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Laser Marking – Applied Research

Posted in 20/21, Contextual Research 2021, and Work

Laser marking, is a broad category of methods to leave marks on an object, which also includes colour change due to chemical/molecular alteration, charring, foaming, melting, ablation, and more. The technique does not involve the use of inks, nor does it involve tool bits which contact the engraving surface and wear out, giving it an advantage over alternative engraving or marking technologies where inks or bit heads have to be replaced regularly.


A laser engraving machine consists of three main parts: a laser, a controller, and a surface. The laser is a drawing tool: the beam emitted from it allows the controller to trace patterns onto the surface. The controller determines the direction, intensity, speed of movement, and spread of the laser beam aimed at the surface. The surface is chosen to match the type of material the laser can act on.

A laser engraving machine

There are three main genres of engraving machines. The most common is the X–Y table where, usually, the workpiece (surface) is stationary and the laser optics move around in two dimensions, directing the laser beam to draw vectors. Sometimes the laser is stationary and the workpiece moves. Sometimes the workpiece moves in one axis and the laser in the other. A second genre is for cylindrical workpieces (or flat workpieces mounted around a cylinder) where the laser effectively traverses a fine helix while on–off laser pulsing produces the desired raster image. In the third genre, both the laser and workpiece are stationary and galvo mirrors move the laser beam over the workpiece surface. Laser engravers using this technology can work in either raster or vector mode.

A laser engraver

An example of new media technologies I have pursued in my work is Laser engraving. Using the digital software Adobe Illustrator I created an image trace that can be uploaded to an autoCAD software to program a laser machine. The laser machine achieves precision and quickness that traditionalist techniques cannot.

Using Adobe Illustrator to create an image trace

This work was created using an A4 sized pen and ink drawing which when mirrored, gave an effect most inspired via the Surrealists with the decalcomania.

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