10 Cool Tools


VersaLASER VLS6.60

This VersaLASER VLS3.50 can zip through laser cutting projects needed by the team on "Prototype This!"
This VersaLASER VLS3.50 can zip through laser cutting projects needed by the team on "Prototype This!"
Copyright Discovery Communications, LLC

Laser engraving machines (also known as laser etching machines, laser cutters and a variety of other similar names which describe their various functions) have been gaining in popularity, both for the precision clarity of the results and the speed at which they operate. In the process, a laser beam is programmed to create a design on a range of possible materials. Those materials can be organic, like paper, stone, wood, rubber and leather, or they can be plastic or metal. Lasers create a nicely polished edge as they vaporize or cut controlled portions of the material in your designated pattern.

Lasers engravers can be called upon for cutting, engraving, scribing, drilling, marking and other related modeling techniques. They can be used for pretty much anything you can think of that's etched or imprinted, whether it's a picture frame, trophy, printed circuit board, jewelry, you name it. Laser cutters can also be handy in industrial settings, either for mass production, prototype production or anything in between.

One laser cutter, the VersaLASER VLS3.50, can shape, etch, scribe and cut objects in a workspace 24 by 12 inches in size (about 61 by 31 centimeters). This diverse and incredibly precise machine weighs in at 110 to 123 pounds (50 to 56 kilograms) and needs a computer all to itself to run, operating on either Windows XP or Windows Vista. It requires an exhaust system, and while the laser engraver isn't that expensive to run, it is expensive to acquire. The VersaLASER also has a cylindrical axis to create an all-around effect.

A basic way to understand laser engravers is to look at how similar they are to printers. Only instead of working by adding a material to a surface, they create details by taking it away. Let's look at a machine with a somewhat similar function on the next page.