Laser engraving is a newer engraving technology which uses a beam of highly focused light to cut through various materials. Laser engravers can also be used to effectively cut and engrave many types of acrylics and woods. The limitation associated with the laser engraving method stems from fume extraction. Most laser engraving produces smoke or toxic fumes which need to be cleaned and/or ventilated. Laser systems do not work on all materials. For instance, ABS materials do not process well with a CO2 laser. In addition, laser engravers do not provide the same engraving depth precision that rotary engravers do.
The advantages to laser engraving are in the details. Laser systems have the ability to process fine details & raster-based graphics at 1,000 DPI quality. These engravers can produce any font read by a printer, which allows for endless design possibilities.
Another advantage to laser engraving is the ability to engrave without the need for clamping or fixtures. Because laser systems apply no physical force on the material or part to be engraved there is little need for holding parts in place. Laser engraving items can be placed side by side in the laser bed to maximize production.
Laser engraving provides a wide range of possibilities. More versatile than router engravers or milling machines, CO2 laser engravers can quickly and easily customize wooden objects and products, engrave glasses or ceramic cups, etch on stone or plastic, mark coated metal plates, print on fabric and leather, cut through substrates, and so much more!
Rotary (Drag/Mechanical) Engraving
During mechanical engraving, the workpiece is clamped down while a milling cutter glides across the surface. Material is removed by the rotary motion of the milling cutter. Different shapes can be milled out of most material. Layered plastic materials can be engraved in this way as well as metal surfaces, which allow for increased contrast by adding color to the deep machined lettering or decorations.
Rotary engraving is a popular method for engraving a wide range of materials. These engraving machines use specialized carbide bits to achieve precise depths in a variety of materials. Rotary engraving provides a clean and smooth engraved mark.
There are some limitations associated with the rotary engraving method. First, rotary engraving systems typically require vector based files (line art) to create an engraving path for the machine to follow. This means rotary engravers are largely used for text and basic shapes with limited fonts. A second limitation of rotary engraving is the pressure or stress that can be put on an item when engraved. This usually means an item that is to be engraved such as a handheld radio needs to be clamped in place to allow the machine to engrave. This also requires the engraver to press down on the item to achieve the proper depth. This can cause stress on the material leading to cracking or an uneven mark.
However, rotary engravers do have some advantages over their laser counterparts. For one, rotary engravers do a great job of producing smooth and deep finishes needed for paint filling metals or plastics. Fume extraction is another plus, as these engravers have no odor and pose no risk of fire or gas release. Engraving material is also an area where rotary engravers excel, as this family of engravers does not require special plastics or acrylics and can engrave into almost any surface. Rotary systems often operate with materials that are less expensive and easier to process, and can engrave simple characters into plastics faster than laser machines.
Full-Color Sublimation Printing
Sublimation printing aims at transferring a design from sublimation paper onto a piece of material by using pressure and heat (between 350 – 400 degrees). Changing the solid particles of the ink into a gaseous state, it adds personalization to products that is used by both companies and people at home. The high-quality end product of sublimation printing has resulted in its popularity increased over the past few years.
The speed of sublimation makes it incredibly convenient for anyone wanting to bring a design to fruition in a strict deadline. As it uses technology, it can be done a lot quicker than other methods that would require more human power. However, as a heat press needs to be accurate, the process will have to be monitored to ensure that the designs are being produced at the same level of quality each time.
The quality of the designs produced through sublimation printing tend to be a lot better than other forms of printing. The vibrancy is generally impressive, as is the DPI – depending on the printer. The print that is produced by sublimation will not fade or peel, unlike other designs that are printed. This is because the ink is absorbed, rather than remaining as a layer on top of the fabric. This means that you can wash the item of clothing as many times as you want without having to worry.
Heat Transfer Vinyl and Screen-Printing
A somewhat recent innovation, heat transferring images to fabric has become more popular in the last 20 years. A heat transfer uses a combination of heat and pressure to print images onto t-shirts and other items. There are two main kinds of heat transfer methods: vinyl and digital print. Both methods require the use of a heat-press machine.
The vinyl heat-transfer process uses a machine to cut out individual letters and designs from pieces of colored vinyl. The full image is then pieced together on the promo item and pressed with heat to transfer the image to the item. This method is best suited for printing sportswear jerseys, slogans, or small, multi-colored graphics.
A digital print heat transfer is accomplished through a process much like a home printer. The full graphic image is designed on the computer and digitally printed onto high-quality paper using a special, solvent ink. When the paper is pressed to the promo item with heat, the ink adheres to the material and the graphic image transfers to the item. T-shirts and other garments printed using this method offer high-resolution images and are ideal for complex designs with many colors.
Heat transfers are great for smaller print runs or jobs that involve many colors. This method of printing requires a special printer and quality of paper, as well as a heating press to set the design in place.
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