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.

What is laser cleaning?

Laser cleaning is the process of using lasers to remove dirt, debris or contaminants from the surface of an object. It is a process that lends itself to a variety of industrial and non-industrial applications. From cleaning thermoforming moulds to restoring monuments, there is no area where laser cleaning cannot be successfully applied.

In this article, we explain what the laser cleaning process consists of, the principle on which it is based and why it has an advantage over conventional cleaning methods.

Conventional cleaning methods

In the field of industrial production, the maintenance of production tools is essential, particularly in those areas where the quality of production depends on it. In the plastic thermoforming sector, for example, it is essential to always have clean moulds in order to obtain high quality parts. Rust, dust and material residues are among the most common types of dirt that need to be periodically removed.

However, cleaning operations are very costly in terms of resources. The actual performance depends on the type of maintenance required. But in general we can say that cleaning methods are based on the use of chemical or mechanical methods.

In the first case, cleaning is entrusted to solvents, detergents or other chemical compounds that degrade the material to be removed and facilitate its removal. In the second case, systems such as sandblasting or ultrasonic cleaning are used.

These cleaning methods have major disadvantages. They are very polluting because of their use of chemical products and require operators to take special safety precautions.

In addition, physical contact often causes damage to the workpiece which, in the long run, ends up being damaged by the cleaning operations.

Laser cleaning has established itself precisely because it has the advantage of overcoming the main drawbacks of traditional cleaning methods.

Laser cleaning and its advantages

Laser cleaning consists of irradiating the surface of a material in such a way as to remove the surface layer. The technique is based on ablation. The beam concentrated on the material breaks the molecular bonds of the material that needs to be removed. The material evaporates instantaneously with virtually no residue left behind.

Unlike conventional methods, there are no solvents or other additional chemical substances used in laser cleaning, and since it is a non-contact process, there is no abrasion that could damage the workpiece, as the surface dirt is removed without attacking the underlying material.

It is precisely this protection of the material that makes the laser so attractive. The laser allows you to operate selectively on a given material. The laser only removes materials that are absorbed by its wavelength. In addition, each material has different properties and needs a different amount of energy to be removed. This makes it possible to work on materials very precisely, to calibrate the laser extremely selectively so as not to damage the underlying material.

Flexibility, high controllability of the medium and speed are the characteristics that make laser cleaning an extremely effective tool.

Laser mold cleaning

Laser mold cleaning with CO2 laser

Laser cleaning is one of laser’s many applications. The process is based on laser ablation, i.e. the removal of a portion of material from a surface. Ablation is at the basis of all common laser processes: cutting, drilling, engraving, marking.

While the purpose of these processes is to create cuts, holes or marks in the material, the aim of laser cleaning is to remove dirt particles from a given surface.

Laser cleaning of industrial moulds

The production process of thermoplastics is an example of an industrial laser cleaning application. The main production method for these materials is moulding. At the end of the production process, the moulds need to be restored to their original state. This step is crucial because the quality of the final part depends on it. The presence of material residues, or other debris, affects the final quality of the parts.

Traditionally, the cleaning process is carried out using one of three techniques: dry ice blasting, ultrasonic cleaning or manual cleaning. Each has both advantages and disadvantages.

Dry ice cleaning consists of directing a high pressure jet of dry ice onto the mould. The ice penetrates the mould cavities and removes residues. The operation is carried out by an operator who directs the jet onto the areas that need to be cleaned. The advantage of this technique is that it can be used directly in the production line. However, it is not an environmentally friendly method since it requires the use of large quantities of dry ice.

For ultrasonic cleaning, the mould is placed in special ultrasonic cleaning machines. In practice, this involves disassembling the part and immersing it in special tanks filled with solvent and water. In addition to the need to disassemble the mould, this method has the disadvantage of using polluting chemicals.

Manual cleaning consists of cleaning the moulds using a solvent and manual force. It is a slow and inefficient method.

Laser cleaning overcomes these disadvantages.

Firstly, it can be performed selectively: the laser only acts on materials that are compatible with its wavelength. Laser cleaning can therefore be used in sensitive applications where abrasion-based procedures such as sandblasting would be too invasive.

The absence of waste also makes it an environmentally friendly technique. Laser cleaning doesn’t use solvents or other chemicals, doesn’t produce any waste and also doesn’t consume water or other resources. It is a thermodynamically efficient process. The laser vaporises the material by sublimation which makes it an environmentally friendly process.

Finally, laser cleaning is extremely precise. The process is completely digitally controlled which makes it possible to work on extremely small surfaces or follow extremely complex cleaning patterns. Unlike with traditional methods, it can clean hard-to-reach spaces and uneven surfaces.

A system tailored to your application

Laser cleaning is a versatile application. It is efficient, adaptable, precise and most importantly, ecological. El.En. is the ideal partner to create a tailor-made application for your production process. Contact us and we will be happy to help you find the best solution for your needs!

CO2 laser manufacturing of diamond abrasive tools

A diamond abrasive tool

The manufacturing process of abrasive materials has always been a productive challenge. The main problem is that the abrasive power of these materials also exerts itself on the production tools themselves, damaging them over a short period of time.

This results in very high maintenance costs for the tools. In addition, the fact that using precision tools is difficult makes it impossible to carry out precise machining on these materials.

The introduction of laser technology was therefore a major innovation, as it made it easier and cheaper to manufacture abrasive tools and materials:

  • Laser production processes are contactless. In laser processing, no mechanical forces are involved, unlike in traditional manufacturing processes. The interaction between the laser beam and the material produces a high energy density that removes a certain amount of material.
  • Laser technology enables a high degree of control over the production process. What does that mean? It is possible to set up the laser parameters, down to the smallest detail, in order to minimise the difference between the desired result and the result obtained. In other words, you can create a material with characteristics that are perfectly suited to its intended use.

Diamond abrasives

A few decades ago, diamond abrasives joined the ranks of traditional abrasives. These tools exploit diamond’s exceptional hardness and thermal conductivity to achieve excellent abrasive performance.

Diamond is one of the hardest materials known to man. It also has excellent strength, good wear resistance and a low friction coefficient.

Diamond tools can be used in a wide range of applications:

  • geological prospecting
  • stone processing
  • construction
  • woodworking
  • tooling
  • ceramic processing

Diamond tools can be manufactured in various ways. Generally, synthetic diamonds are used, or diamonds judged to be of unsuitable quality for jewellery making.

To make tools, diamonds are combined with another bonding material so that, for example, tools can be made from metal, resin, ceramics, etc.

They can also be used for a wide range of purposes, including all traditional mechanical operations. These include cutting, drilling and, among other things, abrasive tools.

The manufacturing process for diamond abrasive tools comes with the same difficulties encountered in the production of conventional abrasive tools. However, it also has an added difficulty: the hardness of the diamond subjects the production equipment to even greater stress.

Here too, the CO2 laser can be an advantageous solution.

Diamond abrasives can be subjected to laser ablation processes using a continuous wave laser. This technique can create textures and other passive layer characteristics that enhance the performance of the material.

The process is especially effective on resin bonded abrasive materials. Resins and plastics in general absorb CO2 laser radiation very well and, therefore work very effectively for laser ablation processes.

A new application for the CO2 laser

Diamond is one of the hardest materials in existence, which makes the efficient production of these tools difficult and limits their widespread use. On the other hand, however, diamond abrasive tools offer enormous advantages and are crucial in certain applications. The introduction of laser machining processes has made their production more efficient and cost-effective, paving the way for their widespread use. Research in the field is still ongoing, bringing with it other possible applications in the future.

El.En. has been producing CO2 lasers for various industrial sectors for over 35 years. Experimentation, research and development in the field of lasers applied to materials is in our DNA. If you are thinking of making an application of this type, contact us and we will be happy to study the ideal solution for your needs.

Laser cutting of carbon fiber composite materials

Laser cutting carbon fiber composite materials

Composite materials are known for their extraordinary mechanical and physical properties. They are created by combining two different materials, resulting in a new material with better properties than their component materials taken individually.

Fiber reinforced polymers are some of the materials in the composite family that have found widespread use. These materials are manufactured by incorporating a fibre of some kind into a resin polymer matrix.

Fiberglass is one of the first materials to have been made in this way. Invented in the 1960s, it has now become an indispensable material for many sectors, particularly the nautical one. Today, there are other materials of this type such as aramid fibre also known as kevlar and carbon fibre reinforced plastics (CFRP).

Materials produced this way are light and resistant and at equal mass, are considerably more performant than other traditional materials such as wood or metal. They can also offer great plasticity which makes them easy to mould into any required shape. Thanks to these characteristics, composite materials are used for technologically advanced applications in sectors such as the nautical, aeronautical or automotive industries.

Carbon fibre reinforced plastics

CFRPs are perhaps the most advanced of all the composite materials,

To produce CFRP, a carbon fibre fabric is incorporated into a polymer matrix. The resulting product is extremely light and strong. At equal mass, it is 25% lighter than aluminium and 60% lighter than steel. This explains why it has found use in the aeronautical industry and in the sports competition sector for the construction of super light vehicles.

Once made, however, CFRP must be cut into the required shapes for their future function. Normally, this is done using mechanical methods. However, these have a major drawback. The strength of the carbon fibre quickly wears out the cutting tools, which therefore have to be replaced very frequently, making the process very costly.

Laser cutting technology is a valid alternative to the mechanical cutting of CFRPs. Both the carbon fibre and the polymers that make up its matrix absorb the 10.6 micrometre laser radiation produced by the carbon dioxide laser very well and can be cut very efficiently.

Cutting CFRP therefore has two main advantages:

  • a contactless process: it is possible to cut CFRP without the typical mechanical forces that wear out the cutting tool. This significantly lowers the production costs of each individual part.
  • very high tolerances: the laser can make cuts with very narrow angles and produce extremely precise parts very easily. This feature is crucial for advanced technological sectors where it is important to maximise the performance of a given component.

The material of the future

CFRP will become more and more popular over time. This material is of increasing importance and will spread to an ever wider range of sectors.

Finding a cheap and fast way to cut it into the most diverse shapes will become crucial. The CO2 laser is a viable alternative to the mechanical cutting methods currently used.

If you are considering a laser application to process carbon fibre, contact us: and we will design a customised application to suit your needs.

CO2 laser marking for the packaging industry

Laser marking for packaging

Laser marking is one of the most widely used laser processes in the industrial sector. It is typically used to apply information to packaging: expiry dates, traceability codes, production batches, logos and other graphics. The fundamental advantages of laser marking over traditional methods are the very high processing speeds and the high levels of precision that can be achieved.

But the advantages don’t stop there. Laser technology not only allows manufacturers to increase processing efficiency parameters, but also to perform types of processing that would be impossible to do with traditional methods.

How does laser marking work?

Laser marking is a processing technique in which a laser is used to produce an engraving on the surface of a product. As with all laser-based processes, this technique exploits the laser’s ability to concentrate large amounts of energy on one spot with a diameter of a tenth of a millimetre. At the site where the laser touches the material, very high energy densities are reached, which cause the temperature to rise within a few seconds, triggering physical and chemical transformations.

A key feature of laser processing is the high degree of control. It is possible to decide with great precision how deep the laser’s action should go. With laser marking, the mark is only produced superficially, on a layer that goes from a few microns to one or two millimetres. Past this depth, one no longer speaks of laser marking but of laser engraving. The two processes, although similar, differ in the depth of the laser marking which in turn changes its perception. Laser engraving creates marks that are more visible and perceptible to the touch. In laser engraving, the mark is visible but not very perceptible to the touch.

Laser marking and packaging

In all laser processing, the type of power used depends on two factors: the material one wants to process and the speed one wants to reach. As you may already know, every laser emits a beam of polarised light at a defined wavelength. Some materials absorb certain wavelengths well but not others. In the packaging sector, the CO2 laser is the one that gives the best results. Its 10.6 micrometer wavelength belongs to the far infrared region which is very well absorbed by the organic materials most frequently used for packaging (e.i: paper, cardboard, thermoplastic polymers, glass).

Advantages of laser marking

Traditionally, the following methods are used to mark information on packaging:

  1. inkjet printing
  2. thermal transfer printing
  3. stamping
  4. hot stamping
  5. mechanical engraving

These techniques are always based on contact between the tool and the workpiece. Compared to them, the laser has several advantages:

  1. reduced cost: the information is engraved directly on the product, which eliminates the need for any other material, such as ink and labels
  2. indelibility: it is resistant to wear, solvents, scratches, light and counterfeiting attempts.
  3. automation: the process is fully automatable.
  4. flexibility: laser marking can imprint any type of information, however complex.
  5. contact-free: materials are not subjected to mechanical stress.

Materials and laser marking

As mentioned above, the characteristics of the material used influence the specific characteristics of the marking operation.

Paper and cardboard packaging

Paper and cardboard are made from cellulose, a material of organic origin produced through wood processing. The laser acts on the paper by vaporising a thin layer of material. The resulting mark has the same light colour as the material and may therefore offer little contrast. The contrast can be increased by adding a dark-coloured overlay. In this case the laser only removes the coloured surface layer to reveal the light part underneath. The contrast between the white of the paper and the darker colour of the surrounding layer creates a very legible mark.

Laser marking on plastics

Plastic is a synthetic organic product based on carbon-based polymers. On certain types of plastic, the CO2 laser is very efficient and gives optimum results. The plastics that are best suited for laser marking are those most commonly used in the packaging industry, such as polyethylene, PET or polypropylene. Polypropylene is also suitable for laser cutting.

Laser marking on plastics is carried out by chemical transformation (the laser breaks polymer chains). The fact that the light affects the mark differently to the surrounding material makes it quite visible. Depending on the additives applied to the plastic, different levels of contrast can be achieved.

Laser marking on glass

Laser marking can also work with glass. Marking on glass is carried out through the physical transformation of the material. Glass is a very fragile and inflexible material that traps micro-bubbles of air inside itself. When the laser strikes the surface of the material, the air bubbles expand due to the heat, creating micro-fractures. This changes the transparency of the material and creates the mark.

Beyond packaging

In some cases, laser marking can eliminate packaging. In recent years, laser marking on food has become a well-established technique. It is mainly used on produce or cured meat and cheese but can be used on any compatible product. In this application, the marking is done directly on the surface of the product. A layer, a few microns deep, is removed from the surface. The laser beam does not penetrate into the product so its freshness is preserved. Several studies have shown that laser marking does not affect the quality of the product in any way. Food distributors rely on it to save on tons of packaging materials each year, including self-adhesive labels.

Equipment for laser marking in packaging

The technical requirements for a laser marking system are a CO2 laser source, which produces the beam, a scanning head, which moves the beam over a surface, and a software controller, which coordinates the system.

The laser source

In the El.En. catalogue we have laser sources that range from 60W to 1200W of power. Greater power corresponds to greater energy per unit area, which can be translated into greater execution speed. Our catalogue has a selection of laser sources optimised for certain packaging materials. BLADE RF177G and BLADE RF333P with their two different wavelengths of 9.3 um and 10.2 um are perfect for the materials used in the packaging industry and in kiss cutting for adhesive labels.

Our Never Ending Power sources use Self-Refilling technology that potentially makes the laser’s life endless. This involves the addition of a consumable, the gas cartridge, which contains the propagation medium and can be easily replaced when it runs out. In this way, sources can maintain their performance over time. Unlike sealed lasers, this eliminates the time-consuming and costly refurbishment process.

The scanning head

Applications such as marking are called galvo laser scanning because they use galvanometric mirrors to move the laser beam across the surface.

The main feature of our scanning heads is that they have a z-dynamic motor, which allows the focus to be adjusted in height and thus maintain constant parameters on the work area.

The digital controller

The CO2 laser source and the scanning head need software to coordinate their movements in order to perform the required machining. Our heads also include this control system, which can be easily integrated with common operating systems.

Contact El.En.

Laser marking is one of our areas of expertise. Our engineers have worked on dozens of laser marking application projects in this field. If you work in packaging and are interested in a laser solution, contact us and we will be happy to find the best solution for your needs.

Laser perforation for flexible packaging

Bags and pouches of all kinds have been conquering the packaging market for several decades now. Flexible packaging adapts to the shape of the object it covers, so less material gets wasted. Laser perforation, also known as laser drilling, is a processing technique that allows the manufacturing of new packaging designs that at the same attract the eye and have advanced functional features. Laser perforation is but one of the many processing technique that can be employed in packaging manufacturing through laser.

In general, the great success of flexible packaging is due to its functional characteristics. The main functions of packaging are to first protect and preserve products, and second, to facilitate sales. Flexible packaging perfectly fulfills both functions in a terrific way. Not only does it protect the product from external influences, but it can also be easily processed to give it the shape that best enhances the product’s characteristics.

Packaging

Here are some examples of the wide variety of shapes and configurations flexible packaging can have:

  • stand-up doypack pouches
  • heat-sealed plastic bags
  • envelopes for product samples used for promotional purposes
  • pre-printed plastic film reels

Packaging of this type is employed in various industrial sectors. The food industry is one of the ones that makes the most common use of it. Flexible packaging provides the delicate products of this industry with an optimal balance between weight, protection, hygiene and functional and commercial characteristics. Other sectors such as cosmetics, health care and detergent industries also make extensive use of them.

The materials used to produce these forms of packaging fall into into 3 basic families:

  • plastic film – Polyethylene and polypropylene are the main thermoplastic polymers used, they provide high insulation properties
  • aluminium foil – Aluminium foil is used when high protection against light or temperature changes is required
  • polycarbonate – These are created by combining materials from the previous two families to combine the advantages of both materials

Laser perforation for flexible packaging

As we have already mentioned, flexible packaging has found widespread use in the food sector in particular. As more and more people live in cities, work and have little time to cook, the demand for fresh, ready-to-cook food has increased.

This type of packaging is used the most for products such as vegetables. In the fresh produce section of supermarkets, bagged vegetables have become the norm, and a convenient solution for people who want to eat vegetables but have no time to prepare them.

The challenge for producers here is not only to adopt sustainable packaging but also to maximise the shelf life of their products.

After being harvested, fresh food goes through a series of biological transformations that manifest themselves in the release of gases, water vapour and chemicals inside the bag. As a result, unsuitable conditions for product preservation are created inside the bag.

What is laser perforation?

Laser perforation makes it possible to overcome this problem. The creation of holes in the surface of the wrapper makes it possible to optimise the gas exchange between the inside and the outside environment. It then becomes easy to maintain the optimum conditions for better product preservation.

This technique is part of laser cutting processes. In this application, laser technology is used to create holes in the material. The most remarkable aspect of this process is that it makes it possible to define the characteristics of the holes very precisely, from their diameter to their shape. This gives this process a considerable advantage over conventional packaging methods. Whereas previously a manufacturer had to find the most suitable packaging already available on the market, with laser perforation they can customise the packaging to ensure optimum product preservation.

The advantages of laser perforation

Compared to traditional perforating methods for flexible packaging, laser perforation provides a number of advantages:

  • Precision: like all digital processes, laser perforation offers all the precision given by the use of software. The size of the holes can therefore be changed according to a wide range of parameters, even during the same process.
  • Protection of materials: laser technology minimises the possibility of accidentally damaging the material from which the plastic film is made.
  • Automation possibilities: laser perforation is a fully automatable process. It can be incorporated into existing production processes in order to fully automate and increase the manufacturing quality of the whole production line. It can be used for roll-to-roll or sheet-to-sheet processing.
  • Flexibility: different processes, within the same production cycle, can be performed with laser technology. The same machine can perform more than one process, like for example, perforating plastic film and marking information for product traceability.

What materials can laser perforation be performed on?

The best results in laser perforation are obtained with plastic film. Most thermoplastic polymers absorb the radiation of the CO2 laser well and therefore lend themselves perfectly to this type of processing. As we have seen, polyethylene and polypropylene are the materials on which the best results are obtained. On these materials, the cutting edges are perfectly defined, the processing precise and clean.

How a laser perforation system works

Choosing the right laser perforation system amongst the wide range of options on the market depends on the material used, the type of application and the final purpose of the project. However, we can identify some constants in all systems.

A laser perforation system normally consists of 2 components:

  • a CO2 laser source: this is the device that produces the laser beam. You can find laser sources with different power options in the El.En. catalogue.
  • a scanning head or focusing head: the laser scanning head is the device that moves the laser beam over a surface. In this way, perforations can be distributed over the surface according to production needs. This smart tool uses integrated control software and can follow any type of pattern. For simpler machining operations, this system can be replaced by a focusing head, which does not have a control system but allows the laser beam to be focused on a specific point that can be moved on one or two axes depending on requirements.

This combination of basic elements can be integrated into an infinite range of systems, from industrial in-line systems to stand-alone machines that do the processing independently. Laser systems can act on moving material from reel to reel or on sheets of material.

Contact us

The possibilities of laser perforation are endless. This article only covers one of the many possible applications. This technique can be used to create filters, disposable packaging, and packaging with particular and perfectly defined functional characteristics. Each application has its own peculiarities. Our job is to find the laser solution that gives you the best results for your application. If you think laser perforation might be right for you, send us a message and we will be happy to help you identify the best laser solution for your needs.

Paper digital converting

Paper processing is one of the main areas of application for the CO2 laser. The world of paper converting has benefited greatly from the spread this tool. The CO2 laser offers speed, efficiency and flexibility, allowing laser companies to meet the demands of an increasingly fragmented market.

Laser production processes also fit in perfectly with the digital printing processes that now dominate the converting industry. This is a sector that we know well at El.En. Over the years we have helped many companies introduce laser technology into their production processes. We have created numerous systems for paper processing, particularly for companies operating in the packaging sector.

Based on our experience, we will use this article to give an overview of laser applications for paper converting.

Laser and paper

Paper is part of our everyday life. There is no task or business that does not make use of some kind of paper material.

When we talk about paper, we include a wide range of materials. However, the various types of paper have a similar composition. At a microscopic level, a sheet of paper consists of a network of interwoven cellulose fibres, a filler, usually kaolin, and various chemicals derived from the manufacturing process.

The chemical structure of paper lends itself well to CO2 laser cutting. When the laser interacts with the cellulose, it dissolves its molecular structure, reducing the material to its basic components carbon, oxygen and hydrogen.

This processing system is very advantageous as it solves the main drawbacks of traditional paper cutting tools.

First of all, the laser offers flexibility. One of the methods for cutting paper is using dies. Each die can only be used to cut one shape. In order to obtain a new shape, a new cutting die must be created. This places a limit on how much work a company can accept: if the production batch isn’t big enough to pay back the cost of the new die, it becomes economically disadvantageous to produce it.

Laser technology, on the other hand, is much more flexible because the entire cutting system is digitally controlled by software. Modifying the shape that needs to be cut simply requires software intervention. This makes it economically viable to process small production batches.

Mechanical cutting has another drawback. The use of blades is another method used to cut paper. This cutting mechanism produces dust and residues that are not compatible with modern digital printing processes, which are now predominant. This means that it is necessary to separate the printing and cutting phases.

Laser cutting processes, on the other hand, produce very little residue and are therefore compatible with digital printing processes. What’s more, laser technology is a completely digital process. It can therefore easily be used in integrated systems that can perform all the production processes required by the converting industry in a single step.

Another problem with mechanical systems is that they cannot achieve consistent high quality cuts. Blades carry the risk of creating irregular or poor quality cuts. Many applications, particularly in the packaging sector, require extremely precise cuts. Containers for liquid food products, for example, need to have perfectly sealed edges (i.e. where there are no loose, protruding fibres). Laser cutting achieves these results because heat seals the edges during the cutting process.

On the basis of what we have previously stated, the use of lasers is advantageous in situations where the use of mechanical cutting is not economically viable. Here are some examples:

  • need for high quality and precision cuts
  • production volumes of less than 1000 pieces
  • need to create integrated digital printing and cutting production systems
  • need to eliminate waste due to the high cost of production equipment
  • execution of bespoke work
  • execution of particularly complex cuts

Some paper laser cutting applications

It would be difficult to make a complete list of laser applications for paper, especially since many of these processes used to be carried out with mechanical cutting equipment. However, laser technology has made it possible to perform processes that used to be impossible or very difficult to do very easily.

One example of this is partial surface cuts, which make it possible to create packaging models with advanced features like easy-opening packaging or open-close. This type of application is particularly popular in the food industry. This type of packaging doesn’t require any tools to be opened and therefore adds value to the product itself.

Conclusion

CO2 laser sources are ideal for paper processing. The CO2 laser interacts perfectly with the chemical composition of paper materials. Using it in this sector is very advantageous. As you can imagine, however, the possible implementations are numerous.

We would be happy to put our extensive experience in CO2 laser applications for the paper industry at your disposal. Feel free to contact us for information or a free quote.

Label laser die cutting

Laser die cutting of labels is a digital converting process. In this application, the laser die cutter replaces mechanical dies in the execution of processes such as the cutting or trimming of label templates.

The use of laser technology is particularly advantageous. On the one hand, it overcomes the typical disadvantages of mechanical die cuts. On the other hand, it allows the same processes to be performed with a flexibility and precision impossible to achieve with diecuts.

In this respect, the laser die cutting process clearly shows the advantages of using lasers for labeling and packaging applications.

How the label production process works

The production of self-adhesive labels is one of the most traditional papermaking operations.

Typically, the label production process takes place in 3 steps:

  • printing of the label on the master sheet
  • engraving of the label template
  • cutting of the label template

The die cutter is used for the operations of engraving the label and cutting it out from the master sheet to isolate the label from the sheet itself.

This processing technique has several disadvantages:

  • in order to obtain new shapes to cut, manufacturers must create a new die cutter
  • the mechanical properties of the tool do not allow complex shapes to be cut
  • the cutting tool wears out quickly and needs maintenance to work efficiently

Given those features, a mechanical production system is only efficient if it can guarantee high production volumes. However, the market today rewards companies that are able to offer innovative, customised production processes that can support numerous orders with small production volumes. And from this point of view, a laser cutting machine is the optimal production tool.

Laser processing of labels

Laser die-cutting is based on an ablation process. The operation is carried out by a laser machine. The beam laser power, focused on the material, removes a portion of material through a chemical process called sublimation. By means of devices such as galvo laser head, it is possible to move the laser beam along a determined path. Digital control also makes it possible to precisely calibrate the instrument according to the desired type of processing. The operation is carried out at high speed.

There are two possible operations: laser kiss-cutting and laser cutting. Both are laser cutting processes, but differ in how deep they cut the material.

Laser kiss-cutting and laser cutting

Laser kiss-cutting consists of cutting the surface layer of a multilayer material. Adhesive labels are printed on master sheets. These sheets typically consist of two layers: a top layer on which the graphics are printed and a backing layer, onto which the adhesive is glued. In laser kiss-cutting, the laser engraves only the surface, freeing the adhesive template from the backing matrix.

In laser cutting, the beam passes through all the layers of material, freeing the adhesive from the matrix and reducing it to a unit.

The advantages of laser label die cutting

Laser finishing offer numerous advantages:

  • the cutting path can be modified by simply loading a new file into the system
  • the absence of mechanical contact allows particularly complex cutting paths to be followed
  • laser cutters does not wear out and requires minimal maintenance

For a company using a digital laser die, it becomes possible to manage production in an innovative way. It can now make prototypes for the customer, start small volume production runs and accept numerous orders that wouldn’t be sustainable with traditional production methods. It is a true paradigm shift in the way we conceive production.

There is yet another advantage. In the digital converting industry, and particularly in paper converting, CO2 lasers are almost exclusively used. These laser systems are known to interact very efficiently with paper materials. This characteristic, coupled with the reduced production of processing waste, makes the laser an eco-friendly production tool.

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El.En. has developed numerous digital converting applications over the years. Contact us to find the application that best suits your needs.

6 advantages of laser manufacturing abrasives materials

Abrasives, part of a family of materials characterised by their great hardness, are used for processes such as polishing or the sanding of surfaces. They are available in a wide variety of shapes and types and lend themselves to a multitude of processes.

These materials can be moulded into a large number of shapes: discs, brushes, wheels, cutters, grinding wheels. However, traditional abrasive processing methods have limitations that can be overcome with laser processing.

In this article we will look at the 6 advantages of using laser technology in the manufacturing process of abrasive products.

1. Laser is a non-contact process

The main problem in the manufacturing of abrasives is that the abrasive action is also exerted on the tool itself. Let us take flexible abrasives as an example. In this category of abrasives, the abrasive substance is sprinkled on a backing, which is normally made of paper or a polymer material. In order to obtain the desired shapes, such as a rotating disc or wheel, tools such as dies are used, i.e. a mechanical method that uses contact between parts to separate an element from the die into the desired shape.

Operations such as die cutting of abrasive materials, however, have a drawback. The abrasive action is also exerted on the cutting tools. Blades, dies and cutters quickly get worn out and must be replaced frequently to maintain high machining quality. This increases machining costs, which consequently increases the cost of the final product.

Laser cutting of abrasive materials overcomes this disadvantage. It is characterised by a total absence of contact. The laser beam interacts remotely with the surface of the material in a non-mechanical process that avoids the problem of continuous wear of the machining tools.

2. Laser is a versatile tool

A major disadvantage of traditional machining methods is also their lack of flexibility. For example, a die made to create a specific shape can only be used to create that specific shape. To make differently shaped parts, it is necessary to create new diecuts, provided that the investment required to create them is justified by a profitable return.

Similarly, only one machining operation can be performed with traditional machining tools. A die-cutting tool can only perform one machining operation. A cutting tool can only perform cutting. To perform different machining operations, one must change the machining tool. If a manufacturer wanted to apply information to an abrasive disc such as grit size or a serial number, he would have to insert the part into a dedicated machine, such as a printing machine.

Laser systems, on the other hand, allow several machining operations to be performed in a single session. With the same system, flexible discs can be cut from a die, cuts and perforations can be made and surface information on a material can be added through laser marking. In addition, the use of lasers allows the shape or size of the piece being manufactured to be changed in real time, without any additional aids. It is precisely its high flexibility that makes the laser the trump card for this type of application.

Laser offers a true change in the very way production is understood. It gives manufacturers the possibility of enormously expanding their commercial offerings. It becomes possible to create prototypes, just-in-time production, or series of small parts for high-value customers.

3. Laser is a precise tool

Abrasives are used in many different industries. Each of them requires specific processes, and, therefore, abrasive tools that are shaped differently. This means that there are more or less specialised tools: from simple sandpaper, sold in rolls and used by carpenters and craftsmen, to customised rotating discs for high-precision machining.

However, mechanical machining tools have a tolerance limit beyond which they cannot go. The size of the machining tools, their design, and the need to avoid unwanted contact limit the complexity of the machining that can be performed.

Laser, on the other hand, allows very tight tolerances. Since there is no contact between the parts, the tool can follow intricate cutting paths, create microscopic perforations and special shapes, make surface cuts and other machining operations that would be impossible with mechanical cutting tools.

4. Laser reduces machining waste

With traditional machining tools, processing is performed by the mechanical removal of material. The process tends to produce machining waste, dust and other residues that must be managed in some way, with a variable economic and environmental cost.

Laser machining processes, on the other hand, tend not to produce waste. Material removal occurs through sublimation. The very high energy density produced by the laser on the surface allows the temperature of the material to rise, instantly vaporising it as a result of a transformation of the material state.

5. Laser respects materials

Mechanical machining processes present a risk of damage to products due to accidental contact or excessive mechanical contact. Any deformation lowers the quality of the final product.

In laser processing, there is no risk of damage from mechanical contact. Laser processing respects all materials, even the most delicate ones. They guarantee a higher quality of the finished part and are therefore ideal for the sectors in which the degree of error must be kept down to a minimum.

6. Laser is an environmentally friendly process

Laser processing offers high energy efficiency. All things being equal, laser performs the processing with much lower energy expenditure than mechanical processing. This, combined with the absence of waste, makes the laser one of the most environmentally friendly processing tools available to manufacturers.

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Laser is a cost-effective tool for the manufacturing of abrasive materials. Because the possible applications are numerous, seeking the advice of an expert can help you find the most suitable processing system for your application. El.En. CO2 laser systems are ideal for the manufacturing of abrasive materials. Contact us for more information.