CO2 laser cutting of wood for the packaging industry

Laser cutting of wood-based products is one of the most important applications of CO2 lasers. Today, laser is a powerful, flexible and reliable tool: it made it possible to overcome the limits imposed by the traditional methods of machining wood based materials.

The advantages of laser production are many. Here’s a few:

  • it tremendously speeded up operations such as cutting, drilling or marking on various materials
  • it allowed to extend the use of materials such as engineered wood products for the production of parts and components
  • it allowed operations that couldn’t be achieved with traditional, mechanical, applications, due to the limits of either the material and the machines

It’s no coincidence that one of the first commercial applications of CO2 lasers was the cutting of plywood die boards for the packaging industry. This sector in particular has really benefitted from the advent of laser-based production methods. The reason is that CO2 lasers are perfect for machining wood, paper, cardboard and similar products, largely used by the packaging industry. CO2 laser cutting opened up a new range of possibilities for this industry.

But how does the CO2 laser cutting process work?

CO2 laser cutting, a precision technology

The laser cutting process in itself does not involve any mechanical force. It relies upon the physical and chemical processes that take place when a focused laser beam hits the surface of a material.

A high intensity beam of light is generated by a laser source, like one of our BLADE RF Self Refilling family. This laser beam is then reflected by a system of mirrors, until it passes through a lens which focuses the beam down to a small spot onto the surface.

This means that, in a single spot a fraction of a millimeter wide, is concentrated all the energy generated by the laser. The spot thus reachers a great energy density which causes the immediate sublimation of the material surface touched by the laser. In this way the  desired cut is produced.

Despite the highest energies involved in this operation, laser cutting of wood is a very safe process. The entire operation is controlled by a computer, resulting in great accuracy. The cutting kerf is very narrow and precise and no damage is possible, provided that the laser is properly set.

The cuts obtained in such manner have some unquestionable qualities:

precision: the CO2 laser provides accurate cuts. The energy is focused precisely on the spot indicated by a software. Since the dimensions of this point are very small, working tolerances are very tight, allowing very complex profiling paths

smooth edges: the edges obtained from CO2 laser cutting don’t need further finish because they all have a polished appearance

Reduced costs: the laser cutting of wood results in the absence of any sawdust, shavings or other leftovers. This, combined with the lack of blades or other mechanical tools, create a very quiet working environment

Laser cutting of wood can be achieved on different types of woods. The results can vary a lot, depending on parameters such as the type of wood, its density and resin content and, of course, the thickness of the panel that is going to be cut.

Laser and MDF: an example of success in the industry of packaging

The best results of CO2 laser cutting on wooden products are achieved on the so called engineered woods. Those derivatives of wood include products such as plywoods, laminated woods and medium-density fibreboard or MDF.

Not too long ago, the operations that could be achieved on such materials were scarce, due to intrinsic properties of them. All engineered wood are composite materials, made from fibers of chips of wood pressed together. This features made them unsuitable for accurate machining operations, especially at a small scale. That’s why they’ve long been overlooked as engineering material.

CO2 laser cutting made those materials suitable for a new set of applications. An example of this can be seen in the packaging industry.

The construction of packaging products is a very challenging business. A good packaging has to be tough, light and attractive for the customers. But how to achieve all those contrasting needs? Thanks to CO2 laser cutting, the packaging industry introduced new materials for the creation and design of packaging. This is the case of boxes, crates and cases made from laser cut MDF panels.

MDF provides the same toughness and performance of solid wood but at a lower cost. Those characteristic make MDF a perfect material for the design and engineering of packaging products like boxes, crates and cases of various kind. A CO2 laser is able to easily cut the panel in MDF in all desired shapes and dimensions. It is possible, for instance, to produce the various components to assemble boxes and crates. In this way it becomes easier to create containers of every kind and dimensions, that can be used to protect delicate products like fruit from the risks of damage during shipping and transportation.

This is only one example of the many possible applications of CO2 laser cutting for wood. The introduction of such a technology affected many industrial sectors anche the packaging industry is only one of them.

It might also interest you: CO2 Laser: a new technology for the fabrication of corrugated fiberboard and cardboard

Laser engraving leather: an asset for the fashion and decorating industry

Laser engraving is one of the many applications of CO2 lasers. This process uses the energy delivered by the laser beam to mark the surface of a material. In the last decades, laser engraving proved to be an effective and efficient tool for the manufacturing applications, especially for the fashion and decorating industry.

CO2 laser | Laser engraving leather

The variety of materials that can be engraved is wide and includes either natural and synthetic materials as well as metals. Wood, paper, cardboard, plastic and plastic films or rubber are very well suitable for CO2 laser processing. Those materials absorb very well the specific wavelength of CO2 lasers. This means a greater energetic efficiency of CO2 laser light.

Thanks to this feature, CO2 lasers are particularly suitable to sectors like the fashion industry. This trade largely handles organic materials like natural fiber tissues or leatherCO2 laser engraving proved to be an economically efficient and powerful tool for the decoration of fashion goods and accessories.

The decoration of leather, both natural and synthetic, is one of the branches that have benefitted the most from the introduction of laser as a processing tool.

CO2 laser | Laser engraving leather

Leather and CO2 laser engraving

The traditional approaches to leather crafting involves the use of hand tools or physico-chemical processes. Engraving the surface of a piece of leather is a matter of craftsmanship and perseverance. Those methods are not suitable for today’s needs of mass production. They are very slow and time-consuming: leather is a flexible but tough material and thus operations such as cutting or engraving take a lot of effort, expertise and time to be carried out properly.

CO2 laser | Laser engraving leather

The introduction of laser has significantly improved those drawbacks of traditional leather decorating techniques.

CO2 laser engraving of leather is based on the energy developed by a CO2 laser focused on the surface of the material. The high density thus obtained, produces the immediate sublimation of a shallow layer of material, leaving a mark on the surface.

Those marks have some great qualities: they are permanent, sharp and very accurate. They are also immune to wearing, scratching or fading because of light or mechanical aggression.

As all laser applications, the whole process is controlled by a software. A typical laser engraving leather machine is composed of three components:

  • a CO2 laser source. El.En. Blade RF Self Refilling is a perfect example
  • a laser scanning head. It can be boiled down to three main components: a X axis galvanometer, a Y axis galvanometer and a z axis actuator that dynamically adjusts the focal length of a lens. The purpose of the scanning head is to deflect the CO2 laser beam so as to to keep it always focused on the working area
  • a software. It translates the design developed by the operator into the a that the laser beam will follow.

Thus it is possible to create any model on the software and then transfer it onto the surface.

CO2 laser | Laser engraving leather

The advantages of CO2 laser engraving on leather

With the help of the software, it becomes possible to accurately control parameters such as the speed, power and intensity of the CO2 laser beam. Depending on those parameters, laser engraving allows a virtually infinite variety of effects on leather.

The advantages of such a feature are remarkable for the general leather engraving process:

  • A CO2 laser system is flexible:it is possible to rapidly develop and test new design prototypes and try out textures, patterns and other effects
  • The use of nesting software allows to automatically find the most efficient laser engraving pattern, thus minimizing the production of scraps and wasted material;
  • The controlling software is also able to optimize the efficiency of the CO2 laser machine. For instance, by identifying shared contours that can be cut at once;
  • It is possible to reproduce the same design over and over without minimal or no differences, resulting in constant quality over the time.

Those aspects of CO2 lasers make them an attractive tool for the producers of leather goods, especially for those operating in the fashion and decorating industry. The laser is a flexible and efficient device. Its possibilities are infinite, all to be explored and tested. It allows innovation and originality, freeing the designer from the constraints of traditional leather engraving techniques. And, undoubtedly, this is a considerable benefit that CO2 lasers can offer to the fashion industry, constantly driven by innovation and always in search of original designs.

8 reasons why you should adopt a CO₂ laser cutting system

In the last few years, laser-based processes have found application in nearly every sector. Practically every machining operation, that has traditionally been performed by mechanical tools, finds a laser equivalent. Lasers can currently cut, weld, drill, heat treat, kiss cut a very wide range of materials.

For the industrial sector, CO2 laser sources are widely adopted. The features of their laser beam make them suitable for a great variety of manufacturing applications and materials. A CO₂ laser is definitely what you need if you are considering switching to a laser based production process.

But what are the advantages of adopting a laser system and in particular a CO2 laser? How can it improve the productivity of your lines? Let’s make this clear using the example of laser cutting.

There are many reasons to choose a CO2 laser cutting system

1. You won’t need strong fixturing

Since CO2 laser cutting is a non-contact process, you need no strong fixturing to keep your material centered on the working area, as in conventional machining. In CO2 laser based process, no mechanical forces are implied: the laser head will deliver the laser beam where required.

This feature will speed up the transition from part to part or between sheets of different materials through a production run. In a small amount of time you will be able to cope with different design patterns for both additive manufacturing or fabrication.

2. Cutting flexible materials will be a joke

The absence of touching parts and strong fixturing speeds up the cutting operations of flimsy materials like paper or plastic film. When performing a cutting procedure, a laser beam is as sharp as a scalpel. Forget the fear of accidental distortions or cracks: a laser beam won’t push on objects with which they come in contact. Hence a CO2 laser will be suitable for both soft and hard materials.

3. Computer is on your side

Computer numerical control (or CNC) will give you a complete control of essential parameters such as the kerf and direction of cut. Thanks to the narrow cutting kerf allowed by CNC CO2 laser cutting you will obtain the most intricate and beautiful design patterns.

4. Reduce the wastage of material

This means that you also will be able to make the most of your base material. It will be easy to optimize the arrangement of the figures to be cut out from the surface, so as to minimize the wastage of the base material and optimize your ressources.

CO2 laser are great on wood, paper and the like

5. A slight heat affected zone means that your material will be safe

Laser cutting processes like CO2 laser cutting use the energy and heat conveyed by the laser beam to cut through a material. You might think that such a process would damage material as delicate as paper, plastic film or cardboard. Actually, the heat affected zones are so small that laser cutting operations are perfectly suitable for heat sensitive materials.

6. Cutting operations will be done at the speed of light

A CO2 laser cutting system is very fast. It takes only a few instants to cut even the most intricate and arbitrary contours from a sheet of various materials.

7. Perfectly refined and uniform parts

Lasers are so precise that they cut through without leaving any imperfection. Your produced parts will be perfectly and completely refined and uniform.

8. Minimize tooling costs

A great advantage of CO2 laser cutting over mechanical machining is that there is virtually no tool wearing. A laser beam will always be a sharp cutting knife, producing clean, smooth, round edges. Needless to say, tooling costs will be dramatically reduced, especially in sectors that process very tool consuming materials (e.g. abrasive materials and sand paper production).

In conclusion, laser based machining processes are fast, reliable and cost effective tools for your production lines. They allows great flexibility and repeatibility of the process, ensuring small to no variations between the parts. Switching to a laser cutting system will dramatically improve your productivity rate and make your work more easy and fast.

Laser Engraving Fashion Design: a sustainable application

laser-marking

The clothing industry is the second biggest polluting industry, being just behind the petrol industry. To give you an idea of the massive impact the fashion industry has on the environment, consider this: it is estimated that 10% of world’s greenhouse gas emissions are generated by the textile industry.

The textile industry is all but harmless to the environment since its production processes consume a lot of resources such as water, energy and chemicals for the finishing process. This has led the industry to research more sustainable and eco friendly processes.

One of the most polluting phases of the production processes in the clothing industry is the finishing process, e.g. fabric decoration. Research shows that laser technology currently is the most eco friendly and sustainable application that can be used to decorate clothing and fabric. Not only did the laser technology stand out as a viable and efficient technology, but it also allowed designers to innovate products and designs.

To be honest, the use of laser technologies in the clothing industry is not entirely new, but dates back to the early 60’s. From that moment on, researchers noticed the diverse advantages of this technology, such as precision and lack of wastes. After years of research, experimentation and applications, the CO2 laser has proven to be the most suitable technology for the fashion industry. The use of the CO2 laser is beneficial in terms of design as well as in terms of the company’s resources. All desired designs can be achieved, with millimetric precision, by applying the very vast and efficient laser marking processes on the fabric. The energy efficiency and the running speed of a CO2 laser source are incomparably superior to any other traditional production technique, resulting in a significant decrease of energetic resources. Furthermore, the technology solely modifies the surface of the material – this means that there is no need for water consumption or polluting chemicals.

Laser engraving for fashion design does not know limits in terms of versatility. Nearly all materials normally employed by the textile and clothing industry can easily be worked by the CO2 laser. The technology can engrave or mark either natural or synthetic fabrics. Recent studies have also revealed that this technology is highly suitably for the discoloration of clothing, in particularly jeans cotton.

The CO2 laser is especially suitable for the clothing industry due to its particular wavelength, which is well absorbed by non-metals and organic materials as they are bad conductors of heat and electricity. This allows you to achieve optimal results while consuming the least possible amount of energy resources. Inks, chemicals, and solvents are eliminated and there is thus no longer a need for large amounts of water: the eco-sustainability of the CO2 laser is thus evident.

This is also demonstrated by a recent study1 that analyzed the outcomes of laser decoration and innovative designs on wool and polyester fabrics versus decoration achieved by means of chemicals. The research paid particular attention to the weight, thickness, perspiration, thermal conductivity, and strength of the fabric after they had been engraved or marked. Both production methods have been tested with simple as well as complex patterns. The results have shown that the laser technology method performed better in all of the above named aspects, in comparison with traditional methods.

Besides that, the laser technology has also shown better results in terms of speed, precision, and resource consumption.

In conclusion, laser engraving for the clothing and textile industry is a more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly process than traditional methods of decoration.

1Application of Laser Engraving for Sustainable Fashion Design, G.X. Yuan, S.X. Jiang, E. Newton and W.M. Au, Research Journal of Textile and Apparel 2013 17:2, 21-27.

Hermetic laser sealing of plastic food bags: what it is, how it works, and the advantages

Yellow pear in plastic bag

Let’s continue our journey of discovery of the different CO2 laser applications for the packaging industry. In the past articles, we’ve already described how laser micro-perforation can drill accurate holes on plastic film to create packages suitable to preserve fresh food. Laser micro-perforation applications, unlike traditional mechanical micro perforation applications, offer speed, flexibility, and extreme accuracy.

In order to improve the shelf life of products, it is often necessary to continuously control gas exchanges between the interior and the exterior of a plastic bag. Laser micro-perforation allows us to tightly control these gas transmissions, allowing us to easily package fresh products as well as preserve their quality.

It is no coincidence that the CO2 laser has seen a broad application in this field. The packaging industry knows very strict production rules and specifications. Packaging must not only guarantee the quality of the product, but must also meet requirements in terms of mechanical strength, packaging hygiene, and food safety. Besides that, all requirements also have to be reconciled with an aesthetic appearance. Poor packaging could reduce the perceived quality of the product, and is thus a crucial factor in influencing consumer buying behavior.

In this article we’re going to describe another application of the CO2 laser: we will talk about sealing plastic food bags.

Conventional methods to seal plastic food bags

Why is the CO2 laser an innovative process for the sealing of food bags? To get an answer to this question we have to briefly discuss the traditional methods used to seal plastic food bags.

Traditionally the sealing of plastic food bags is a welding process achieved through the application of heat and pressure. In this process, two sheets of plastic film are joined and welded together. This process is mostly mechanical, meaning that parts of the machine have to be changed every time a different packaging process is executed, in order to meet the packaging needs of diverse products. Traditional machines are heavy, due to their working parts that need to be fastened securely.

A production line of this kind is not flexible, while food manufacturers may need to apply different packaging techniques within the same production cycle. This would mean that the manufacturers have to the change machine parts or perform other maintenance operations, which results in lower productivity.

Laser hermetic sealing plastic food bags

The process of laser sealing of plastic bags is part of the hermetic welding process of thermoplastics. The most commonly used bags in the packaging industry are transparent and made of polypropylene or polyethylene.

These materials absorb the 10.6 μ wavelength of the CO2 laser very well. The laser beam reaches the surface of the material to be welded thanks to a scanning head. Subsequently, the laser heats up the surface so as to reach the melting temperature of the material, allowing it to weld the two plastic films together.

The entire process is incredibly fast: the speed achieved with this welding method to hermetically seal plastic bags allow to seal dozens of pieces per minute.

What are the advantages of hermetic laser sealing?

The advantages of using a laser sealing system to hermetically seal plastic food bags are endless:

  • You can change the shape and size of the packaging material to be sealed without the need for long breaks in the production flow. It is not necessary to create custom-made parts since the laser can be applied to any type of container and to any type of machining even within the same production cycle.
  • The sealing can even be carried out on very thin plastic films without risking any damage to the material. This allows extremely accurate machining operations and reduces the amount of material used, and thus reduces industrial waste.
  • The CO2 laser is compact in size and light in weight since mechanical parts or other bulky mechanisms are not required. The laser system thus fits well into production facilities with confined spaces.
  • Like any other laser process, the welding of plastic bags is a non-contact process. This means, among other things, that it is aseptic, and thus perfect for the packaging of food products.

Required components for a laser system setup

You may ask yourself right now which components are required for a laser system set-up. It is difficult to define in detail the diverse components or elements that will be part of the system. Each customer has its own needs in terms of power, production speed, material to be treated, etc. However, it is possible to define the following three basic elements of a similar system.

CO2 Laser source

The CO2 Laser source generates the laser beam that will work your materials. El.En. CO2 laser sources are available in different output powers, ranging from 150W to 1200W.

Laser scanning head

The laser scanning head is a device that “moves” the laser beam while keeping it perfectly focused on the point that needs to be worked. El.En.’s scanning head executes this process at very high-speed thanks to the beryllium mirrors mounted on galvanometric motors.

Control Software

The advantage of laser processing is that the entire process is controlled digitally. Through the software, you can control all relevant machining parameters and perform on-the-fly changes without interrupting the process workflow.

What materials can be cut by a CO2 laser?

paper-cut-laser

Wood, paper, cardboard, plastic, PMMA. And also rubber, leather, metals, and ceramics: CO2 lasers can cut a great number of materials. For this reason, CO2 lasers have become the most widely diffused laser technology for laser material processing.

However, despite the wide use of the CO2 laser we receive a lot of questions on possible appications that can all be summed up by what materials can be cut by CO2 laserIn this article we answer to this question with a simple list of materials that can be easily cut with CO2 lasers (the links take to articles that examine each topic in depth): 

Fields of application

To go into the details, the following list displays the main applications of CO2 laser cutting, ordered by industry:

  • Papermaking industry
    • Cutting cardboard boxes
    • Cutting paper and cardboard
    • Stencil cut
    • Decorations
  • Woodworking industry
    • The cutting of any kind, and thickness, of wood, especially Plywood and MDF
    • Inlay fine wood
    • Engravings of any kind
  • Engravings and inlays
    • Laser engraving and cutting methacrylate
    • Laser engraving and cutting leather goods
    • Laser engraving name and number plates
    • Laser engraving and cutting textiles
    • Laser engraving electronic components
    • Laser engraving anodized aluminum and varnished metals. N.B.: the CO2 laser usually doesn’t cut metal but can label or mark them indelibly.
    • Engraving of glass, marble, and stones
    • Inlays on ivory
  • Creation and Customization
    • Laser cutting hollow punches
    • Laser cutting for architectural models
    • Laser cutting plastic, cardboard, or wooden displays.
    • Contour and cut labels
    • Personalizing gadgets
    • Personalizing buttons
    • Material machining for model making

The list above is just a short list of the many different materials that can be processed by the CO2 lasers: there are lots of other materials that can be cut with the CO2 laser. Research on the applications of the CO2 laser is still an ongoing process, of which experimentation plays an important role: only experimentation provides us with certainty about the possible applications. For this reason we invite you to contact us whereby the material you want to work is not presented in the above list. Together we will find you the solution that fits your needs!

CO2 laser and acrylic

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Let’s continue exploring the applications of CO2 lasers. In this article we will be talking about acrylic and CO2 laser.

Acrylic, also known as PMMA or plexiglas is one of the plastic materials that can be laser processed with success. In particular, CO2 laser is the right to do the job.

What is acrylic and why it is so successful

Acylic was discovered in the 1920s. However, the material only really gained ground only after WWII as a cheap and effective replacement to glass. Easy to manufacture and process, rugged and flexible, acrylic has imposed itself as a successful material for a wide range of uses.

CO2 laser and acrylic

Acrylic is also known as PMMA. This acronym stands for Poly Methyl Methacrylate and refers to its chemical formula which includes atoms of carbon. For this reason acrylic materials responds very well to the wavelength of CO2 laser, which is 10.6 micrometers. At this wavelength, acrylic is opaque to CO2 laser, which is therefore absorbed very well by the material. This feature, coupled with low thermal conductivity and a relatively low sublimation point (300 °C), allows acrylic processing to be done quickly and easily. As a matter of fact, the fabrication of acrylic materis is one of the applications in which CO2 lasers give the best results.

Laser cutting acrylic

The main laser processing technique for acrylic is probably laser cutting. As se we have seen, the interaction between the laser and acrylic is very efficient. That means that when a CO2 lasers interacts with an acylic surface, the latter absorbs a large part of the energy conveyed by the laser, which is focused then on a tiny spot.

High energy on a very small surface means instantly vaporizing the material and as a result we obtain the cut. This process is called by sublimation of the material. Sublimation causes the material to evaporate and therefore does not create residues, making laser cutting an extremely clean process.

The end results of this process is extreme precision and quality. The cut has clean and smooth straight edges that don’t require further finishing.

The acrylic laser cutting process is also incredibly fast. Speed ​​is related to the thickness of the material and the power of the laser source. But whatever the thickness, the processing speed will be significantly higher than the mechanical cutting methods, even if it is a CNC method.

The possibilities of laser machining are endless and, ultimately, only limited by the designer’s imagination.

Do you need a laser cutting system?

At El.En. we have a long experience in producing laser systems for the fabrication of acrylic. We can design complete laser system or integrate our CO2 laser in existing laser. For whatever request or question you might have just contact us!

Laser engraving of ceramic tiles

IMMAGINE 008

The fashion, decoration, and design sectors are generally very competitive. They require a continuous stream of products and models to be offered to the public. There is a constant search for new and original design which is capable of characterizing the designer, while at the same time being in the interest of the public. In fields like design, innovation mainly relies on the imagination of designers.

That is why introducing the CO2 laser as a decoration tool has been greeted with enthusiasm by the decoration industry. The laser allows remarkable flexibility and allows to overcome any limitation imposed by traditional decorative production processes. Especially in the ceramic tile industry the laser technology process has proved to be a great ressource. The introduction of the laser has allowed producers to deeply innovate the production processes, but has also allowed them to give space to the creativity of designers. Laser technology allows to reach quality standards that were previously unattainable, while at the same time saving ressources.

The CO2 laser decoration process of tiles is based on the removal of a superficial layer of the material. The system consists of 3 basic components:

The laser allows you to improve the quality of machining significantly. Thanks to the laser control software it is possible to obtain a level of control and detail on ceramic tiles surface which previously was deemed impossible using traditional decorative processes. Here are the main features of machining:

  • Well-defined lines: The laser allows to obtain perfectly defined lines on the ceramics, unlike conventional mechanical methods.
  • Very narrow angles: the tolerances made possible by lasers are very high. This means that even very complex designs can be easily realized.
  • Almost photographic quality: By adjusting the laser parameters appropriately, such as power and speed, you can get a wide range of shades making the image surface almost photographic.

Another advantage of a laser based system is its versatility that made it possible to experiment and propose new prototypes very quickly. Manufacturing gets very easy thanks to laser technologies, a tool always at the forefront of innovation in design.

Laser digital converting for food packaging

pepperoni-plastic-bag

The change in consumer behavior has augmented the demand for ready-to-use food. This, in turn, has resulted in the demand for different packaging types. The food technology industry has developed along and adapted in concordance with these behavioral changes, offering increasingly advanced food packaging. Consumers no longer want to be confined to plastic bags or containers, but want packaging types that are practical in use, easy to open, and that don’t require the use of additional tools. On top of this, consumers demand packaging types that do not sacrifice the freshness of food, which is a current priority to the ever-demanding consumer of today. The shift in the packaging industry is easily visible by solely walking around in the local supermarket. From ready-to-use salad to instant noodles, packaging has changed. All of this has resulted in the need to make customized packaging.

The challenges of packaging are not trivial. Traditional methods of processing and finishing of cellulose and flexible packaging are less practical in today’s market. The market has shifted from a time where general packaging suited each product, to a market where each product requires its particular packaging type. Due to this shift, traditional packaging processes have become disadvantaged. Traditional packaging involves mechanical machining; tools for cutting, engraving, and imprinting are used for mass production. Due to this, the packaging quantity has to be augmented in order to cover costs. This traditional packaging process limits flexibility and adaptivity, solely serving the mass packaging market.

Today, however, the market is much more segmented and demanding. The winning producer is the one who is able to best adapt to consumer demands and provide real added value to their products. This is a real change of paradigm, made possible by the establishment of digital production processes.

The laser is the protagonist of this change. Laser Technologies have been established in recent years as an indispensable instrument in the processing industry of cellulose and plastic packaging. Agile, accurate, and reliable, the laser is a non-contact process that is based on software control to achieve maximum precision in machining.

Laser technology is incredibly versatile: not only provides it the possibility to perform work in a more efficient way, it also makes it possible to perform tasks that were not previously possible with traditional machining. The laser allows you to personalize packaging in any way preferred. These technologies have opened up new possibilities in the packaging world.

Let’s have a look at some of the possibilities offered by the laser.

Laser engraving

Laser engraving consists of engraving a layer of plastic material. This technique is ideal for making packaging with an “easy opening”. Easy opening bags are those where the opening is engraved: the consumer only has to pull slightly in order to open the packaging material. This processing would be very difficult to obtain and costly with traditional methods. Thanks to the laser control software it is possible to accurately set the laser parameters to obtain the desired cut depth.

Laser micro perforation

Laser micro perforation involves drilling micro holes in the plastic film. Micro perforation is used in food packaging utilizing controlled atmospheres. Laser micro perforation allows you to obtain holes of any desired size, thus enabling modified atmosphere packaging. The holes are perforated precisely in the preferred size, to ensure correct gas exchange between the inside and outside environment of the packaging, thus extending the durability and freshness of these products. Traditional methods of micro-perforation did not allow this process to be controlled accurately. Thanks to the laser, modified atmosphere packaging has been made possible, guaranteeing an expanded and improved product-lifespan.

Laser cut

Laser cutting is used to cut plastic materials from side to side. The laser cut is suitable for creating very precise details, even when cutting on small surfaces. Holes for filtering, plastic containers with special shapes or openings can be made easily and quickly thanks to laser cutting. Traditional cutting tools do not allow these complex or high precision cuts.

A flexible and easy-to-integrate tool

Laser features have revolutionized the way in which packaging is understood. Thanks to the laser, it is possible to adhere perfectly to customer requirements, providing products with real added value. These characteristics enable producers to tackle the most recent challenges in the industry.

All of this can be reached using minimum effort: to install Laser System El.En. it is not necessary to revolutionize existing lines. Our CO2 laser is compact and easily modulated for all your needs. The laser can be easily inserted into systems and adapted to the existing features. No mechanical system can ever be as fast as the laser. As a matter of fact, inserting a laser into a production line avoids bottlenecks that are often represented during the finishing process.

Laser micro-perforation of plastic bags for fresh products

micro-perforation-plastic-film

One of the characteristics of CO2 lasers is that it allows you to carry out processes which were impossible to perform beforehand, because of technical limitations in the past.

The CO2 laser has introduced new possibilities that have been exploited to meet market demands. One of these advantages is, for example, the laser micro perforation of plastic film. This technique has proven to be very useful for the packaging of fresh products before distributing them to mass retailers.

Micro perforated bags with laser for the packaging of fresh products

Laser microperforation is one of the newest methods to create micro holes in the packaging materials of products. To do this, the CO2 laser is used in pulsed mode. Unlike continuous mode, the pulsed mode sends high-intensity light flashes on the packaging material.

Laser micro perforation is particularly important for the packaging industry of fresh products. An increase in the demand of ready to consume fruit and vegetables, distributed via mass retailers, has led to the development of new strategies to ensure product freshness. Controlling storage temperature and modifying the atmospheric conditions within the packaging of products are the two most important factors for the quality of fresh products. The packaging thus has an important role in maintaining the freshness of the product, as it works as a regulator between the interior and exterior environment.

Laser micro perforation allows you to optimize the conservation of these products, through an improvement of the product packaging.

Objective: to improve the breathability of plastic bags

The packaging materials of fresh products in controlled atmosphere are often seen in the form of plastic bags. These bags allow optimal isolation of the products, and seal them perfectly from external contamination of molds or bacteria.

But there is a disadvantage: the breathability of these materials. Plastic film is a material that limits gas transmission with the exterior atmosphere. For a proper preservation of fresh products this is a significant disadvantage, as fresh products are subject to metabolic changes such as breathing, exchanging gases with the exterior atmosphere, and producing gas from chemical processes that take place within the fresh produce.

To improve the shelf life of a product, a continuous gas transmission between the interior and exterior atmosphere of the packaging is required. The levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, play a big role in the conservation of the product. For this reason plastic bags must be perforated, in order to facilitate a proper gas flow between the internal and external environments. The amount of gas transmission required, however, differs from product to product. For this reason the perforation process must be properly adapted to the product needs. This aspect of adapting the perforation process, however, is difficult to achieve with traditional perforation methods.

Traditional micro perforation processes of plastic bags

Traditionally, the perforation of plastic bags is performed through two types of mechanical processes:

  • Heated or unheated needles: the plastic film is perforated by needles applied with or without heat. This process, though inexpensive, is slow. In addition, the holes produced have a larger diameter and can let contaminants, such as bacteria and mold, in. It is therefore not suitable for contaminant-sensitive products.
  • Electric discharge: packaging bags can also be perforated by means of electric discharge. The plastic film is passed through a high electrostatic voltage in which sparks are led through the packaging film to create micro holes. This process, even though faster than the previous one, is hard to manage. The hole parameters can not easily be checked. It is therefore unsuitable for those products that require precisely controlled gas transmission.

Laser Micro Perforation: accuracy in the service of the product

The machine that generates the best results in terms of micro perforating bags, turns out to be the CO2 laser. Micro perforation with the CO2 laser makes it possible to control the drilling process very accurately and obtain high quality results.

The CO2 laser is very well absorbed by most polymers and thermoplastics. The controlling software makes it possible to set the parameters to obtain holes of the required size and density, that let you create the optimum environment for gas transmission.

A laser micro perforation machine has the following advanta