The laser engraving market has become an ever more exciting field over the last decade. As more and more people turn to engraving as a profitable business venture, lasers are becoming more popular because of the versatility of newer systems and the continued growth of more elaborate and user-friendly software applications.
In software, CorelDRAW is still the most popular graphics package for laser engraving with AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator and Minilase Pro-Laser software also widely used. The Minilase product features CAD-style tools that many agree makes engraving a virtual breeze.
We especially liked the ease of operation of Pro SE. It installs quickly and connects through any USB port. By automatically detecting the laser marking system you're using, it allows you to create new projects easily from almost any graphic format. Graphics and manipulating complex DXF and PLT files is easy and there's even a pre-programmed materials library that takes a lot of the guesswork out of setting up your marking parameters.
In our opinion, the Minilase product appears to be the best overall laser marking software on the market today, in terms of ease of operation and cost, two of our highest rated considerations. The product is extremely flexible, reliable and couples an incredibly user-friendly interface that also has advanced capability for external controls and customization.
Controlling two external axes, such as XY tables, and adjusting rotary and focal height are quite easy. And the software communicates with a variety of PLCs and databases through Ethernet or serial communications.
Speaking of customization, custom interfaces are available that allow advanced network data retrieval, work with detailed photographic part fixture instructions and displays, bolt-on data entry via barcode scanning and add custom password protection along with other user restrictions.
Driver software is another area where laser technology has advanced. Special new tools can dramatically increase a laser's productivity by adding features like a spotting beam that indicates where the engraving beam will appear; color mapping; job time estimators; 3-D settings; dithering patterns; and now there is a calibration utility that can easily determine the optimum machine settings that will give you the best-looking results.
New photo engraving software packages are making photos much easier to create than before, adding easy point-and-click operations. Photo settings for newer materials like painted acrylic and enhancements also make newer software packages easier to use for the beginner.
Photo engraving software has also been advancing quickly. Packages like Epilog's PhotoLaser Plus, created as a partnership with CARlink, makes laser engraving much easier for beginners, but it also has numerous additional features that more experienced engravers can appreciate.
The demand for lasers continues to increase because of better and more varied capabilities of the machines along with increased education and user awareness. Lasers today offer engravers more speed, efficiency and productivity to help increase throughput and their bottom line. With constant design and manufacturing improvements, along with friendlier and more robust software, today's laser systems are more durable, require less maintenance, and are increasingly more popular than ever in our history.