For anyone who has never used a co2 laser engraver how it works might seem like a mystery, but it’s actually fairly simple. The machine itself is composed of three parts: the controller, the surface, and the laser itself. The controller controls the direction that the laser is moving in, its intensity, its spread, and the speed at which it moves. This controller is usually a computer, and most lasers can be programmed to replicate fairly intricate patterns designed using specialty software. The surface is generally chosen in accordance with what materials the laser is able to act on. In some machines the surface is stationary and the laser moves, while in others the laser remains stationary while the work surface moves. Extremely precise or decorative designs may require the use of a laser table, which allows the laser beam itself to be guided with increased precision.
Different types of lasers are used depending on what materials are being engraved. CO2 lasers operate at a longer wavelength and are used most frequently for metal fabrication. CO2 laser engravers were some of the first to be designed and successfully built, though the technology behind them has since allowed for the construction of a wide variety of other specialty laser engraves designed for everything from glass etching to woodworking.
The laser beam itself creates cuts through the application of extremely focused and concentrated light, a high percentage of which is converted into heat. This causes the material to be burned or vaporized away quickly and simply without damaging the rest of the metal or other surface being engraved. Changes to the speed at which the laser moves and the intensity of the laser beam can help to create more interesting and intricate patterns, and because the beam is controlled with extreme precision by the controller there is no chance of deviating from the design.
Over the past decades laser engraving technology has been growing in popularity and in versatility. These days everything from plastic to stone can be laser engraved. The machines have also become less expensive as the technology has proliferated, making modern laser engraving much less cost-prohibitive than it was in the past.