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Thread: Excuse to buy a Fiber Laser? 400 Exterior Stainless Tags

  1. #1

    Excuse to buy a Fiber Laser? 400 Exterior Stainless Tags

    I've been looking for an excuse to buy a fiber laser.

    For those of you running them every day, if you had to do 400 pieces of 316SS with 3-5 characters, approximately 3/4" tall x 2.5"w, would you go with your fiber laser or CO2 w/ Cermark?
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  2. #2
    Depends on what your customer likes-- I bought one just to see, and I have 4 fibers now. They make me money and quite honestly, they're utterly fascinating!

    ...but for typical SS ID tags, typically I still Cermark them, because Cermark is usually blacker and more consistent to look at...

    "Annealing" with a fiber can get you many different results, one of course is a nice dark result, wonderful for pocket knives, but it's more of a deep gray. But the caveat is, when viewing at an angle, the dark lightens up; I describe it as 'holographic'. Guys who bring me knives and swords LOVE it, but customers ordering stainless ID tags or operator panels for machinery don't want the wording & graphics lightening up. Or changing colors - the 2 pics below are of the same exact plate, just the viewing angle and light hitting it is different...
    an1.jpgan5.jpg
    --I have no idea why it happened. Haven't tried to duplicate it. Not a MOPA either, but I can see why a MOPA can do colors..

    Annealing is SLOW. MOPA's do colors by annealing so they're slow. Hatch spacing is very tight, like .002mm, laser fires at around 75kH, moves at around 300mm/second at around 30% power on a 30w machine. But you can get near-black much faster with brute force. But I've found it's more of a dark brown than black.

    If you need an excuse to get one, just get one because I said you should!

    more reasons:
    DSC08741.jpg (19 seconds to engrave this, and the detail is amazing!)

    fl2.jpg

    DSC07088.jpg --this is black plexiglas, check out the arch!

    DSC06905b.jpg--reverse engraved Lexan

    ss-grays.jpg-- small SS spatula- that the black came out quite nicely! (likely 18-8 ss?)

    ANY way, if you get one, I can *almost* guarantee you'll never know what you did without it!
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  3. #3
    Ross

    Every time I use Cermark I swear I won't use it again. The stuff isn't as good as it used to be. I have considered a fiber often and I have some business for one but at my age it doesn't seem to make sense.

    So I agree with Kev--bite the bullet.
    Mike Null

    St. Louis Laser, Inc.

    Trotec Speedy 300, 80 watt
    Gravograph IS400
    Woodworking shop CLTT and Laser Sublimation
    Dye Sublimation
    CorelDraw X5, X7

  4. #4
    1000% agreed on Cermark not being what it used to be. 15 years ago I cut open cans of Cermark spray to dig out the leftovers. I had to add lots of DNA to thin it correctly. The first big bottles of Cermark I bought in the old days I was cutting down at 5-6 parts DNA to 1 part Cermark. The crap I have now, It's too thin to leave a reliable mark at even a TWO to 1 ratio. I have some aluminum shot glasses I use to measure when I need more as 3 shot glasses worth is a decent batch. Right now when mixing 1 glass of Cermark I'm only using 1-1/2 glasses of DNA to thin it. That's ridiculous. It works good at that mix, but it's essentially costing what, 300% more $$? And don't get me started on that useless Ultra crap. I have a full 1000gm bottle-minus-1.5oz I paid over $400 for that I'll never use. BUT, I still Cermark many SS ID plates for several customers who mfr. machinery of all kinds, and the SS ski lift operator panels for SkyTrac, so I still have to use it

    Here's the email from eBay I got when my 50w fiber was delivered about a year ago,
    notice what I paid for it....
    fiber.jpg

    --aside from my three 30w machines (and a few pantographs from decades past) it's the least expensive piece of engraving equipment I've EVER bought, new OR used, in the past 47 years. And the thing is an INCREDIBLE upgrade over the 30w machines. The V5000XT rotary machine I've engraved aluminum legend plates on for 33 years is pretty much a catch-all table as I engrave all aluminum by fiber now. The 30's will do it but very slow to get deep enough to paint fill. The 50 will engrave aluminum to .01 deep nearly as fast as the tool machine, and I don't have to spend time washing any flood coolant off the plates afterward, run em, then off the machine to get paint... and never have to sharpen a laser beam! I also just recently found out the thing will engrave and CUT fiberglass--
    fglas.jpg
    - these are 1/8" thick 'holes' from fiberglass Hoffman boxes from a previous job- while the hole isn't pretty, I'm amazed the laser got all the way thru. Took about 25 seconds to this point, but needed a few more passes to clean up the far side. Focus is an issue with the thickness. The engraving, it got that deep in only 3 passes, at say 5 seconds per pass-- The bottom of the cut is mottled and a bit burnt, but the engraving gets paint filled so the roughness will only help the paint stick. Tool engraving fiberglass wears the tools, don't have to sharpen a laser!

    These things DO have many limitations, but all my fibers paid for themselves pretty quick...
    Last edited by Kev Williams; 07-30-2022 at 3:52 PM.
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  5. #5
    To add a bit of closure, I ended up ordering a 50W JPT Fiber laser from China. It was about $1200 cheaper that way and theoretically should only take a few days longer to ship vs buying from eBay or a US supplier. I placed the order Monday afternoon EST, it shipped Thursday and should arrive Tuesday.

    The funny twist in the story is, I bought the machine because the customer finally after months of waiting confirmed the order for stainless vs anodized. I hold off ordering the tags a few extra days because I needed to confirm it would work with a site inspection after they said they were going to use tape/glue vs screws like I spec'd. So they called on Thursday, and switched from stainless to anodized. So I arguably didn't need to spend the money on the fiber, but it still should do the job well, potentially faster, and I have a few other jobs lined up for the machine over the next few weeks that I could do with the CO2 but I'll try on the fiber like some SS flasks and some JDS Leathette products. After I get comfortable with it, I'll have to market myself a bit differently as we're more awards and this really is more of a machine for industrial use. I don't really want to get involved in random one off items or people's expensive guns/knives/jewelry.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  6. #6
    Fibers were born to do anodized!

    I have one customer who used to order laminate tags for the one-off things he builds. But these things get hot, and he was having issues with the tags warping.

    So for the past year or so I've been doing the tags in anodized. For these I buy the .025 black anodized sheets from Johnsons. The tag orders go something like this:
    30 or so 2-1/2" x 1" (give or take), about 10 or so 3-1/2" x 1-1/8", 15 or so 7/8 x 7/8, about a dozen 3/4 x 1/4", and a couple of 4 x 2-1/2" machine ID tag plates.

    I cut strips to plate length x 12", and set up to engrave up to half the the 12" strip length at once, using a 220mm lens (good for an 8x8-ish inch work area)

    I export the plates, however many fits down the 12" length, with the plate borders, from Corel to EzCad.
    I make a 'corner' as a zero stop for the top-left edges of the strips, and engrave the plates across the Y axis-
    First, I place the strips upside down, then lightly etch the plate borders for half the strip on the back, then rotate the strip 180 and repeat.
    Then I flip the plate over, and engrave half the plate, rotate and engrave the other half--
    --the plate borders on the back are my where-to-cut lines
    --repeat until the job is done, then cut 'em all out...

    Fibers engrave SO fast it's silly. One 12" strip of 10 plates goes like this: import the plates and align the first one, about a minute. Place one plate upside down, engrave the borders on half, less than 10 seconds all in, ... rotate the plate, engrave 2nd borders, about 6 seconds. Flip the plate topside, run half the engraving, about 15 seconds all in, rotate the plate, flip the drawing, another 10 seconds or so all in-- that comes to well under 1 minute to mark the backs and engrave 10 plates...

    It literally takes longer to layout the plates in Corel to get ready for the fiber than the engraving and cutting process. An order like the above will generate around $150-$200 depending on sizes and actual qty's, and from start to finish it usually takes less than an hour from dead start to bagged and ready to pick up. Material cost is about $6 to $8 tops. My customer tapes them himself, although I provide the tape so a bit more material cost, but like $4 every 3 months I can handle!

    You won't know what you did without it
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  7. #7
    I got the fiber in yesterday. So far, I'm relatively underwhelmed, but it takes me time to warm to new equipment.

    I'm engraving some bare SS flasks on it and I'm getting a good mark, but the settings I'm using are soooooo slow. 7 minutes per flask. It's obscene.

    I'm using 50 speed, 30 power, 25hz. .025mm line spacing with a 45* hatch. I'm not even doing the opposing hatch because it takes so long. This all with a 300x300 lens.

    Tomorrow I'm going to try to get some time to do some experimenting to speed things up. Do you have any settings you like for SS to get a near black mark?
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Iowa USA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ross Moshinsky View Post
    I got the fiber in yesterday. So far, I'm relatively underwhelmed, but it takes me time to warm to new equipment.

    I'm engraving some bare SS flasks on it and I'm getting a good mark, but the settings I'm using are soooooo slow. 7 minutes per flask. It's obscene.

    I'm using 50 speed, 30 power, 25hz. .025mm line spacing with a 45* hatch. I'm not even doing the opposing hatch because it takes so long. This all with a 300x300 lens.

    Tomorrow I'm going to try to get some time to do some experimenting to speed things up. Do you have any settings you like for SS to get a near black mark?
    Is that 30% power or 30 watts? I would experiment with more power and faster speed. With that large lens your losing a lot of power.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill George View Post
    Is that 30% power or 30 watts? I would experiment with more power and faster speed. With that large lens your losing a lot of power.
    It's a 50W JPT power source. I picked the 300x300 because of the curve of the flask. Didn't want to have focal issues as things went "out of focus" with the 200x200 lens.

    The power was 30% and speed 85mm/sec. I'm going to try to double the speed and power and see what happens a bit later today. I've been knocking off my work so I can get "training time" at the end of the day.

    If I can get the job down to around 3 mins, it works for me for now. At 7 minutes, it's just too long of a run time.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
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    Iowa USA
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    The larger the Lens the less effective power going to the work. At 30% power it would normally be 15 watts but with that larger lens its down to ?? Somebody smart knows how to figure it out. Seems the smaller the lens the smaller the dot and more concentrated.
    This video explains it better. > https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cpF5PGA0to
    Last edited by Bill George; 09-28-2022 at 5:21 PM.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  11. #11
    So you pick a fiber laser's Achilles Heel as a first test

    Fiber lasers will darken/blacken stainless, but it's THEE weak point of a fiber, simply because it's such a SLOW process-- The same is true with full-color MOPA fibers, very very slow. The second weakest point of a fiber is engraving via rotary. A fiber beam is steered by mirrors rather than specific XY axis's, so there's no 'raster scanning' by fiber-- a raster machine's rotary axis replaces the gantry's Y axis, so the Y rotary axis does the same thing as a gantry Y axis, which is it moves a specific distance per 1 X-axis pass. A fiber rotary, in general, engraves a certain distance across the Y axis, then rotates a certain distance, then continues on-- this works GREAT when engraving non-connected text, or individual non-connected graphics. But when it comes to aligning several sections of broken-up graphics into a single, smooth uninterrupted engraving, well-- it simply can't and won't happen except by sheer luck- the reason is the fiber is engraving a bazillion lines that are .05-ish MM apart, and it's near impossible to join 3 or 4 broken sections perfectly together based on diameter x pi measurements--

    I've engraved exactly ONE stainless flask on a fiber, just to test, this is the result, how 'well' the sections joined is clearly evident...
    cup1.jpg cup2.jpg
    This whole thing was an exercise in frustration! On the lower part of the right pic, I got close, but if you look hard you'll notice that while the bottom half of the logo lined up pretty well, the upper half still shows hash marks where the seams didn't meet correctly... All stainless flasks I've engraved since have been done via C02 and Cermark...

    now, powdercoated flasks on the other hand, depending on the artwork, can be done nicely by a fiber rotary--
    I just made and uploaded this video, I'm in the middle of the SECOND 500 of these things-! If I had to do them by C02 I'd still be on the FIRST 500!
    Note, I suck at making video's, sorry!

    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  12. #12
    BTW Ross, try these settings for black "annealing" :

    ONE hatch, don't cross hatch,
    hatch spacing, .0025mm
    speed: 350mm/sec
    power: try 25% with your machine (my 30 watters like 30-35%)
    freq: 72... don't ask why 'exactly' 72, I just like it

    AND-- after much experimenting, I've settled on THESE settings for the 'bottom four' settings on ALL 4 of my machines:

    START TC - 70
    LASER OFF - 135
    END - -150
    POLYGON - 85

    these settings work well for me, and you might find the machine engraves noticeably faster with these settings too--

    ALSO, to explain a bit the "hatch one by one" mentioned in the video-- The rotary will move automatically, IN ROTATE TEXT MODE', to each individual grouped object and center it. This is automatic when using text FROM the EZcad program... If you import text in DXF, then it's not text, but a graphic, so each letter must be grouped separately. BUT, you only need to group "hollow" letters, so the holes don't fill when hatching.

    So if you choose 'hatch one by one' then everything is hatched as an individual object, and the rotary will move to engrave just that object. You can group however much you want as one object, and it's okay as long as you keep the Y-axis width to a fair minimum; going too far means out of focus and over-stretching the graphic at the far edges... hope that makes sense!
    Last edited by Kev Williams; 09-28-2022 at 7:02 PM.
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Iowa USA
    Posts
    3,970
    I don't think he is using a rotary, with the Depth of Field with that large lens he is covering the area. But with that large lens, the density of the spot is not so intense so I think he would need to increase the power to compensate.
    Retired Guy- Central Iowa. , Cloudray Galvo Fiber , WorkBee 1000x750 CNC Router - Mach4 - Windows 10

  14. #14
    The cup I engraved in the video, I've accidentally engraved 2 of them when the rotary wasn't engaged-- Looks okay, except for the first 3 and last 3 letters, they're so far around the arc they barely engraved, and they're profusely stretched--
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  15. #15
    So I didn't see your post Kev. I'll try those settings tomorrow. I tried 250mm/sec, 38 power, and 25hz tonight and it was close to being as good as the settings I listed above but not quite as good. The engraving had a bit of texture and it wasn't quite as dark from every angle. I think it was a bit too hot. I found speeding up didn't give me the results I wanted so I'll probably just dial the power back a bit. With that said, the run time was a more reasonable 3 mins vs 6 mins. If I can dial things in a bit better, I'd say it's better than using Cermark. I'm not a big fan of Cermark in general and I'd guess the run time on this job would be close to 3 mins on my CO2 with Cermark so it's pretty even.

    Regarding the 300x300 lens, it engraves the curve of the flask without any problem. Most of the graphic is in the middle so that helps, but there's no way I'd consider doing this on a rotary. That just seems to be asking for trouble. One of the reasons I went with 50W was so I could use a 300x300 lens and still have enough grunt.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

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