As a business owner within the recognition and identification industry you are probably well aware of the important role played by your engraving equipment. Of course you need a laser or rotary machine or both, but more importantly you need an engraving system that fits your business’s needs. After all, engraving equipment is a substantial investment and what works in one shop may not work in another. What you really need is equipment that you can afford, that you are comfortable with (after the initial learning curve) and that really does the job you need it to do.
In an effort to provide our readers with a good look at what’s out there in laser and rotary equipment, we sought out the major manufacturers in the industry for some help. We asked them “What is your favorite and/or top-selling laser and/or rotary machine today?” and invited them to make a case for why that equipment is a good, sound investment for an engraving shop. If you are looking for new engraving equipment, perhaps there is something here that is just what you need. Here (listed alphabetically) is what they had to say.
Epilog Helix 24
“The Helix 24 is Epilog’s most popular-selling mid-size laser engraving system,” says Mike Dean, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Part of Epilog’s Legend Elite Series, this laser features a 24"x18" engraving table and is available in wattages ranging from 30 to 75. Pricing for this system starts at $15,495.
Due to its versatility, durability and significant size, the Helix 24 is well-suited for a variety of industries including signage (indoor/outdoor, point-of-sale, etc.), awards and engraving (trophies, plaques, commemorative items), woodworking (cabinets, drawer fronts, etc.) and much more. The Helix, like all of Epilog’s CO2 laser systems, is capable of working with wood, acrylic, most plastics, fabric, treated metals, glass, marble, cork, paper and much more.
“Maintenance on the machine is minimal but paramount as keeping a clean system helps maintain the life of your laser. With simple, regular maintenance, users can keep their systems running at peak performance,” says Dean. Epilog recommends cleaning the optics and auto focus plunger weekly, and performing other routine maintenance procedures such as cleaning the linear encoder strips monthly and cleaning the exhaust every six months or so.
According to Dean, the learning curve on Epilog Laser systems is relatively small. Because Epilog’s machines run similarly to printers, users can simply connect the laser to their computer and be up-and-running in no time. While determining the proper speed and power settings for certain materials can involve a bit of trial and error, Epilog’s comprehensive user’s manual lists speed and power settings for the most common materials used by engravers. Additionally, Epilog offers a Virtual Training Suite for customers where they can complete basic projects to get a feel for using the system.
The Helix 24 boasts a large number of features, some of which include: Radiance high resolution standard optics, easy-access storage stand, high-speed servo motors, highly-
accurate linear encoders, stainless steel bearings, motorized table, 1" thick integrated cutting table, integrated vacuum table, drop-down front-loading door and easy-to-maintain CO2 Waveguide laser tubes. Other features include: memory in the machine, 3D engraving mode, stamp engraving mode, moveable home position, raster/vector color mapping, and adjustable speed and power on the fly.
“Because the Helix 24 can both cut and engrave a variety of materials, it’s incredibly versatile. Whether users are cutting prototypes from wood, engraving/cutting signage components, engraving custom tech gadgets or marking an entire jig of parts, the Helix 24 is a robust machine that can help increase productivity and throughput while creating a permanent engraving,” explains Dean.
Epilog systems are fairly complete in and of themselves. Required ancillary equipment includes a proper smoke removal system and a PC to run the engraver. Epilog also offers a variety of accessories that can help engravers offer more to their customers. For example, using the rotary attachment option, you can engrave mugs, wine bottles and glasses, vases and much more. There are also additional lens options designed for cutting thicker materials or very precise engravings.
GCC LaserPro Laser Engraving and Cutting System
GCC America touts the LaserPro Spirit GX series as among the most advanced and reliable laser engraving systems on the market. “The SGX is the perfect choice for any high-
production engraving and cutting applications,” explains Jeff Lee, Sales Manager.
The SGX features a large work area of 38"x24" which is sufficient to accommodate production batches as well as moderate size acrylic sheets. This laser is available in different wattages, including 30W, 40W, 60W and 100W. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price for the 30W SGX is $25,000.
The SGX is equipped with a newly designed lid known as “SmartLID,” an innovative design that allows easy access to the machine’s internal parts for general maintenance, making it simple and easy for users to keep their machine in top condition. The Smart-LID provides easy access to critical parts including the carriage, lens, linear X guide, table platform and more.
Another advantage of the SGX series is its user-friendly approach for users. “We’ve incorporated a user-friendly graphic control panel that makes running jobs easy and fun,” explains Lee. The graphic control allows users to adjust machine settings in a file, pause a job, automatically adjust the auto focus and store multiple jobs, all of which provide more control to the users when running jobs.
The SGX is also equipped with many of GCC’s state-of-the-art features, such as the company’s SmartAct features. According to Lee, “The SmartAct is a groundbreaking technology that reduces the ramping process and job running time, helping to boost productivity. We’ve also incorporated our Quality Speed Mode technology that redefines the correlation between speed and quality in order to achieve high quality while engraving at high speeds.”
Other features include GCC’s pass-through front and rear design that enables users to load and engrave materials and items that are larger than the cabinet such as large acrylic sheets or door cabinets; a drag and engrave feature which allows users to simply drag the lens carriage to the desired position and press start to commence the engraving; and the Smart Center tool, which allows the machine to locate the center of the material being engraved quickly and easily, and without using a ruler.
For software, GCC’s LaserPro laser systems include a Windows-based driver that is compatible with a wide array of graphic design programs. The SGX also features an optional Adobe Illustrator plug-in for Macintosh computers.
In summary, Lee says, the SGX is a versatile laser system suitable for a wide range of application needs in diverse industries, including—but not limited to—recognition and identification, awards, personalization, prototypes, signs, architecture and more.
Gravograph LS100EX CO2 Laser
“The Gravograph LS100EX CO2 laser is an excellent solution for a wide range of applications including permanent marking, industrial plates, signage and personalization. With the included application software, the laser engraving system is designed for rapid results and operator usability, safety and ergonomics,” states Jonathan Cohen, Engraving Equipment & Software Product Manager.
The LS100EX is available in 35W and 40W versions and features a sealed CO2 laser tube rated at 60,000 hours MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure). “MTBF is a measure of reliability,” explains Cohen. “It is the average time during which the system performs to specification between failures. It is not a measure of product lifetime since failures can usually be corrected.”
The overall size of the laser measures 40"W x 28.5"D x 17.7"H. The table is 24"x12" and is capable of holding items 29"x13"x5.7" high and will support objects up to 44 lbs. The unique T-slot table surface makes it easy to add custom fixturing.
According to Cohen, the LS100EX is designed to increase your in-house production and will engrave up to 100 inches per second. In addition, a “point and shoot” feature with a red spotting beam makes job layout simple and reduces the time required to set up difficult jobs.
Regarding software, the laser package includes LaserStyle Graphic engraving software designed specifically for lasers. “LaserStyle is the premier laser engraving software designed by engravers for engravers. It provides an efficient set of tools used by engravers for technical drawing, computer-aided design and laser processing,” says Cohen.
Some of the features of LaserStyle include: automatic composition mode; easy and efficient matrix layouts; bar code reading and generating capabilities; PhotoLase photo-processing module; rubber stamp processing module; scanning, bitmap editing and vectorizing capabilities; special text features (text on an arc, curve or other shape, etc.); drawing capabilities; and the ability to save power and speed settings with job files for fast and efficient job retrieval. There is also an option to add the ability to drive both rotary and laser engravers from the same platform.
In addition to the laser unit and software, Gravograph offers a variety of accessories, including an optional cylindrical attachment for engraving items such as fluted glasses and wine bottles up to 5.1" in diameter, 19.7" long and weighing up to 11 pounds.
Gravograph also offers a 24"x12" vacuum table for holding materials flat without tape or clamps, a 24"x12" stainless steel honeycomb cutting table and a “floating pin” cutting table for holding odd-shaped parts. An automatic plate feeder is an option that stacks up to 195 plates and automatically feeds them for batch engraving.
A complete line of exhaust options is also available, including an integrated exhaust system for minimal footprint, a stand-alone exhaust unit to physically separate the exhaust and keep the noise level down near the machine and a blower unit.
Gravograph IS400 Rotary Engraver
“The IS400 series rotary engravers are known for their ruggedness and versatility, and serve the middle of the range in applications in terms of size and power,” says Jonathan Cohen. “By virtue of its modular and open configuration, the system can be used for both commercial and industrial applications involving engraving and marking a wide variety of medium-sized items.”
On the commercial end, the IS400’s capabilities include engraving pet tags, badges, key rings, gifts, jewelry, trophy and plaque plates, small cylindrical items and more. This system is also capable of handling many industrial jobs, including tool marking, serial numbering, industrial labels and tags, and direct part marking. By upgrading the machine to include the IS400 Volume base, it can be used for larger part marking by handling larger and longer items in addition to larger cylindrical engraving jobs, such as large cups, trophies with handles and ice buckets.
One of the key advantages of this machine is its versatility. A self-centering vise can be quickly swapped with the optional cylindrical accessory to switch between vise, flat or cylindrical engraving modes. The engraving area on this system is 12"x8.25". The part capacity in the vise is 9"L x 4.7"H x unlimited W (9"x15.7" x unlimited on the IS400 Volume model). The cylindrical fixture can hold items up to 4.3" in diameter and 7.8" long (13.8" diameter, 19.7" long and up to 55 lbs. on the IS400 Volume).
The IS400 comes equipped with a hand-held control with an LCD interface and runs quietly, making it well-suited for use in retail locations or home-based businesses.
Gravograph’s GravoStyle Discovery application software is bundled with the engraving machine and extends the capabilities and usability of the equipment. “The integrated software, firmware and drivers along with many software wizards and help aids guide the operator and lower the learning curve,” says Cohen.
Some of the software’s key features include: point and shoot red spotting beam for job setup and verification; automatic Z-reference; automatic composition mode for quick and easy job layout; ability to import most standard bitmap and vector file types; extensive typographic capabilities; matrix and serialization for production of multiple plates or matrix of plates with variable data or sequential numbers; and the ability to drive both rotary and laser engravers from the same platform.
Gravograph also offers a variety of software options to enhance the machine’s capabilities, including: 2D filling; Grade 2 Braille translation; font editor; long plate engraving; PhotoStyle for engraving photos using microimpressions of a diamond tool; and a large selection of fonts.
Many accessories are available for use with the IS400, such as jigs, depth noses, high-frequency spindle, collet spindle, ADA Braille kit, pen attachment, chip collectors, etc.
A clamping table is available for holding large plates and a vacuum table can be used for engraving large plates or a series of precut labels or badges without worrying about clamping. Gravograph offers a pen attachment for engraving pens up to 0.78" in diameter and an inside/outside ring attachment for diamond drag engraving both the inside and outside of rings, bangle bracelets and manufactured ring-shaped parts. An automatic plate feeder is available for engraving stacks of plates without human intervention after the initial setup.
Gravograph also supplies a full line of engraving cutters, shop supplies and engravable materials and gifts for your applications.
GD Han's Yueming Laser CMA6040K Laser
“Han’s Yueming Laser’s CMA6040K model laser cutting and engraving machine is a very popular machine among thousands of customers in many industries involved in laser processing, such as signage, handicrafts, labels, models, promotional gifts, even garments, shoes and bags,” says Managing Director Kevin Zhuo.
The CMA6040K laser system has a working area of 600mm by 400mm (23.6"x15.7") and an overall size of 1100x920x1016mm (43.3"x36.2"x40"). This smart and versatile CO2 laser machine is capable of fast engraving on both flat materials and cylindrical objects. Depending on the choice of the laser tube power, this machine is also well-suited for cutting acrylic up to 20mm thick (.78") or even thicker in one pass with a shiny, smooth edge finish. “This is why this laser is not only popular for engraving, but also popular for cutting different non-metal materials from MDF, acrylics and ABS board to fabrics, leather, laces, silk, card stock and so on,” explains Zhuo.
The CMA6040K is designed to meet the needs of customers with different budgets. Han’s Yueming offers different types of laser sources, including USA RF metal tubes and China glass tubes (60W, 80W, 100W, 130W). “Users who need a machine with more power and capabilities, such as finer and more delicate engraving, will be more than satisfied with the CMA6040K model; and those with a limited budget will also get an ideal machine at a much lower cost,” says Zhuo.
According to Zhuo, Han’s Yueming’s self-developed Smart Carver software is also a very attractive factor. This software features basic design functions and is compatible with the latest versions of the Windows operating system and design software such as CorelDRAW and AutoCAD, making it extremely user friendly. You can use the software to set the laser power and engraving speed and directly output a job from CorelDRAW or AutoCAD with just one click of the mouse. You can also save the job and the engraving parameters in the software’s database for future reference.
Han’s Yueming Laser offers all the necessary auxiliary equipment with the machine, such as a chiller (for glass laser tubes), wind pump and air compressor so you don’t have to make additional purchases to complete the system.
Han’s Yueming makes great strides to make sure all of the machine parts are of the highest quality. “All of our laser models, including the CMA6040K, are very reliable and stable,” says Zhuo. In addition, maintenance is very easy; regular maintenance usually involves checking and cleaning the optics, and replacing the water coolant in the industrial chiller. “You can find all the answers to FAQs in the English manual which gives very detailed explanations on machine installation, operation, maintenance and troubleshooting,” adds Zhuo.
GD Han’s Yueming Laser Tech Co., Ltd. is a new enterprise with factories in Dongguan, Shanghai and Jiangsu (China) that specializes in developing, manufacturing and selling laser equipment. Han’s Yueming Laser’s product line currently includes 8 series of lasers with more than 70 models covering high, mid and low power laser cutting, engraving and marking capabilities.
Roland DGA EGX-350 Rotary Machine & ADA Signage Kit
“Roland’s new ADA Signage Kits are designed exclusively for use with the company’s EGX line of professional engraving machines, including the powerful, yet affordable EGX-350,” says Rick Rivera, Product Manager. “Complete with everything needed to produce tamper-resistant ADA and Raster Braille signage, Roland’s ADA kits allow engraving professionals to produce ADA signage quickly and easily, meeting all new state and federal regulations that go into effect on March 15, 2012.”
On that date, mandatory compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 2010, and the recently adopted ADA Standards for Accessible Design, will be required for all new construction and facility alterations. The new ADA regulations apply to any sign that designates permanent rooms and spaces, and where goods and services are made available to the public, including resorts, hotels, hospitals and other medical facilities, entertainment and cultural sites, and educational facilities. “These new, stricter laws present a lucrative business opportunity for engraving professionals as thousands of venues nationwide will be installing and updating ADA signage,” states Rivera.
Roland’s new ADA Signage Kits are designed to help engravers capitalize on this opportunity and build a profitable ADA signage business. Each EGX-350 kit includes an engraving system, the necessary engraving tools, Braille and profile cutters, CADlink EngraveLab Expert software, Rowmark engravable ADA-compliant materials, adhesive sheets, an Accent Signage, Inc. Raster Pen License Kit, and a self-contained chip removal system. The EGX-350 ADA Kit comes standard with a manual Raster Pen.
According to Rivera, the EGX-350 itself is as powerful as it is affordable. Using a 20,000 rpm DC brushless motor, it produces crisp text and clear graphics. Designed for ease of use, the EGX-350 features a surface detector that automatically locates the starting point for the Z-axis. A hand-held control panel with a large LCD screen lets you quickly select engraving options, such as spindle speed, without using a PC. Cleanup is easy as well with the automatic vacuum adapter included.
The bundled EngraveLab software imports AI and EPS file formats and allows you to preview designs to save time and materials. Templates are easy to create for a range of applications well beyond the ADA realm.
In addition to ADA signage, Roland’s EGX-350 is capable of engraving custom awards, promotional items, badges, nameplates, key rings and luggage tags. “It personalizes everything from jewelry to treasured mementos, and can even be used for rhinestone apparel decoration,” says Rivera. In addition to the EGX-350 Kit, Roland offers ADA Signage Kits for its EGX-400 and -600 models.
Roland DGA MPX-90 Impact Printer
“Roland’s MPX-90 desktop impact printer is a powerful personalization device for awards, jewelry, gift items and accessories,” says Rick Rivera.
Based on the Roland Photo Marking System (RPMS), the MPX-90 uses a durable diamond-tipped stylus to imprint hard surfaces, including stainless steel, titanium, iron, gold, silver, copper, platinum, brass, aluminum, nickel and acrylic. According to Rivera, “This innovative system produces flawless photographs, vector images and fonts up to 529 dpi.”
The MPX-90 is priced at $4,495, features a maximum printing area of 3.1"x3.1" and imprints items as large as 3.9"x7.9"x1.5" with the cover closed. Users can also hold items of virtually any length in the machine when the cover is open. Additional features include automatic surface detection, a center-opening vise, USB connectivity and a user-replaceable print head cartridge.
In addition to flat items such as pendants, dog tags and key chains, the MPX-90 can imprint text, graphics and photographs onto curved objects including pens, cuff links and money clips. The machine is quiet and compact and operates completely free of odors and debris.
The MPX-90 comes with METAZA-Studio editing software which imports data files in AI, EPS, JPEG or BMP format and accepts data from digital cameras and compatible scanners. Users can add text, frames and borders, remove backgrounds, and rotate text and images. In addition, the software supports vector designs which allows for faster, more precise production of text and line art.
The MPX-90 also includes Dr. Engrave, an easy-to-use engraving software application that inputs various types of text and bitmap images, and supports industry standard True-Type fonts. The software also features a built-in single stroke font editor (SFEdit) to convert any Windows TrueType font into a stroke font to improve engraving speeds and allow the user to engrave smaller text without any type of overlap or bleed. Dr. Engrave supports variable data printing using CSV or TXT files imported into a template.
“As Roland’s latest, most powerful impact printer to date, the MPX-90 is ideally suited for engraving professionals who want to expand their reach into new markets,” says Rivera.
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