS VECTOR CUTTING?
Vector cutting is an incredibly precise process for cutting materials. The laser head moves along the contour path defined in the graphic design or CAD file (simultaneously moving in the X and Y directions) with the laser beam continuously on. Vector files are used for laser cutting. Different materials require different speed/power/frequency settings for successful cutting. We vector cut many different materials -> Wood, paper, plastic, cardboard, leather, foam-core, acrylic, and more. The video below shows our 50-watt laser vector cutting 1/4" thick cherry.
WHAT IS RASTER ENGRAVING?
Raster engraving is different from vector cutting (above) in that the laser head scans left and right across the laser bed while the beam turns on/off as needed to burn your design one line at a time. It's akin to an ink jet printer, but instead of marking with ink it uses a powerful laser beam. The video below shows our 50-watt laser raster engraving black walnut.
WHAT IS VECTOR SCORING?
If your artwork is only comprised of lines, sometimes vector scoring is more efficient than raster engraving (which is a relatively slow process). Vector scoring is similar to vector cutting, but rather than cutting all the way through your material, the power is reduced so that the laser burns a line into the surface of the material. The video below shows our 50-watt laser vector scoring an accent border around raster engraved text on black walnut.
WHAT IS LASER ETCHING ON METAL?
Lasers put a fantastic permanent mark on metals. Anodized aluminum etching leaves a bright easily readable silver/white mark. Stainless steel, copper, and brass are marked with a ceramic solution, which when combined with the intense heat from the laser turns the surface of your material jet black. This is great for IUID labels, stainless steel tumblers, and other promotional products. Instead of ablating material (remove metal) from the surface, it reacts with the surface to create a very durable mark.
WHAT LASER EQUIPMENT & PROGRAMS DO YOU USE?
1. Epilog Helix
Our primary system is a 50-watt CO2 laser with a 24" x 18" bed. Its 50 watts of power is excellent for highly detailed laser engraving/cutting. It can handle items 8.5" thick and up to 70 pounds. Our Helix can engrave, cut, or etch many materials including glass, wood, acrylic, anodized aluminum, plastics, paper, cork, and leather.
2. Epilog Rotary
Our Epilog rotary allows us to cut or engrave cylindrical objects like pint/wine glasses, bottles, and stainless steel tumblers (like Yeti, Swell, & RTIC). With 50 watts of power, it's great for extremely detailed rotary laser engraving, cutting, and marking.
3. Corel Draw Graphics
With Corel Draw, we can create a design for you or convert your image/logo to a laser compatible graphic or vector image.
Photoengraving (engraving various shades of gray) to yield a sharp and recognizable image can be a difficult and expensive process. We're now using "Inkwork" to convert your photos (jpeg, bmp, etc) into laser engravable images. The result is a high contrast black and white image that's perfect for laser engraving.
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU WORK WITH?
We specialize in glass, wood, leather, cork, and acrylic - But work with many others.
WHAT TYPE OF ARTWORK DO YOU NEED?
Laser engraving is a black & white medium. Since colors and shades of gray don't translate well into engraving, search for black & white artwork files. The best file format for laser processing is a vector file. Instead of defining images with bitmaps (like bmp, jpeg, and png files), vector files use equations. The equations allow vector files to be infinitely expanded without becoming grainy. Ask your company or club if their logo/image is available in vector format (often an Adobe Illustrator file), or speak with someone in their advertising or graphic design department for help.
No worries though, Four Dog Designs has in-house graphics capability to help with all aspects of your project.