One of the recent advances in laser engraving advent of Fiber lasers for marking metal. Standard CO2 laser work wonderfully on organic and porous materials like wood and plastics. But they don’t produce enough concentrated laser energy to engrave metals. There are ways to get around this by using after-market spray-on coatings, but these are limited to surface decoration.
The more tightly focused beam of a Fiber laser enables engraving on metals. This opens up whole new markets for laser engraving . But now you to buy two laser engravers right? One for porous, one for metals? Not anymore. Spirit GLS Hybrid laser engravers support both approaches in one advanced platform. There’s lots of utility and efficiency packed into this advanced engraving platform. Let’s take a peek under the hood.
Overview CO2 and Fiber
Laser engravers work by applying pulses of focused laser energy on items such as wood, acrylic, leather. The laser beam can bore into the surface, or cut through it. Engraving is the process of boring into the surface of an item at varying levels of speed and power to burn away the surface and create a visible, tangible mark. Cutting burns all the way through the item to create custom shapes. The workhorse of the awards and engraving industry for many years has been the sealed CO2 laser. A CO2 laser uses light passed through Carbon dioxide and bounced through a system of mirrors to focus the beam onto the surface of the item to be decorated. CO2 lasers engravers can engrave and/or cut an amazing variety of things, including wood, card stock, paper, rubber stamps, glass, leather, paper, acrylics, and even heat transfer film. But they do have one critical limitation. They can’t directly mark metal.
To compensate for this deficiency, there are coatings that can be applied to metals that can then be scorched into the surface with a CO2 laser. You brush or spray it on, engrave the item, then wash off the excess. These spray-on coatings are an option, but they don’t allow for multiple colors or a wide variety of texture and detail produced by engraving organic materials. The other option in awards and engraving for marking metal is rotary engraving. Rotary engraving uses carbon-tipped tools to scratch the surfaces of metals in a manner familiar to anyone who’s ever seen a brass trophy plaque. It’s a surface treatment also known as scribe engraving. It marks the surface, but just barely and doesn’t produce the kind of detail and texture that a CO2 engraver produces on organic materials.
Fiber Laser Benefits
The solution to this decades old problem is a newer technology called fiber lasers. Fiber laser engravers use advances in fiber optic technologies to produce a more tightly focused beam of laser energy that can mark, and engrave much denser materials. Fiber lasers are much more effective on metals and can be used without having to rely on coating liquids. With new fiber marking laser engravers, surface coatings like Cermark and LaserINK aren’t necessary.
A fiber-optically generated laser beam is narrow enough and powerful enough to carve dense molecular structure of metals. And, because it’s a laser engraving technology and not just scribe engraving, it produces much more appealing, and tangible results than a rotary engraver. Fiber lasers open up new markets to engravers in both commercial and industrial applications.
GLS Hybrid: Two lasers in one.
So, if you want to compete in the awards business and take on all kinds of jobs from wooden keepsakes to high engraved stainless steel tumblers, you need a CO2 laser and a fiber laser, right? Wrong. You need a Spirit GLS Hybrid laser engraver. The ingenious GLS Hybrid system allows you to use both technologies in one unit. The advantages are obvious and numerous. Save space. Save money. Save time by reducing the learning curve of having to master two completely different engravers. The intuitive and user-friendly drivers that have made Spirit and M Series laser so easy popular are adapted for use for hybrid engraving. The Spirit GLS Hybrid’s dual-laser technology allows users to activate each laser tube simply by selecting a pen color in the driver. The laser system will then switch automatically between laser tubes within one job. No optics change or manual adjustment is needed when switches happen between laser firings. What could be simpler?
There is one caveat. Engineering one laser engraver to operate with two laser tubes working in harmony adds cost. Fiber laser is a newer, more expensive technology than CO2, so adding the metal engraving option raises the sticker price a bit. Adding metal marking to your laser engraving repertoire requires a good business case. With that in mind, let’s look at the impressive menu of choices the Spirit GLS Hybrid offers.
One engraver, Two Tubes, 23 Options.
With the clever setup of the Spirit GLS Hybrid laser, you have lots of possible configurations. There’s something for everyone in this technological smorgasbord. Here are the possible options.
SPIRIT GLS CO2 + Fiber: The base GLS Hybrid model comes with a CO2 tube installed with firmware prepped for the addition of a Fiber laser later. The GLS Hybrid CO2 is powered by the renowned Synrad Firestar Series laser tube in 5 power levels ranging from 30 to 100 watts. Prices start at a modest $22,500.00.
SPIRIT GLS Fiber + CO2: The next step up the GLS Hybrid ladder is a GLS with a fiber tube installed and an option to add the CO2 laser later. The GLS Hybrid Fiber comes in 20, 30, and 50-watt models with prices starting at $36,000.
SPIRIT GLS CO2 AND Fiber: The do-it-all GLS Hybrid with both tubes installed is the best choice for those who want to be able to say ‘Yes’ to every opportunity. As you may have guessed, you can mix and match all five of the CO2 power levels with the 20, 30, or 50 watt fiber tubes, resulting in 15 different models. Choices here range from a 30 watt/20watt CO2/fiber setup to a 100/50 watt powerhouse. The 30/20 CO2-Fiber package will power your dreams for just under $42,000.
How Much Power?
Speaking of power, the menu of available choices begs the question; how powerful a laser do I need? It depends on what you want to do and how quickly you want to do it. Laser engravers engrave and cut materials in much the same way printers and cutters print and cut vinyl. Engraving produces fine detail by changing the texture and depth of the surface. Cutting determines the shape of an object by burning through it to change the outer shape or create negative space in the item (FIG3).
Power levels don’t limit your capability to engrave different materials, but they do effect how efficiently the engraver works. A higher-powered laser engraver can finish a job more quickly, with fewer passes, than a lower-powered laser. Cutting is determined largely by power. The more wattage your laser produces, the thicker the material you will be able to cut. Here are some general guidelines for vector cutting.
- 30watts: cuts materials up to 1/8” thick (3-4mm)
- 40watts: cuts materials up to ¼” thick (5-6mm)
- 50/60watts: Cuts materials up to 3/8” thick (10mm)
- 75-100watts: Cuts materials up to 1/2” thick (13mm)
It’s hard to know in advance what levels to choose. Do you go for the max and equip yourself for all situations, or start small and build the business as you go? Decisions, decisions. This GLS Hybrid CO2 and Fiber setup with a 40watt CO2 and 20 Watt Fiber laser strikes a nice balance of versatility and value.
If you’ve been considering a laser engraver for your awards business, but weren’t sure which way to go, now you have the perfect solution. You don’t have to choose whether to focus on organic materials or more upscale metallic engraving. You can do both. And with the various options available in the GLS Hybrid, you can start simply with the CO2 option or go for the CO2 AND Fiber setup and cover all the bases from the start. There are lots of options. If you’re a tad confused, just give us a call at 800-899-85655. One of our trained laser engraving sales consultants will help you make the best choice for your needs and aspirations.