Laser engraving templates are basically pre-made designs that can be directly applied to engrave objects and even customized to meet specific needs. They present the quickest and most cost-effective way to laser engrave multiple objects. But for your templates to be useful in the long term, they need to be well designed. Below are some useful tips you can use to that effect:
Use the Right Materials
While you can make templates with almost any thinkable material, some materials are easier to cut and require minimal post-production cleansing, which saves time if you have to engrave a lot of objects. Trotec’s TroLase is an example of a material designed specifically for use in laser engraving.
The thickness of the objects you want to engrave should also guide you in your material selection. For instance, if you plan to engrave thin objects made from materials like aluminum, choose flat template material as they are much easier to remove after the engraving. If working on thicker objects like pens and glass bottles, you may want to also pick thicker material for your template to ensure the designs remain in place for longer.
The Designing Process
After picking your preferred material and deciding on your workpiece designs, it is now time to get to work and develop the template. But before doing so, here are some important things to keep in mind:
Mind Your Numbers
It goes without saying that your template design should be based on the volume of orders you have to fulfill. If you deal with large quantities, your template should not only be durable but also easily adjustable. You may also want to duplicate the template and combine it with a base. This involves placing the original template inside the engraving machine while keeping the duplicate outside, ready for reloading.
The base, on the other hand, allows you to transfer ready templates from the table into the Trotec engraving machine. For good functionality, it should be made of solid, sturdy material and well-glued into the templates they are destined to work with.
Match the Contours on Your Workpiece With Those in The Template
This ensures seamless engraving and subsequently reduces the amount of post-processing work you have to do. You can do it in any of the following ways:
- Prior Measuring – Basically, measure the outline of your workpiece and then transfer (or trace) the dimensions to your graphics software. For this to work, however, the workpiece needs to have a simple, geometric shape.
- Scanning – If your workpiece has a more complex shape and dimensions, scanning it and then importing it into your graphics program is the best way to get accurate contours on the template.
- Trace and Scan – If the object you’re working on can’t be effectively scanned, you can simply trace it on paper using a drawing pen, and then scan the drawing. Depending on what graphics program you are using, you may need to manually trace the contours as the automated conversion feature can sometimes include many unnecessary nodes.
What to Consider When Determining Contours
When determining your contours, future compatibility should be your main consideration. This essentially means finding the right alignment for the shapes to enable them to support future engravings without requiring further rotations. This stability will also make graphical and text arrangements on the workpiece easier.
After coming up with the shapes, consider cutting out the contours and thereafter place the workpiece in place. That way, you can see where and how the object fits and what corrections are needed. To get a more accurate picture, you need to eliminate potential production errors using several workpieces in this stage.
Notably, using marks to denote special points on the object’s surface (such as other images or engravings) is advisable as it prevents you from accidentally engraving these points and thus damaging the workpiece.
Use The Right Lens
The type of lens you use when processing your template determines, to a large extent, how every detail comes out. One of the aspects you absolutely need to get right is the size of the cutting gap, which should be as small as possible. This can be better achieved by using the smallest lens you can find (ideally a 1.5” or 2”).
- If using multiple different templates, try engraving the names of the corresponding graphics files at the back of each template. This way, it will be much easier to find any work file you need at any moment.
- If using a single template, or if it’s fairly small, consider storing it in a paper file for easy reference. The laser machine can help in poring holes on it, provided the material is thin enough.
- When sending projects to the laser engraver, make sure to include every detail, including the outer contours. To further make the processing easier and faster, head over to the material database and set the color “red” to “positioning” before the engraving process starts.
If you’re still unsure about the right positions to place your objects in the laser engraver, reach out and contact us to find out before out our tips and tricks for positioning aids and see what the pros do.