There were many fascinating things shown at San Diego MakerFaire recently. One of them was an Epilog laser cutter. Epilog is a U.S. brand that commands a significantly higher price than the Full Spectrum Laser we have, which is based on an imported Chinese product. Epilog lasers are known for doing very fine engraving. At MakerFaire, they were cutting and engraving a demonstration file, and handing them out, so I grabbed one. It was a detailed raster-engraved Aztec calendar about 2.1 inches in diameter, on 1/8-inch prefinished alder wood from LaserBits. I ordered the same wood (I think), found the same file online (minus the text), and tried to reproduce it on the Colaser.
Once I got the settings close, my results were actually pretty close to the Epilog sample.
I’m not sure why the engraved parts are darker on my version than on Epilog’s. Mine also needed wiping off after engraving, whereas the Epilog sample came out of the machine pretty clean. Comparing the detail closely, you can see that the Epilog held the finest detail a little better. It’s possible I could do better by more fiddling with settings. Maybe reducing both power and speed would work better.
This kind of detail is only possible with high quality wood. This 1/8″ alder is about $10 a square foot, if you order it in 6×12-inch sheets from LaserBits. It’s much nicer to work with than any of the plywoods I’ve tried.
Here are all my attempts.
The bottom one was under powered, and the two in the middle row were done at too high a power setting: the laser engraved right through the wood. I found that the raster power setting was quite non-linear, which is why it took so many tries. The setting I liked the best was 33 power, 100 speed.
Engraving a highly detailed design all the way through makes a really cool filigree effect.
This design would be too fragile, but with some attention in the design to including a support structure, this would be sturdy enough for some purposes.