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Thread: Tips and ideas for lasers

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Cape Town, South Africa

    Tips and ideas for lasers

    Hiya all , I have sort of finished my article/treatise whatever and here it is , feel free to add your ideas or ask for more specifics on anything.
    Its VERY long

    1) Cut rubber foams or engrave them for box inserts , mount to wood for decorator type wall and fabric stamps (paint applied with a roller to cut shapes)
    A lot of co's produce instruments or tools and pack them in a case , the foams are cut to shape around the instrument which secures them in place - apart from which , cutting rubber foam with a die distorts it , a laser doesn't. Examples would be thin foam inserts for shoes , gaskets for an air cleaner and so forth. There is a huge demand for decorating type stamps , the images are generally hand cut , stuff like animals , letters etc. The laser will not only cut the foam but will deep engrave it with exceptional detail , the foams are adhered to flat wood blocks which act as a handle and then paint is applied with a roller , stamped on fabrics , walls and so forth. You use 10mm foams (available from most rubber supply houses) and can engrave them easily 5mm deep. Try various foams in respect of density - DO NOT use the harder rubbers sheets , very difficult to cut.

    2) Engrave High temperature silicon foiling material for hot foiling dies

    This is a high temp rubber bonded to an aluminium plate , engraved the same way you do stamps. The rubber can take a huge amount of heat , this is put on a machine that heats the die and passes a ribbon of heat sensitive foil under the die , the hot die "melts" the foil into the object where the letters stand out , used for printing metallics or colours onto various items like clothes hangers , pens , card and papers etc. Much like a stamp except you use foils for the ink. This is a VERY cheap way of printing large quantities of items. The Silicon is used for items that don't have dead flat surfaces as it does have some "squish". Its a form of hot stamping die. The downside is the price of the material (I think laserbits has it) and the fact that the dies are far shorter lived than magnesium , brass or steel dies (you can do metal dies using the etching method described later)

    3) Apply mylar vinyl (the shiny gold or silver - no need to use expensive "laser" vinyl) to metal , laser away the vinyl and then dunk the plate in a pyrex dish containing warm Ferric chloride which etches and chemically engraves the plate (use something like handy andy on a toothbrush to remove any glue residue before etching)
    This is an EXTREMELY potent application , I have posted quite a bit on etching and exactly how to do it. This allows the laser to chemically engrave just about ANY metal and get precision you cant even hope to achieve with a rotary type engraver.
    Look here :
    Here are examples of etched plates

    4) Cut rubber masks for the monumental engraving industry (they use em as sand blast resists)

    The self adhesive rubber is available from sign suppliers , it stops the sand used when blasting from impacting the stone and thus only the areas you peel away are blasted , the rubber is difficult to cut as its thick , but a laser can do far better than a knife or vinyl cutter in this regard, Gives a far deeper engraving than just lasering the marble or granite and its much smoother , applys to the glass thing below. You need NOT use rubber unless you are doing major depth blasting , you can use vinyls as well (laser friendly ones)

    5) Use the mylar mask thing on glass as a blast resist and get into "sand carving"

    Sand "carving" is selectively removing different parts of a mask and blasting , for example this was done in 2 stages , we removed the deeper bits first (the veins of the leaf) and blasted away and then removed the shallower bits and continued sand blasting the glass , the deeper bits got deeper and we ended up with a 3 D type image. it's not a great pic - but here it is
    This was only a 2 stage mask , you can use many stages to get almost true 3d - you have to work out the cuts you make , IE what to strip and when.

    6)Use 1mm UHI acrylic (ultra high impact) for stuff that must be springy but not break , bookmarks , money clips , memo clips etc

    UHI is a great for very thin acrylic that can be bent and springs back into shape without cracking as normal acrylic would , its cheap and its real tough and its laser friendly
    The part that bends on that bookmark would have snapped the first time it was used if it was either cast or extruded aluminium. Very good stuff to make helmet visors out of or to use in place of polycarbonate which is difficult to laser cut , it can take almost the same impact as polycarbonate would and the thicker stuff works well for vehicle security screens and so forth. Its a stack cheaper than polycarbonate too - available at most perspex sheeting supply houses.

    7) Tap the fabric industry , seal cut synthetics (sealed edges) , cut backs and appliques for the embroidery trade , engrave logos onto denim jeans , track suit tops etc
    Denim lasers fantastically , a lot of fabrics do and there is a huge market our there for custom graphics on jeans and jackets etc , apart from which the laser works very well to both cut and WELD synthetic type materials. If you defocus the beam and vector engrave a line over 2 pieces that are stacked , with a bit of experimentation , you actually get a WELD. what you do is tack 2 pieces and focus properly and vector cut them , then DEFOCUS and run the same vector line , you get a really nice clean frayless edge and the pieces can be properly welded on the 2nd pass - you can make fabric pockets and so on. Laser welding works with a LOT of other thin plastic films and so forth. There are a lot of industrial uses too , like cutting synthetic carpet material to shape , lasering logos in it etc.

    8)Die cut sheets of labels (like wine labels) for prototyping or offer a business card cutting service where you laser cut what a die cutter cant.

    Often labels etc need to be cut to shape , a die to do so for short runs or prototyping is real expensive , you can do the same with a laser , IE cut out the shapes. Dies consist of thin blades bent to shape , often you cant bend the cutting rule used in dies at very sharp angles etc , a laser does not have this constraint.The problem is registration on the printed sheets , but most printers DO print registration marks you can index to and do supply the die lines (cutting patterns) with respect to those registration marks. The downside is cutting thicker paper and boards produce a discoloured edge - one can avoid that by using nitrogen in the air assist line or using a short focal point lens which concentrates the spot size , along with that , reduce your PPI to a low figure so the boards almost "perforate"

    9) Matboard and the photographic trade , cut unusual shapes in mat board and engrave it for photographers.

    The matt board is the stuff that surrounds photos in frames , often photographers and framers want it cut in unusual or complex shapes which they cant do , for example they might want a custom oval cut in a square piece to frame a particular photo. Most framing places also often want labels on their frames , like a description of a photo etc , spectrum light and thin flexibrass are ideal for this , you can pick up extra business from framers

    10) Lighting - the laser is ideal to do many finishing or fabricating processes for the custom lighting industry , vellum , parchment , paper and other types of shade , translucent acrylic etc etc

    This is a huge market , light design is big and you can do all manner of lighting accessorize with a laser , go to the local lighting showroom for ideas here, have a look at stuff and think "how could I do THAT" with a laser". Perspex is very popular as when engraved and illuminated the engraving "glows". A small line bender and some gluing practice will enable you to build VERY complex lighting fixtures. Shades are also a good line , photo engraving into stuff like parchments or even the felxibrass with the gold underlayer work well , the light passes thru the gold substrate where the top cap is lasered (white too) and when the lamp is switched on , the engraving lights up , works with card too. There are specific acrylics available from Degusa , coloured stuff that is specific for LED and other illumination where it diffuses the light evenly , great stuff to work with. Interior designers are a good source to tap
    for this type of stuff. Combine your laser with a pex bender and a little pex/plastic gluing practice and you can make wonderful things

    11) Make your own coated metals

    Polish brass , spray with clear lacquer and then a colour , experiment with paint effects like marbeling etc.
    You can not only do this with metals , you can do this with acrylics and many other substrates , the laser basically vaporises the paints and exposes whats under - it's real cheap to try this , only requires a can of spray paint. We had a huge amount of labels to do , multiple 1000's in various colours , we just took automotive matt spray paint and sprayed sheets of ABS , the laser cut and engraved this real well at a HUGE savings over stuff like Rowmark etc. Turned out it was even more scratch and solvent resistant than the commercial stuff and we had total control over colours. Many sites on the internet re paint effects and finishes that can be put to good effect on whatever you want to laser.

    12) Make a STUNNING business card for yourself , like out of flexibrass etc - make it demonstrate instantly what you can do.
    This is the first impression people have of you , yes it's expensive , but the potential; rewards are huge. No one EVER throws these away and the WOW factor has to be seen to be believed. You will get work form others with this , we often suggest to a client to have 100-500 of these done with their 1000's of cheapies and hand them out to select clients.
    Heres a pic of ours. and some of others we have done

    13) Invest in a small perspex bender , they are a snap to use and than you can make all sorts of objects , like cellphone cradles , memo holders , pen holders , etc etc. Being able to bend and glue acrylics can open HUGE avenues and it really is NOT rocket science!!!.
    This is a VAST field that you can get into , a line bender is cheap - you can even make your own!! Look here for examples
    and especially here

    14) Make embossing dies for your spectrum stickers , you need a male and female , easy to do if you are already engraving the sticker , put sticker in between the 2 dies and press , voila , a 3d sticker (great for certificate seals etc) This is the same as making notary seals and is well documented on various laser websites.

    15) Perspex makes an AMAZING master for spun cast metal products (lowish melting point metals spun in cavities in high temp rubber) , the perspex gets distorted in the vulcanizing process but the moulds are perfect. All our medals are done this way , but there are tons of other promo products you can spin - find a decent spin casting operation and go to it.
    Essentially spin casting is a low melting point metal poured into high temp rubber moulds , the moulds are made by pouring liquid rubber around a master (original) and then subjecting it to heat (vulcanizing) to make it hard , then splitting it , removing the original and then pouring in the molten metal into the mould. Its a cheap way to make metal items and the biggest problem the spin caster have is to make the originals , which you can do easily. The bigger problem is that the moulds are big (like big pancakes) and they can multiples of one item in the same mould so they spin lets say , 20 items at a time (the
    moulds spin like a record and the metal is poured into the centre and spins out to the edges to fill the cavities - hence spin) So what a lot of casters do is make one original , make a single cavity mould and then cast a lot of those to use as originals for the BIG moulds. The hassle is that the new originals have now lost definition and shrunk and the spin off them will lose more definition and shrink more. A pex master on a laser can be repeated 10x easily , so now the big mould contains all CRISP originals - leading to a far better product when in production.

    16) Buy clock movements and make your own hands and faces etc , use your imagination and come up with something different.
    Not only can you make the hands and faces of clocks , you can buy cheap brass surround clock inserts and cut holes in perspex or rebate wooden plaques to make desk type clocks and so forth. Use funky colours like Lisa dye (edgeglow) and let your imagination run wild here - a photo engraved clock is a great idea.

    17) Reverse spray clear acrylic and reverse engrave it , you can then make your own background colours , fill the engraving and have a totally protected sign real cheap.
    The best paint to spray with is solvent based spray can stuff - but only prior to engraving , as the laser stresses the pex and the solvent will almost guarantee to stress crack it , so after engraving or laser cutting , the best type of paints to use are water based acrylics. This application is hugely powerful , for example one can spray acrylic black , reverse engrave it and also back light it to make wonderful instrument panels or replacement dials for car and vehicle applications. You have no idea how much folk would pay to customize their dash gauges and so forth , there are hundreds of industrial applications for stuff like this , especially if you can laser cut. You can use stuff like 1mm UHI and make very thin dials and gauges for meters and so forth. Glass paint works VERY well to "colour" in backlit stuff and is available from just about any craft shop.

    18) NEVER clean lasered acrylic , especially extruded , with ANY solvent , guaranteed to develop stress cracks.

    Soapy water is best. White spirits can also be used , meths , thinners , benziene and so forth will be a recipe for disaster as these stress cracks often don't appear immediately and often only develop and worsen weeks or months down the line. Extruded acrylic is worst in this regard as it is a short chain polymer. How to check whether Acrylic is extruded or not: Well burn a piece , if it drips molten flaming balls and burns with a silent flame , its extruded. The prime difference tween extruded and cast in our applications is how it engraves , extruded does not frost well but cuts better than cast. The PRIME reason to use extruded is the price and more importantly the tolerances. It is made by extruding thru a set of rollers and will be VERY consistent in thickness over a sheet - typically 1%. Cast which is made by pouring between 2 sheets of glass can vary by + and - 20% on a sheet - IE 3mm can vary between 2.4 mm and 3.6mm and this makes fabrication VERY difficult.

    19) If you can set your lasers PPI to low values , you can perforate stuff.

    PPI is how many pulses a laser fire per inch of travel , really only applys to cutting applications. The beam of a laser is not on continuously , it cuts by drilling holes. Ideally for the best type of cut , each hole should not overlap by a huge amount as this puts heat into the material and can cause all sorts of problems like remelting , discoloration and so forth. It increases the change of a HAZ (Heat affected zone). One might NOT want to thru cut on some materials and setting the PPI to a low value allows perforations , much like a sheet of stamps. We often do labeles in various substrates that are 2 part where at some stage they need to be separated , this is great for that. Another application is to use this type of thing on materials like Spectrums to make "security" seals , IE a label that if removed will destroy itself and demonstrate a user has fiddled with a piece of equipment etc. Big applications for this type of thing (Guarantee void if removed)
    Also can be used on card and paper applications especially where things are to be bent as often scoring with a laser is not precise enough in terms of depth and one cannot really gauge depth or get consistent results doing so.Cutting thin woods and other applications where charring is a problem can often be done a huge amount better by merely varying PPI.

    20) Use a cheap deskjet and deskjet vinyl to print shaped decals , send the cut to your laser and register and kiss cut , you have then got an amazing print and die cut operation. You can overlay clear or matt vinyl on the sheet and die cut thru both , giving you an overlaminated decal. Vinyls are NOT good to cut thru , tho kiss cutting is not so much of a problem in terms of toxicity , but more in terms of edge melts and discoloration - especially white. Most deskjet vinyl is not vinyl but polyester , very safe to cut supply a huge range , and I have detailed the registration type process here :

    21) Use the paper based vinyl application tape on glass , it acts as a blast resist - same when doing paint filling in wood or other stuff where you want to protect a surface.

    The paper based tape is cheap , almost somewhat translucent and resists a light blast with fine grit. It generally lasers without residue and can easily be removed if wetted. Its a marvelous mask and also had a dual purpose as in that it can be used as a test engraving area for positioning , IE mask the object and run the engraving at very low power so it just marks the tape - if position is fine , then remove the tape and laser for REAL. Makes great masks to avoid surface damage when cutting , for paint filling and for just protecting a surface (IE make , cut and then supply the piece with the mask on)

    22) Neoprene (wetsuit material) cuts and engraves excellently , make branded sweatbands , mouse pads etc , lanyard loops etc. use bright fluorescent colours
    You can either cut right thru or selectively engrave the black side or even selectively engrave the coloured side. due to the non contact nature of a laser , you can do stuff with it that most ppl cant as it tends to distort or stretch when being cut with knives and so forth. It can be glued or stitched and you can do some really creative stuff with it (the inner side tends to retain water and if you wet a pouch made with the inner side facing outward , it acts as a "cooler" due to evaporation , for stuff like cans , bottles and so on) Also makes very nice "pads" or feet for bases and heavy items o that they don't scratch the surfaces where they are placed.

    23) Combine materials !!!!!!!!!! Be creative , for example when making a upmarket sign , use a 5mm black acrylic backing , use a piece of silver/gold flexi cut slightly smaller atop that and engrave some stuff , use 3mm clear reverse engraved for other stuff , cut 4 small holes in each sheet and bolt together all 3 layers to make a stunning "montage"
    Even better - if you have other machinery like engravers or routers , the combination of each others output can make for some incredibly complex but high priced items. Think out off the box here Plenty items using multiple machines and materials on my site for example The base was made on an overhead router which also cut and engraved the brass substrate and starburst for the mask , the mask was printed in full colour on inkjet vinyl , laser die cut and domed with a clear epoxy resin, The pex was laser engraved and cut and this award illustrates the concept of multiple layers of pex. also illustrates the multi layer approach.As does , we engraved some stuff in reverse on clear and some stuff in the front on black and gold filled that - photo engraving was used for the "money" , was bolted to a plaque made on an overhead router.

    24) Formicas engrave and cut beautifully , they are cheap materials and are EXCEPTIONALLY durable (used on kitchen counters) , they can be wax filled etc and come in a zillion finishes and colours.
    This is a REAL cheap material that very few people can cut with conventional methods. there are huge markets for laser cut formicas from cladding supawood with wood grains for an exceptional durable item that looks like real wood right thru to signage applications and fantastic inlays suitable for industrial type abuse (counter tops , splash backs , restaurant table tops and so forth. Formica requires a fair bit of power to cut and can sometime demonstrate edge char , its good to mask light colours when cutting. formica is also flexible and can be bent round curved surfaces. You can get sheets of double sided mounting film (self adhesive both sides) and apply it to the backside of the formica and cut right thru it and the formica to make self adhesive letters.
    Makes wonderful business cards too - send engraved and inlayed samples to the formica suppliers to exhibit , they will send you a ton of work. (only lousy thing about formica is that the back looks horrible)

    25) Use gilding wax to fill engraved acrylic with the most beautiful golds , silvers and metallic colours. Use a toothbrush to work into grooves etc and then use a block with some cloth moistened in turpentine wrapped around it to remove excess. Even suitable for outdoor stuff (that rubb n buff wax works ok) the way the laser engraves with a rough surface works in your favour here , the gilding paste sticks like crazy in it. is an example , the black was filled with gilding paste. One should wait a while for the wax to harden before cleaning the excess as if you don't , the wax in the engraved area will smear or go everywhere if still soft. ne can also fill with Car type ducos or any paint and use the same technique to remove excess.

    One can never make money with a laser by doing a gift or 2 etc , you need to manufacture your own stuff or get high volume branding - think laterally. DON'T make cheap stuff or brand cheap products , the laser is an expensive machine and should be used to mark expensive products.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Merrill, WI

    Thumbs up Great Post

    Great Post

    Thanks for all the Info.

    Russ Yanda
    RVY Studios

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Gloucester, VA

    Thanks for the great read! Lots of very useful information in here.
    SawmillCreek Administrator

  4. #4
    the link for the information on registration process for the overlaminated decal in section 20 is a pay site. Do you have this information posted anywhere else?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    Thanks for that huge amount of ideas and information! Their are things in this article that never would have occurred to me in a hundred years. I read all of it with great interest and have book marked your website. Thanks again!
    Epilog Legend EXT36-40watt, Corel X4, Canon iPF8000 44" printer,Photoshop CS6, Ioline plotter, Hotronix Swinger Heat Press, Ricoh GX e3300 Sublimation

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Amarillo, Texas
    Your post is greatly appreciated, Rodne.....thanks.
    Equipment - LaserPro 30w, Explorer II, Camaster Stinger III,
    Software - CorelDraw X3, Aspire 8.02

  7. #7

    Great job. Many thanks.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Evolis Card Printer
    CorelDraw X5

  8. #8
    We are not worthy!! Thank you very much indeed Rodne. 25 possible careers and how to go from hobbyist to pro in one post.

    As a quick addendum:
    19) If you can set your lasers PPI to low values , you can perforate stuff.
    In Corel, you can set outlines to a dotted line, so even if there isn't an adjustment on your machine, you can do it artificially.
    (Outline tool --> Outline Pen Dialogue --> Style)

    24) Formicas engrave and cut beautifully
    Yeah, I know. I've got some marble-effect stuff that comes in a 40mm strip (€0.5/metre) that burns white when you zizz the surface and black upon harder burning, so I'm using it for business cards and bookmarks for a local bookshop. Wow factor for pennies. The white surface burn surrounded by a slower-burnt black outline looks rather good.

    3) Apply mylar vinyl (the shiny gold or silver - no need to use expensive "laser" vinyl) to metal , laser away the vinyl and then dunk the plate in a pyrex dish containing warm Ferric chloride which etches and chemically engraves the plate (use something like handy andy on a toothbrush to remove any glue residue before etching)
    A couple of questions here if I may? I'm burning in a domestic setup on a budget of zero (still! hmmph!). You mention 40 degrees centigrade as optimal. Will it still work (albeit more slowly) at lower temperatures (mid 20s)? How toxic is Ferric Chloride and what sort of fumes can I expect and are there any safety precautions/equipment that would help? Also, containment and disposal- do you use it once and dispose, or can it be stored betweentimes for multiple uses. Also, I'm guessing that you don't just pour it down the sink when you're finished with it.
    Your colour fill in the examples- did you use 'paper based vinyl application tape' (#21) or some other method? I will admit that my attempts at colourfilling so far has ended in 100% write-offs (but I've only had paper masking tape to work with to date...which sucks as a masking for colour fill but is invaluable for holding stuff down in the machine for those of you who are even more newbie than me).
    Last edited by Darren Null; 11-11-2007 at 11:12 PM.

  9. #9

    You are, without a doubt, a fountain of information for our industry. Thank you so much for taking the time to write down a part of your knowledge for each of us to learn from.

    Thank you again and anything you can offer is VERY MUCH APPRECIATED!!
    Bob Keyes
    CI Engraving

    60 Watt Chinese Laser (yeah,I like it), Corel X3, Engravograph, KM 2550, Heat Press.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Keyes View Post

    You are, without a doubt, a fountain of information for our industry.
    He wrote that almost 2 1/2 years ago, imagine how smart he is now!

    In case I hadn't said it anywhere else on here, thank you Rodney, you have taught me a lot and helped me one on one and through your posts.
    Lasers : Trotec Speedy 300 75W, Trotec Speedy 300 80W, Galvo Fiber Laser 20W
    Printers : Mimaki UJF-6042 UV Flatbed Printer , HP Designjet L26500 61" Wide Format Latex Printer, Summa S140-T 48" Vinyl Plotter
    Router : ShopBot 48" x 96" CNC Router Rotary Engravers : (2) Xenetech XOT 16 x 25 Rotary Engravers

    Real name Steve but that name was taken on the forum. Used Middle name. Call me Steve or Scott, doesn't matter.

  11. #11
    In my month or so of wandering the creek, I have come upon many jewels of wisdom and this one certainly qualifies. When I started, I opened a Word file, and have extracted various tips, sources, do's and don'ts from the many contributors. I do that each time I wander the creek. The file is many pages long, and eventually I will organize it better.

    It is truly amazing the amount of information available here. While I was putting forth my lackluster efforts at getting educated, my father would always remind me that no amount of study can make up for years of experience - or "school of hard knocks" as he called it. I think he said it during those times when it was obvious to me that I knew more than he did! Dad got a lot smarter as I got older!

    The experiences of those here are so valuable, particularly to those of us that are just getting started down this path! Thanks Rodne!

  12. #12

    I still have this post saved as a text file - it was the post that I found in '05 that convinced me to join SMC because I figured there would be a lot more that I'd learn from here... Still learning...

    Thanks again for the suggestions and the inspiration to follow through with my laser purchase in Dec 05 and take this up as a retirement business...
    Steve Beckham

    Epilog Mini 24 with 45 Watt, Ricoh GX 7000 Sublimation, Corel X3, Corel X4 and PhotoGrav, Recently replaced the two 'used' SWF machines with brand new Barudans.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Cape Town, South Africa
    To all, It's a pleasure , I got helped by kind souls on the internet and decided I would like to give back a bit.
    What would be nice is if those that have other tips and tricks add them or have a sort of wikki for lasering.
    Does anyone know how to set up a wikki? Would be a nice resource.
    John , what about posting that word file? Doesnt matter that its a little diorganise.

    To answer darren

    Will it still work (albeit more slowly) at lower temperatures (mid 20s)?

    Yes but it will be seriously slow , ferric or edinburgh etch (google it , a better way of using ferric) can at the right temp , etch .1mm per minute , ie a 3 or 4 min etch time , or at the worst 10 , vs 3-4x longer at 20c - an aquarium heater will do and is cheap , you get 300w ones.
    How toxic is Ferric Chloride and what sort of fumes can I expect and are there any safety precautions/equipment that would help?

    It's not too toxic , but its dangerous , rubber gloves , a coverall and googles are the bare minimum , if it gets in your eyes , see to it immediately. It will stain everything orange and eat holes in clothes but wont burn you like a true acid. It and its fumes will attack any metal nearbye so it MUST be used in well vented place - do it outside. some metals like aluminium , if used in full strength etch will fume and bubble , not sure what the fumes are , but its VERY unpleasant.

    Also, containment and disposal- do you use it once and dispose, or can it be stored betweentimes for multiple uses. Also, I'm guessing that you don't just pour it down the sink when you're finished with it.

    We keep it in plastic drums , we order 38 baum liqud from the manufacturers , tho you can get it in crystal form and mix yourself, Never pour water into it when diluting , pout it into the water.
    If you reasearch the edinburgh etch , you will see adding some citric acid (used in foods) will extend the life and better the bite of the etch.
    Normal etch goes and olive green and etch times are much extended when its spent. We pour it into the containers and give it back when we get fresh. I can assure you , pouring down a drain is bad bad news. Ask the suppliers about disposal.
    The biggest problem with etching is leaving the item in the etch too long , eventually it attacks the resist and undercuts , so you lose detail , ideally you want a short etch. You of course have to ensure your resist can handle the 40 deg c temps.
    Lots of things make a nice resist , even sharpie khoki pens can be a resist. You can also etch brass with chromic acid for an amazing effect , the etch has a beautiful surface when used and its almost like a frosted gold plating on brass.

    Your colour fill in the examples- did you use 'paper based vinyl application tape' (#21) or some other method? I will admit that my attempts at colourfilling so far has ended in 100% write-offs (but I've only had paper masking tape to work with to date...which sucks as a masking for colour fill but is invaluable for holding stuff down in the machine for those of you who are even more newbie than me).

    We generally dont use masks for colour and steer away from multi colour fills. The best way to colour fill is flood coat , wipe off excess with a stiff straight edged card , wait to dry and then use spirits to clean off the excess (not thinners)
    Mask the first colour with masking tape and then do the same for the 2nd colour. As you can see , its a schlep so we will always try find workarounds for multi colours,
    Colour filling , can be a whole story by itself , tho paper masks should work unless they are porous and let the colours sink thru to the adhesive layer.

    I have large format print and cut machines , and for complex colour work , we print and then die cut to shape , we would apply this to lets say a brass or another substrate and dome it with resin , to make it look like a $1 million rather than a decal. We also have vinyl cutter , so foten we combine vinyl letter with colour filling , for example a sign that would have a papragraph of big text and then a lsmall disclaimer , we would prolly vinyl cut the big stuff , and laser engrave and fill the small stuff.
    Colour filling large areas is fraught with difficulty and one gets a far better effect with a vinyl than an engraving , vinyls are now rated to 15 yrs outdoors. In your case , if you only have a laser , the big letters could be cut with a polyester vinyl.

    To answer the registration question :The secret is to cut a square in a sheet of perspex the exact size of the a4 paper
    Put an oversize sheet in the corner of your rulers and cut the "a4 hole" from home but a little way into the sheet.
    If the sheet is jammed into the corner , doing so after removal will result in the hole being in the same place everytime the sheet is loaded.
    The corel drawing of the hole is the outline of your printed sheet , lock this outline so it cant be moved. This is now your master drawing and if you use the sheet of pex , this master drawing will always be registered with the pex , if you start from home.
    When printing the decals , make the outline or shape of the decals on another layer.
    ALWAYS center the decals and cutlines/(outlines) in the a4 page when printing - DO NOT print the outlines.
    Paste the outlines into your "a4 hole drawing" and centre them in the page.
    Take the page out the printer , slip it into the perspex with the a4 hole and send the outlines to the laser for kiss cutting. The outlines and the print should be perfectly registered. One can have problems in that the x and y scaling of your laser is not dead on , you can correct this in software or the laser driver.
    We often print the top left and bottom right outline and just send these 2 to the laser , if doing big runs. This tells us whether we have a registration problem or not, If the cut lines correspond ar are near enough to the printed outlines , we know we are good to go for the rest of the sheet or the next 100 sheets.
    You will never get it 100% spot on so dont do teeny intricate things or use graphics where even a 1/4 millimeter misregistration would be noticeable.
    The decals you make can be domed too , and if you dome , you can add like a 1000% to the undomed price.
    Foir guys who do trophys/medals , you can make your own inserts etc.
    Lots of applications for contour cut decals in our industry , samwiched tween 2 pieces of pex would make it almost permanent and not susceptible to scratching/damage.
    Last edited by Rodne Gold; 11-12-2007 at 9:59 AM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Moreton, Wirral, UK
    Good ideas Rodney, can't get enough of good ideas that's for sure. Great post thanks
    Epilog 45w Helix X3/X5 Corel Microflame Generator (flame polisher) Heat Bender

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Houston, Texas
    Excellent post Rodney. Many great ideas to implement and or be a catalyst to other new and upcoming processes.

    Does anyone know of a vender here in the US that carries 1mm UHI acrylic (ultra high impact)? I did a quick google search and this post shows up. Could it be called something else this in this hemisphere?

    Thanks again and...
    Last edited by Michael Kowalczyk; 11-12-2007 at 3:41 PM. Reason: add 1mm UHI acrylic (ultra high impact) ?
    Have a Blessed day,

    Michael Kowalczyk

    Laser-Trotec Speedy II 60 watt with 9.4.2 job control and will soon upgrade to JC X
    Corel Draw Suite X6, FlexiSign Pro 8.62, AI CS3 and Lasertype6

    CNC Routers-Thermwood model C40 with 4th axis. Thermwood Model 42 with dual tables and dual spindles with ATC for high production runs,
    ArtcamPro 2010_SP4, EnroutePro 5.1, BobCad v21 & v24, Aspire v8 and Rhino 5.
    FOTC link

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