As recently as last century the use of lasers in everyday life was considered to be more science-fiction than reality. Today, though, lasers are used for everything from assisting medical procedures to fabricating parts for industrial machines and even creating valuable works of art. When it comes to laser engraving, a subset of laser marking that has been growing in popularity in recent times, there are a wide variety of practical applications.
Materials that can be manipulated using this advanced system are as diverse as wood, plastic, metal, and stone. There are several popular kinds of laser engravers, but the choice of equipment will depend largely on what materials are being engraved and how detailed the designs are. In fine arts and jewelery-making applications there is often a need for decorative and precise designs, making the use of a laser table essential. This piece of equipment allows for the laser beam to be guided more precisely than those used for less exact engraving.
Other devices include flat tables and drum engravings, in which patterns can be cut to a particular depth. This type of laser engraver is better for materials that do not vary greatly in height. More elaborate systems are needed for height-varied surfaces. Included in this category is a piece of equipment known as a dynamic auto focus system. This allows the height of the surface being engraved to be tracked by a pilot laser using infrared, ultrasound, or simply visual light previous to engraving in order to provide the best possible cuts.
Most applications for this technology use patterns created using computer software to directly communicate the intended design to the laser. Certain fonts and lines are better suited to laser carving than others, though, which can complicate the otherwise fairly simple design phase. The first applications of laser technology in fabrication in the 1970s were exclusively industrial. Since then, though, the associated technologies have become less prohibitively expensive, helping to popularize laser engravers for use in diverse other fields as well. Depending on the intended application, laser cutting, laser ablation, and laser bonding may also be used in conjunction with engraving to create a precise and beautiful finished product.