Galvo heads for laser: focus on a powerful tool

The laser scanning heads are a fundamental component of the galvo systems for laser cutting and marking. These devices deflect the laser beam coming from the source and move it along the X and Y axes according to the operation required.

A mirror galvanometer and a z-linear optic inside a Galvo Scanning Head El.En. GioScan 1735

The components of a galvo head for laser

A scanning head is made of different components.

Galvo mirrors

El.En.'s complete range of galvo mirrors

Mirrors mounted on galvanometric rotary motors deflect the laser beam. These motors transform electrical voltage into angular movement.

The mirrors, mounted perpendicularly on the engines, move the laser beam along the X and Y axes according to the input received from the motor.

The big advantage of these devices is that they can reach a very high acceleration and speed of movement.

The size of the mirror depends on the laser beam. As the diameter and the power of the beam increase so must the diameter of the mirror. The same size in turn influences the acceleration and speed of the engine’s angular movement. The smaller mirrors reach higher accelerations than the larger mirrors.

In the range of El.En.’s products there are galvanometric mirrors for different applications. Find out more about our complete 2-axis CO2 laser galvanometer mirror line on our website.

Z-linear optics

El.En.'s z-linear optics

Galvo mirrors are not the only components of a scanning head. The z-linear lens, which focuses the laser on the work surface, has an important role to play too.

To focus the laser beam and get it to work optimally, the focal length of the lens must vary based on the distance between the scanning head and the point it needs to reach on the surface.

The z-linear lens changes the focal length in real time and maintains the laser beam in focus regardless of its distance from the workpiece.

The control software

The control software makes sure that all the moving parts of the scanning head stay coordinated.

It transforms a vector file (the place where the work to be performed is described), into a path for the laser beam. The control software makes the galvo head and the laser source work together to achieve the desired result.

What processing can be performed with a laser galvo head?

As previously mentioned, the laser galvo heads are mainly used for cutting and laser marking.

Laser galvo cutting

Galvo heads make it possible to reach high processing speeds for cutting applications. Galvo heads are perfect for the processing of thin materials such as paper, cardboard and plastic film.

The head can cut out any shape quickly.

Some of the industries that benefit most from the use of galvanometric motors are the adhesive label sector that use kiss-cutting applications and the packaging industry that uses galvo-laser applications to make products with advanced features.

Galvo laser marking

A sheet of fabric engraved with galvo-laser marking

The main marking applications include the marking of various types of alphanumeric codes, such as barcodes and QR codes, and the engraving of ornamental motifs for decoration.

Laser marking can be performed on different materials such as thermoplastic polymers, wood, fabrics, leather, metals, glass.

In the case of transparent materials it is also possible to perform the impression of three-dimensional figures inside the object.

The advantages of laser galvo heads

Laser applications get many advantages from the use of galvo heads:

  • Speed ​​- The galvanometric motors reach very high angular speeds. This means that the laser beam moves over the surface of the workpiece with speeds reaching tens of centimeters per second. Thanks to this the productivity of a laser galvo system is very high.
  • Integration – Precisely because of this characteristic, galvo laser systems are suitable for integration into larger production flows. A laser galvo system consisting of a scanning head and a laser source performs best when inserted into automated processes. Furthermore, it is compact enough to be easily added to pre-existing systems, giving it an important upgrade without major changes.
  • Quality – The laser galvo systems guarantee high quality and detailed results. In marking applications, the scanning head gives the possibility to create a wide range of effects, including the reproduction of a photograph on a surface.

One device, many tools

Scanning heads are a key tool in laser material processing applications. They transform a single beam of polarized light into an instrument with many applications.

To choose the scanning head that is most compatible with the application you need, request the help of an expert. Get in touch with us: our team at El.En. will be happy to help you find the most suitable laser scanning head for your applications.

Laser marking of identification documents

Marcatura laser documenti identificativi

Governments and organizations are constantly seeking solutions to make identification documents secure and tamper-proof. Cost-effective productions are key because in most cases security requirements combine with the need to maintain low costs.

Until not so long ago, all identification documents were made of cheap and readily available materials such as paper or cardboard. The document’s information was printed in ink or handwritten. Of course, not just any paper was used. In order to guarantee the originality of the document and combat counterfeiting, the paper was made using special treatments. Holograms, watermarks, or drawings were applied to the paper to make it as difficult as possible to falsify.

However, these products were not 100% safe since they could still at times be forged. Both the types of paper and the inks could be modified in such a way as to deceive even the most expert eye. This is the reason why the search for forgery-proof solutions has never ceased.

One of the solutions found was the laser marking of documents. The application consists of marking information directly on the material using the laser beam. The interaction between the laser and the material changes the surface layer causing a transformation that produces a mark. This mark is therefore not applied to the material but is an integral part of it. This technique guarantees that any successive modification to the document would result in irreparable damage that would highlight the counterfeit.

Laser marking can be used both on security paper – and on paper in general – but also on new-generation plastic identity documents.

Various objects such as ID cards, passports, credit cards, passes, or even hospital wristbands can be made using laser marking.

Given their identification function, these documents must have very precise functional characteristics:

  • the sign must be indelible and resistant to wear and tear.
  • the document must be difficult to forge or tamper with.
  • there can’t be any defects
  • all documents must be identical

The marking process makes it possible to meet all these requirements and therefore satisfy the most stringent international safety requirements. The marking becomes an integral part of the material and cannot be removed. It is virtually impossible to forge a laser marked document unless you use the same tools and materials as the original document.

The laser marking process, like all laser processes, is computer controlled and therefore has a high repeatability and accuracy index. Once the process has been defined, the possibility of error is 0, and machining operations are carried out repeatedly with the same level of quality.

Laser marking lends itself to numerous applications. You can mark alphanumeric identification codes but also barcodes, QR codes, and even greyscale photos.

Laser allows you to add special security features such as microtext, variable images, i.e. images that change depending on the angle.

How the marking process works

It is a well-known fact that laser marking can be performed on various types of material. The best result is obtained on plastic materials such as polycarbonate and paper.

The marking on plastics is done by chemical degradation. The energy transferred by the laser carries out instantaneous transformations at the molecular level. The transformations change the visual appearance of the material by creating a dark-colored mark.

Laser marking also works on multi-layered documents. The laser can even reach a transparent layer by setting a specific wavelength. Marking can, therefore, be done at deeper levels and ensure that the mark is protected by a transparent surface layer and thus more resistant.

The possibilities go even further. Deeper marking with a tactile effect can be created through laser engraving techniques.

Laser engraving acts at a deeper level than laser marking and subjects the material to wider and more radical transformations. The mark made by engraving doesn’t only have visual characteristics but also tactile ones. The combination of marking and engraving makes the ID much safer.

The laser marking process allows for results that cannot be obtained with other machining tools. Therefore it lends itself to the most advanced processes. In a world increasingly connected, having forgery-proof documents is more and more necessary. If you have such an application in mind contact us , we will help you make it happen.

Laser marking and engraving on fabric

Designing clothes | El.En. co2 laser

Laser engraving and marking for fabric are some of the innovative technologies that have taken hold in the fashion and interior design sector. Indeed, their introduction has given a sector that usually relies on unchanging production processes, the impetus to experiment.

Laser marking and engraving processes are fast, accurate and flexible. These characteristics make them perfectly compatible with production processes and explain why their use has spread so widely.

The introduction of laser has made it possible to significantly reduce the environmental impact of this industrial of the fashion industry, which is one of the most polluting. The production cycle of fabrics, from production to finishing, involves the consumption of considerable quantities of water, energy and chemicals.

Laser technology has therefore also established itself as an alternative production tool, capable of replacing all traditional processes with lower costs for the company and above all for the environment and with greater benefits for the end user.

Marking or engraving? The difference between the two processes

In the textile sector, lasers are used throughout the production chain, from cutting to finishing and decorating fabrics. The marking and engraving applications are mainly used in those parts of the production process.

Both applications use the laser as an energy source to remove a layer of material of varying thickness. Depending on the amount of energy transferred by the laser to the material, the layer of material removed is more or less deep and the transformations made to the material are different. The difference between marking and laser engraving lies precisely in these differences.

We speak of laser marking when the processing involves the material’s most superficial layer and its transformation is not radical. Oppositely, we talk about laser engraving, when the laser beam removes a consistent layer of material. The engraved mark is deeper and perceptible to the touch.

Given these differences, laser marking and engraving results can differ according to the chosen type of application or material.

Based on all the aforementioned information, laser marking and engraving can suit numerous applications. Laser is a very flexible tool that adapts to all types of applications.

In general, we can say that laser marking and engraving applications on fabric fall into one of these two areas: the decoration or the application of various types of information on the material’s surface.

Laser marking and engraving for fabric decoration

Laser decorations allow designers to fully express their creativity. They can create a wide range of decorative effects and details on fabrics by using marking or laser engraving. These can range from a simple geometric pattern to the transposition of images in grayscale, all the way to the creation of decorative details with a three-dimensional effect.

The decoration of denim fabric is a perfect example of how this field of application has become popular in the clothing industry. The laser marking of demin has revolutionized the way this fabric is processed. Traditionally the denim finishing process involved various steps such as washes, sandblasting and abrasion. These processes were used to give a particular look to the jeans, a specific shade or a worn look to the garment through cuts and abrasions. The problem with these processes is that they are extremely polluting, involve a large consumption of resources and have a significant negative environmental impact.

Denim laser finishing makes it possible to significantly save on product manufacturing times, optimize the production process, perfectly replicate the various types of denim washes, and create any detail with great flexibility. All these results can be obtained through the laser’s transfer of energy on the material’s surface rather than through the previously mentioned consumption of resources.

Laser marking and engraving to communicate information

In a world where automation is becoming increasingly popular, the application of information on materials is an increasingly requested process. Laser marking and engraving can be used to apply barcodes, alphanumeric information, information on the characteristics of the product and its maintenance.

This information can serve different purposes. For example, imagine a manufacturer of fabrics destined for the semi-finished product market. By means of laser marking, he can automatically imprint information such as production batches and identification codes directly on the fabric.

The advantage of this type of application is that the information engraved or marked with the laser is indelible, resistant to wear and counterfeiting. The manufacturer can save on some production costs, and when it comes to logistics and traceability, have a fully automated production process. The product buyer also has the guarantee that important information applied to the fabric won’t be damaged by time or wear.

Fabrics that can be laser marked / engraved

All categories of fabrics can be laser marked or engraved. However, some of them are better suited to these processes. Below is a brief review of the fabrics on which laser application can be performed very easily:

  • Synthetic fabrics. Synthetic fabrics are among those that are best suited to laser marking / engraving processes. These are materials made from thermoplastic polymer fibers, such as polyester. These materials respond very well to laser processing and therefore give optimal results.
  • Natural fabrics.Cotton is the natural fiber that is best suited to laser marking / engraving processes. To mark cotton you need to choose fabrics with a fairly compact texture.
  • Leather and faux leather . Laser marking can be applied to both natural and synthetic leather. Not only can laser technology be used to perform traditional processes, it can also create effects that could not be obtained with traditional tools.

How a laser system for marking fabrics is made

The components of a fabric laser marking / engraving system depend on the type of application needed. However, some basic components needed for typical engraving and marking applications are always necessary: a laser source and a scanning head.

The laser source is the device that generates the beam that performs the process. Their versatility when it comes to different materials makes CO2 sources the most suitable for these types of processing. Deciding how powerful the laser source should be is directly proportional to the manufacturing speed required. The more powerful the laser source is, the more instantaneous the execution.

The scanning head and attached software system can make any type of pattern in a very short time. They are therefore perfect for this type of processing, even if performed at high speeds.

An application with infinite possibilities

The laser marking and engraving of fabrics will increasingly take center stage in the fashion industry. The advantages they offer in terms of flexibility, accuracy and speed are enormous. Moreover, their greatest advantage for an industrial sector that makes innovation and design its essential strength is their endless application options.

Are you in need of a laser engraving or marking application? Contact us and we will happily put our extensive experience at your service to devise the ideal solution for your needs.

Laser cutting polypropylene

Plastic is one of the best suited materials for CO2 laser cutting. Polymer laser cutting is a very efficient and effective industrial process. Among all the plastic polymers that can be processed by CO2 laser, polyethylene is one of the first in terms of frequency of use. Polypropylene has an excellent laser energy absorption capacity which makes it suitable for all types of applications ranging from drilling to welding.

Polypropylene: characteristics and uses

Polypropylene is a thermoplastic polymer obtained from the polymerization of propylene.Its main feature is that the molecules making up the polymer can be arranged in an ordered or random way. In the first case, polypropylene takes on the characteristics of an isotactic polymer.

Polypropylene beads - El.En. - CO2 Laser sources

This configuration is the most commonly used commercially since it gives the material excellent chemical, physical and mechanical characteristics.

Polypropylene has a high heat resistance (greater than polyethylene), good elasticity, rigidity and the ability to absorb shocks without breaking. It also has a low density, (which makes it light), a high insulating power and good resistance to oxidizing and chemical agents.

Finally, polypropylene can be processed in a variety of forms: injection molding, thermoforming, extrusion for the creation of textile fibers.

Given these characteristics, polypropylene has found a myriad of applications in every field. One can argue that there is no industrial sector that does not make use of polypropylene in some shape or form.

Here is a list of the objects that are most often made with this material:

  • Packaging, labels and containers
  • Kitchen items such as dishes and food containers
  • Sportswear
  • Components for automobiles
  • Bags,
  • Sanitary objects
  • Electronic object components

Can you cut polypropylene with laser?

Yes, of course. Polypropylene laser cutting is a very efficient process since this polymer absorbs the infrared wavelength of CO2 laser very efficiently. With laser, making cuts or drilling holes on polypropylene is very easy.

On a macroscopic level, laser works as a cutting blade. The cut has a smooth and well-finished straight edge with no presence of burns or charring. Burr formation or cutting irregularities due to the presence of residues are also very limited. The high energies produced by laser not only melt the plastic, but makes it evaporate by sublimation.

The quality of the cut is directly influenced by the laser power, the cutting speed and the thickness of the material. In general, a medium-power CO2 laser source is sufficient to perform most of the processes needed in polypropylene applications.

Furthermore, the quality level is also influenced by the wavelength used. For this type of material our team of El.EN engineers have devised a specific laser source: BLADE RF333P.

This tool is very well suited to label cutting applications which use the kiss cutting process. A fundamental characteristic of this process is the variation in wavelength absorption related to the type of plastic film used.

In addition to simple cutting, polypropylene also lends itself well to laser kiss cutting operations, a process used mostly in adhesive production processes. Drilling polypropylene is also a suitable application, especially useful in the fabrication of plastic bags for modified atmosphere packaging.

Implementing a laser system for polypropylene cutting

The process of laser cutting polypropylene has many advantages: it allows you to perform complex, precision machining with great speed. It is also a very flexible system, which lends itself to numerous applications.

In addition to cutting, polypropylene responds very well to other laser processes, especially drilling (perforation), marking and engraving, welding. The same laser source can carry out all these processes.

If you work with polypropylene and would like to shift to CO2 laser technology, contact us. We would be happy to help you find the most suitable laser solution for your needs.

Laser cutting PTFE (teflon)

Can you laser cut PTFE (Teflon)? The answer is yes. PTFE can be successfully laser cutmarked or engraved. In this article we describe in depth what laser processing techniques can applied to PTFE and the results that can be achieved.

PTFE also known under the trade name of Teflon® or Algoflon® is a synthetic polymer used in many fields. The acronym stands for PolyTetraFluoroEthylene (PTFE). It is a plastic material, usually white in color though it can be colored black with additives. It can be used alone or in combination with other polymers.

PTFE belongs to Perfluorocarbons, a class of polymers composed mainly of fluorine and carbon chains.

Their chemical composition offers a wide range of properties which include:

  • Non-stickiness
  • Waterproof
  • Resistant to chemicals
  • Resistant to fire and high temperatures
  • High insulating power
  • Smooth

The applications are numerous. It is most commonly known for its use as a anti-coating material for kitchenware. But PTFE is also used to create gaskets, insulating tapes and in any other place where a component that reduces friction and resists corrosive agents is needed.

The fact that it is mainly composed of carbon makes it perfectly compatible with the CO2 laser wavelength. Laser cutting, perforation, marking and engraving on PTFE is easy and gives excellent results.

The interaction between PTFE and CO2 laser

The material interactions between PTFE and CO2 laser depend on the high insulating power of PTFE.

In general, when the laser beam reaches the surface of a material, it concentrates a very high energy in a single point. According to the characteristics of the material used, different chemical or physical transformations occur.

In the case of PTFE, the energy generated by the laser breaks the molecular bonds of the fluorine and carbon chains causing the chemical transformation of the material (laser marking) or its removal (laser cutting and engraving processes).

Being a material with excellent insulating properties, PTFE absorbs heat at the point of contact with the laser, without dispersing it in the surrounding area. It also has a high melting point. Both of these characteristics highly influence the laser’s behavior.

The poor thermal conductivity combined with the high melting point mean that the HAZ (Heat-Affected Zone) is very reduced. It is limited to the point of contact between the laser beam and the material.

As a result, laser processing on PTFE is very precise and clean. The chances of accidentally damaging the material or creating blackened or burned areas are very low. The fact that PTFE absorbs CO2 laser energy very well also makes processing very efficient in terms of speed.

Laser cutting Teflon

The PTFE laser cutting process works this way: the beam is used to remove material along a predefined cutting path. The removal of the material occurs by sublimation: the energy generated by the laser is concentrated in a very small area, and it is precisely the high energy density that causes the instantaneous passage of the material from the solid state to the gaseous state.

Laser cutting is used in many activities such as creating openings in a material, cutting out shapes from a sheet of material, making pieces from a matrix.

The peculiarity of laser cut PTFE is that its cutting edges are clean and perfectly finished and the obtained piece therefore does not require any further work. Laser cutting makes it possible to follow highly complex cutting paths.

PTFE Laser drilling

Laser drilling is a variant of laser cutting. It is also know as laser perforation.

In this process the laser is used to create a hole in a sheet of material, just like a mechanical drill would do. Laser perforation doesn’t suffer from the same limitation of traditional mechanical processing.

Microscopic holes can be created with laser technology. They can range in size from a fraction of a millimeter to the maximum area the machine’s design characteristics allow.

In addition, with laser technology, all the processing parameters (the inclination of the walls of the hole, the taper, the depth and density of the holes on the surface) can be controlled with great precision. It is possible to create pieces with all the characteristics best suited to the function they must perform. In the case of a filter, for example, holes can be created with precise dimensions, shape and arrangement.

PTFE Laser marking and engraving

PTFE also lends itself well to laser marking and engraving processing techniques. Marking and engraving are typically used to emboss logos, alphanumeric codes, barcodes or QR codes and various types of information on a particular material.

Both processes are based on the interaction between the laser beam and the surface of the material.

In laser marking, a chemical transformation of the material takes place and a the material is marked on the surface. In laser engraving, the material is removed. So, while laser marking takes place on the surface, in laser engraving the laser creates a groove in the material and the mark is carved into its surface. The choice of one process over another depends on the type of application or material being used.

On white PTFE, for example, laser marking gives poor results because the mark does not have high contrast to create a sufficiently visible mark. As mentioned, PTFE has a high melting point, so it is difficult to create burn marks.

Oppositely, on black PTFE, marking is more successful. At high temperatures PTFE expands and gives white marks which have a high contrast with the surrounding black background.

Laser engraving, on the other hand, can be performed on any type of PTFE with optimal results. As we have said, PTFE is an excellent absorber of the CO2 laser wavelength, but also a bad conductor of heat. This ensures that the area affected by heat is limited to the point of interaction between the laser and the material, resulting in a very precise and clean engraving.

Write to us to know more about how to process PTFE with CO2 laser.

Each laser application has its own particularities. There is no rule that applies to all circumstances and all materials. To find a solution that suits your needs, contact us, and we will be happy to find the best solution for you.

Laser wire stripping with CO2 laser

Laser wire stripping is the process of removing all or part of the insulating material that covers electrical cables. In other words, it is the process used to uncover the metal core of the cables. It is typically done at the cable’s ends to make connections possible, but it can also be done in various ways along the cable.

Laser stripping’s main feature is that the laser selectively intervenes on the insulating material without affecting the cable’s metal core. This is a significant advantage over traditional stripping techniques. The high quality and precision of the laser striping process has made it a widely used technique in high-tech sectors.

Not surprisingly, the idea of ​​using lasers to remove the insulating layer of electrical cables was born in the aerospace sector. In the 1970s, NASA needed to find a solution to strip the thin Space Shuttle cables. The stripping tools used at the time did not guarantee the quality and precision necessary for an application of that type.

Traditional wire stripping methods and their drawbacks

The first is the mechanical method, which is the most widespread. In this process, blades are used to cut the electrical cables’ sheathing.

This method has many drawbacks:

  • to achieve accurate results, the process becomes extremely slow
  • each type of cable requires a dedicated tool
  • the tools require maintenance to remain effective

The risk of damage, for example notching the cable, is one of the main risks of this technique. To solve this problem, manufacturers have produced oversized cables, so that any loss of metal would not reduce the functionality of the cable.

While this may be a solution for low-tech industries, oversizing cables is not a suitable solution for others.

In the aerospace sector, for example, weight containment is essential. Cables are designed to be very thin so that they weigh as little as possible. This means that any damage to the cable could cause it to malfunction and lead to accidents.

In addition to the mechanical method, peeling can be performed with a chemical or a thermal process.

The chemical process uses corrosive substances such as sulfuric acid to dissolve the cable coating and expose the conductive material. The disadvantage of this technique is that it is not easily controlled and is also polluting.

The thermal process uses a heat source to remove the coating. This method, however, can leave residual coating material on the metal core which would therefore have to be subjected to further processing.

Laser stripping overcomes all the previously mentioned drawbacks. It is therefore not surprising that it has established itself as the method of choice for high-tech applications.

Why laser stripping works

In most cases, the material that coats electrical cables is some kind of plastic polymer while the internal core is made of metal, very often copper. Laser technology has the ability to select only the coating’s polymers without modifying the conductor in any way.

This behaviour can be explained by the way laser radiation interacts differently with different materials.

CO2 laser emits radiation at a wavelength of 10.6 micrometers, that is, in the far infrared [far-IR] region. Polymers absorb this radiation very well while copper reflects it almost completely, without undergoing alterations.

The advantages of laser stripping

Laser stripping offers several advantages over traditional methods:

  • flexibility: it is effective on almost all polymeric materials with which electrical cables are coated
  • precision: it is a non-contact process, which makes it able to work on very tight tolerances and to carry out processes that would be impossible with traditional methods
  • effectiveness: since laser is reflected by most metals, the process ends with the removal of the polymer without requiring any further processing

What are the different types of laser stripping

In laser stripping, the laser can perform 3 basic operations:

  • laser cross cutting: the cut is carried out transversely to the cable in order to allow the removal of excess material
  • laser slitting: the cut is made lengthwise. Typically this process is performed when a longer portion of cable needs to be removed and is used in conjunction with the cross cut
  • laser ablation: the laser passes over the surface several times until the coating is completely eliminated. This technique is mainly used when the conductive material is immersed in the coating (otherwise known as bonded wire).

Alongside these basic operations, laser technology makes it possible to perform advanced processes such as the partial and targeted removal of the coating with the creation of windows or the removal following certain patterns. All these applications can’t be done with traditional mechanical methods.

As is often the case with lasers, the possibilities are endless.

How a laser stripping system is made

A laser cable stripping system can be implemented in various ways and with various technologies.

The most effective is certainly galvo-scanning. In this application, a scanning head is used to move the laser beam and then focus it on the work surface.

The whole system is controlled by a computer which coordinates the operation of the CO2 laser source allowing the laser to follow the pre-defined cutting path.

Implement your own laser wire stripping

Laser cable stripping lends itself to many applications. It is ideal for high-tech sectors that require great precision during the processing phase. One of the applications, for instance, is magnet wire stripping with laser.

Don’t hesitate to contact us. Our staff would be happy to advise you on the best laser solution for your needs.

Die cutting abrasive material with laser

In recent years, CO2 lasers have increasingly been used as work tools in the abrasive material sector. CO2 laser technology can perform advanced processes which are well-adapted to new generation products (suitable for the most innovative processes and sectors).

The production of abrasive discs is a perfect example of this type of production. One of the most appreciated features of an abrasive disc is its ability to facilitate the elimination of debris from a work surface. In order to obtain the desired effect, there are holes on the disc to facilitate the expulsion of debris. The holes need to have a certain size, be evenly and precisely distributed on the disc, and have a specific surface density to be effective.

Nowadays, in the abrasive disc production sector, the most used tools are mechanical ones like blades and dies. The main advantage of these tools is that they are cost effective.

However, the production of abrasives with dies also has several disadvantages:

  • Limited accuracy. Due to technical limitations, blades and dies cannot perform work under a certain diameter, with narrow spacing or in special arrangements. Therefore abrasives produced with mechanical methods can hardly reach the optimization levels required by the most advanced applications.
  • Deformed surfaces. The cutting process is achieved through mechanical contact. This exposes the processed object to the risk of deformation. The disks produced from a matrix sheet are often deformed by the pressure of the dies. The disc acquires a concave or convex shape which reduces the usable abrasive surface and therefore makes it less effective
  • Tooling costs are increased. Cutting tools get worn quickly by their application to abrasive materials. These tools need to be replaced frequently which increases the overall production costs.
  • Lack of adaptability. Most shape variations and modifications require the acquisition of different cutting tools.

Laser technology for abrasive materia die cutting

The CO2 laser is an optimal production medium for flexible abrasives since it has none of the previously mentioned shortcomings. In recent years the cost oflaser material processing has lowered, and therefore become much more used the abrasive material sector.

Laser’s main advantages in cutting abrasives are:

  • Easy to calibrate. Characteristics such positioning, distribution, and the diameter of the holes (which can be very small) can be calibrated with great precision. Laser is therefore suitable the advanced, high precision processes required by the market
  • No risk of deformation. Laser is a non-contact process therefore the risk of the material getting deformed are close to none. Abrasive discs produced with laser are much more efficient than abrasive discs produced with mechanical methods
  • Low maintenance costs. Lasers used for the processing of abrasive materials are not subject wear because there is no physical contact between the tool and the material
  • Flexibility. Laser technology makes it possible to totally or partially modify the shape to be cut by simply making changes to the processing file on the software. This method saves on time and the cost of procuring a new mechanical tool

A very promising sector

These are just some of the possible laser applications in the field of abrasives, and each has its own characteristics and needs. Laser processing of abrasives is a very promising field of application. Our CO2 laser sources combined with our galvanometric scanning heads are ideal for this type of application: powerful, effective and precise, they can be easily integrated into existing production systems or to new digital converting machines as well as to an industry 4.0 production chain. Contact our El.En.experts to answer your questions and find the right solution for your needs.

Laser engraving applications

Laser engraving applications on a thermoplastic pipe

Laser marking is one of the most common industrial processes. In its broadest sense it consists in using the laser beam to create marks on the surface of a material.

The process is simple: the laser heats a layer of material, instantly vaporizing it. The visual contrast between the part that has been processed and the rest of the material is the engraving.

CO2 lasers are the ones most used for this type of application. They are highly versatile and suitable for laser marking applications in virtually any industrial sector.

Laser marking lives under the umbrella of galvo scanning applications. In this family of applications, a scanning head is used to focus the laser beam on a surface. In other words, the scanning head moves around the laser beam (which otherwise would travel in a straight line) towards the points that need to be processed. It does so through special mirrors connected to galvomotors.

The scanning head is key in galvo scanning, and it is what gives this application great flexibility. The scanning head makes it possible to use the laser to impress any type of sign on a surface: from simple alphanumeric codes to complex images, for the impression which using laser is a winning strategy.

Compared to traditional systems, laser marking applications have several advantages:

  • cleanliness and speed
  • precision
  • versatility on materials
  • possibility of automation
  • respect for the environment
  • durability over time

Materials

The versatility of the CO2 laser allows laser marking to be applied to a wide range of materials. This family of lasers interacts very well with carbon-based materials such as thermoplastics, wood and its derivatives, fabrics and organic materials in general. Here is a list of the most used materials in laser marking applications.

Wood and derivatives

Wood and its derivatives are used in a large number of industrial sectors. Whether it’s packaging or signage, laser marking can be used to apply various types of signs or decorations. Regardless of the desired effect, the process will be fast and effective.

Plastic

Plastics and thermoplastics are today widely used for an infinite number of applications, especially in the packaging industrial sector. Acrylic, polyethylene, polyamide and similar plastics undergo laser marking very easily with excellent results.

Metals

Laser marking is very effective also on metals. Though the CO2 laser is not the most suitable for cutting metal, it is perfect for modifying its surface because it produces very sharp and clear incisions.

Fabrics and leathers

Laser marking is perfect for processing fabrics and leathers. Both natural and synthetic fibers interact very well with the CO2 laser.

Laser can be used on these materials for numerous applications ranging from finishing fabrics to decorating garments. The main advantage of laser marking for fabric is that it considerably decreases the use of water and chemicals, thus reducing the negative impact the textile sector has on the environment. Today, the majority of laser marking applications on fabric are on denim.

Glass and ceramics

Laser marking lends itself well to the decoration of objects made of glass and ceramic. In this application laser marking is mostly used for the decoration of finished objects. Glass objects can even be decorated from within. The laser’s scanning head manages to reach the inside of the glass object, creating a three-dimensional image.

Biologic materials

The application of laser marking on biologic material is a recent thing. These materials are rich in carbon and therefore respond very well to the wavelength of the CO2 laser. The food industry has finally caught on to the benefits of the laser process that is very useuful for this sector thanks to its sterility.

Industrial sectors

The fact that this technology offers extreme flexibility in terms of choice of processed materials multiplies laser marking applications and opens it up to numerous industrial sectors. Indeed, it can be said that virtually any sector that uses compatible materials can benefit from laser marking applications. Here are some examples.

Automotive

In the automotive sector, laser marking can be used for a great number of purposes. An example is removing polyammid sheathing wrapped around the wires used in motors. Thanks to laser this process can be greatly streamilined, allowing for great economies in the production process.

Due to the flexibility allowed by the laser and the very low cost of the single machining cycle, laser marking lends itself very well to taylor made applications. From a commercial point of view this means that it is also possible to offer services such as interior customisation at a very low price and with a great economic return.

Labeling and packaging

The packaging sector is perhaps the one in which laser marking has most applications. Personalization and automation rule this sector so that the full potential of laser can be fully exploited. There are different types of applications that range from decoration of packaging to the engraving of identification codes and logos.

Laser labeling of food products is becoming increasingly popular. This application also has a name, natural branding. Laser labeling consists of replacing the self-adhesive label applied to products with a label engraved directly on the product by laser marking.

This labeling method makes it possible to obtain 100% compostable products and to reduce the use of packaging. On the one hand, adhesives composed of chemical substances are not used, and on the other hand, the consumption of potentially polluting plastic materials is reduced because the waste of the adhesive label substrate, usually not visible to the consumer, is eliminated. Laser labelling has been successfully applied both on fresh products and on cheeses and cold cuts.

Display panel production

The production of information panels is another great field of application for laser marking. This application is very efficient on the most commonly materials used in this industry (acrylic plastics, aluminum, glass and wood).

Laser marking makes it possible to design complex logos and to engrave writings of any type and length.

In contrast to traditional techniques such as screen printing or engraving, laser marking is indelible and therefore has a considerably longer life. The production process is also much faster and cleaner.

Textile, fashion and interior design sector

In recent years designers from around the world have discovered laser marking. Laser makes it possible to go directly from the design phase to the production phase.

This feature makes it ideal in areas where creative experimentation is a competitive advantage.

In fact, creating prototypes and experimenting with creative solutions is much easier if you follow a digital production paradigm (of which laser is part). It’s a quick step from the design on the computer to the finished product. Furthermore, laser can offer the designer more freedom from physical limitations imposed on his design by means of production.

For these reasons, laser marking is increasingly used in creative sectors. As we’ve seen before, laser can be used in the textile sector for the finishing of fabrics (e.g.: the coloring of jeans), but also for the creation of ornamental motifs on fabrics or both leather and faux leather for the clothing or interior design sectors.

Even wallpaper, curtains and carpets lend themselves very well to the application of decorative patterns by laser marking.

Another application in the interior design sector is the decoration of ceramic tiles. Original and complex patterns can be applied to ceramic tiles or other objects at a very low cost.

What is your application?

As seen in this article, laser marking can be applied to many areas. This technology grants important advantages in terms of speed and efficiency of the production process. It allows you to respond promptly to the demands of constantly evolving markets.

At El.En., we have a long experience in the production of CO2 laser systems for marking. Do you have an application in mind that could be implemented with laser technology? Let us know and we will be happy to find the solution that best suits your needs.

Faux leather laser engraving

The synthetic leather market has seen exponential growth in recent years. Natural leather is becoming an increasingly scarce commodity, both for economic and environmental reasons. On the one hand, the need for finished products at ever lower prices limits the use of expensive raw materials, and on the other, animal and environmental issues are driving companies to choose eco-friendly solutions.

Red synthetic leather: it can be laser marked successfully

Synthetic leather is very similar to natural leather from both a technological and sensory point of view. Unlike natural leather, it is not a breathable material. It also needs a base layer, often made of cotton or other natural fibres.

The advantages of synthetic leather over hide are many:

  • production costs are very low
  • the production batches are very uniform
  • textures and effects that do not exist in nature can be produced
  • it is easier to cut and sew

Far from being a less noble alternative to the original material, synthetic leather is a practical and modern material. It can be successfully used everywhere traditional leather was, with the same aesthetic and technical results.

The composition of artificial leather

Synthetic leather is made up of two layers, an upper one that imitates leather and a lower one acting as a base.

The upper layer is composed of a synthetic polymer. The most used materials are PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) and Polyurethane (PU). The two materials differ slightly. Most synthetic leather is made of PVC due to its low cost and greater resistance. Polyurethane, a costlier material, is less frequently used even though it feels more like real leather to the touch.

The artificial leather base is in fabric which can be made from synthetic fibres, natural ones (usually cotton) or even natural-synthetic blends.

The role of the fabric base is very important. The mechanical properties of synthetic leather rely on the strength of its base. The lifespan of synthetic leather is in direct correlation to the one of the fabric base.

Can you laser engrave faux leather?

The answer is yes, you can. Due to its thermoplastic polymer composition, synthetic leather lends itself very well to laser processing, particularly with CO2 lasers. The interactions between materials such as PVC and Polyurethane and the laser beam achieve high energy efficiency, ensuring optimal results.

Laser marking and engraving

The marking and engraving processes are very similar. In both cases, the laser beam acts on the surface layers. The laser energy activates alterations which, depending on the intensity, can be more or less deep or radical.

In marking processes, the applied energy density is very low. The material’s transformations stay at a superficial level and are more aesthetic in nature.

In laser engraving, the applied energy density is higher and reaches deeper layers of the material. It therefore undergoes substantial chemical transformations. The marking is more visible and contrasted. The end result can have a tactile finish and even a natural texture.

Laser parameters

The system must be set according to certain parameters to achieve the desired laser marking or engraving effects. There is no universal rule one can follow to set the system. The correct parameters depend on factors such as:

  • the type of material used: polyvinyl chloride and polyurethane absorb energy differently. So the settings must be regulated differently.
  • the colour of the leather: light coloured leather is more reflective than a darker one. Dark leather therefore absorbs the laser beam better, resulting in greater energy efficiency and faster processing.

A correct laser setting will aim to achieve the correct energy density in order to obtain a clearly visible mark without damaging the material.

Laser Engraving Systems

Leather marking/engraving is one of the applications of galvo scanning. This category includes all processes in which the laser source is used in combination with a scanning head.

The scanning head distributes the laser beam produced by the source on the material’s surface.

Laser sources and scanning heads are available in different models depending on production needs. In order to make the right choice, it is necessary to know your particular manufacturing characteristics. Send us information about your production plant and requirements and we will be happy to design a tailor made leather laser marking/engraving system to suit your needs.

Laser and packaging: the main applications

A group of people in a studio discussing different design solutions

Laser material processing started a revolution in the industrial world. It has brought quantitative improvements such as an increase in production speed, and qualitative ones, such as the possibility of creating customized products with high added value, even on a small scale.

The packaging sector immediately understood that the use of laser could offer endless possibilities for innovation. Packaging is a fundamental aspect of most manufacturing sectors and laser technology is taking a strong foothold in this growing market. Laser reinforces and improves the characteristics of packaging materials, helping them perform their desired function even better.

Packaging in itself performs a wide range of functions:

  • First of all, it has a protective function. Packaging must protect the product from external agents. In the case of food, it prevents deterioration and guarantees the product’s integrity
  • Secondly, it has an aesthetic function. Packaging must convince the consumer to choose a specific product on a supermarket shelf. In a world increasingly rich in consumer goods, packaging can sometimes be a product’s only distinctive factor
  • Thirdly, it has an informative function. Important informations such as ingredients, expiry date, production lot or barcode must be visible on the product
  • Last, but not least, it has a practical function. Packaging must make the product easy to handle and use. Thanks to laser cutting, packaging can be designed in such a way as to facilitate the use of the product itself. Easy to open packaging such as food bags or easy cutting ones such as yoghurt pots are two examples of this type of packaging.

Functional and fast packaging with innovative technology is now easier than ever with laser technology.

Why process packaging with laser?

Laser-based manufacturing is extremely flexible and give the possibility to experiment on a great variety of applications. Laser, and in particular CO2 laser, achieves its maximum levels of efficiency when it processes the most commonly used packaging materials such as:

  • paper and cardboard: used to produce boxes and packaging, these materials can be cut, marked and perforated. The producers can thus create boxes with original shapes that can bring out the abstract qualities of the product
  • wood and derivatives (for example MDF) are used to create innovative packaging. Food crates to transport produce are but one example
  • plastics and derivative: thermoplastic film polymers such as polypropylene, polyethylene and PET are among the most used materials for packaging. Plastic film can be adapted to the most diverse needs through cutting, marking or drilling processes. Food safe plastics benefit greatly from these applications. For example, containers can be perforated, to regulate the passage of air or to create filtering systems, but also be cut into complex shapes. Other applications in this sector include the cutting of plastic films used to make various types of packaging, including aluminised plastic films

Laser technology is also a great asset for the packaging sector because of the possibilities offered by automation. The benefits of a fully digitized and automated manufacturing process are significant. The automated process reduces the possibility of errors, allows changes to easily be made in real time, guarantees extremely uniform results while having standard and repeatable characteristics.

For example, imagine being a manufacturer of plastic parts for the automotive industry. A digital manufacturing workflow would allow you to automatically use laser to engrave a production batch number on a piece’s packaging, centralize this information in a database, as well as have a system that allows you to trace all the logistics, from the production to the end customer. Should there be a defect or a malfunctioning piece, the production batch (or any other information) could easily be looked up directly in the database.

Laser processing in the packaging sector

Many of the advantages derived from laser processing are due to the fact that laser is a no-contact technology. The laser beam is used as an energy source that gets concentrated on a specific area in order to perform an application. Here are some of the main applications laser systems can perform.

Laser cut

In laser cutting, the beam vaporizes a portion of material according to a defined path. The final quality of the cut depends on the material. CO2 laser cut creates extremely clean edges on most materials. The final piece does not need further finishing and is ready for use.

Laser cutting can be used to cut windows and openings on a package, to create details such as tear openings, easy-to-open tabs, filtering systems, to cut pieces of packages for later assembly.

Laser marking and engraving

Laser marking and engraving use laser to imprint a mark on a material. The two processes are very similar.

We speak of laser marking when the transformation of the material occurs only superficially. In the case of laser engraving, there is a deeper transformation of the material.

In the first case the sign, even if indelible, results in a discoloration of the material. In the second case the sign is much deeper and it is also possible to obtain a tactile sensation on the incision.

Manufacturers mostly use laser marking and engraving on packaging. Laser allows them to permanently engrave their logo in remarkable detail. Expiration dates or production batches can be applied on the packaging, taking advantage of the automation capabilities offered by laser systems. This application is known as laser coding.

Perforation and laser microperforation

Drilling machines use laser to create holes on a material. Typically the holes are made on sheets or slabs of material. Finished pieces can also be perforated.

The holes can have different dimensions. Indeed, the possibility of varying the size of the perforations in order to adapt them to a specific purpose, is the true advantage of laser perforation.

The term laser microperforation is used when the holes have microscopic dimensions. Laser perforation and microperforation have numerous applications in the packaging sector.

Laser perforation can be used to create filters and other features on the packaging, such as the creation of perspiration holes for food trays.

Laser microperforation can be used to create breathable packaging (such as modified atmosphere packaging). In this case, microperforation can be used to calibrate the packaging to the product and increase its shelf life. The processing of flexible plastic films takes great advantage of this application which allows you to create wraps capable of significantly extending the life of the product.

A sector in constant evolution

Laser technology makes it is possible to decide on a desired result and calibrate the process on it. Many laser applications have not yet been tested which means there is a whole world of opportunities to explore. The tailor made application that could bring numerous advantages to your production system could be just around the corner.

Here at El.En., we have experimented with thousands of laser applications for packaging over more than 35 years. If you work in this sector and are looking for your next personalized application, contact us and let us know what you need. We will be happy to help you build the ideal solution for your application!