Kern offers many optional additions to our standard laser systems to allow users increased flexibility, both in terms of the materials they process on the laser and the ways those materials are processed. For this post, we’ll put the spotlight on one of these add-on features: the rotary attachment for pipe and tube cutting.Continue reading
In this blog, we dispel some common myths and misconceptions about lasers, specifically about laser-cutting machines like those we manufacture and sell.Continue reading
Precisely Our People
Meet Nate Korkowski
What is a company without its employees? Who would be there to help customers? To build products? To pack and ship replacement parts? At Kern Laser Systems, we don’t like to imagine a world without employees. After all, most of the work we do just needs that special touch. It needs the kind of attention that can only come from people who are passionate and knowledgeable. You know, people like Nate Korkowski.
Nate joined our team in 2006 as a machinist. He was responsible for building parts and sub-assemblies for our laser systems. Over the years, Nate progressed to building machines and helping our customers as a Laser Technician.
Nate’s ability to communicate openly and honestly with customers, answer their questions, and go the extra mile brought him to his current role in sales.
HELPING CUSTOMERS IN EVERY WAY
For many of our customers, investing in a Kern laser system is a significant business decision, and with that can come a lot of questions. As a salesperson, Nate believes in going above and beyond to help our customers make the best decision for them and their business.
“For me it’s important when somebody’s looking to buy a machine that I do everything I can, whether it’s cutting samples or making them videos, just letting them know that they can be confident that the machine they buy is going to do the job they need to be doing.”
And even though Nate no longer works in tech support, he’s more than willing to help customers who call in with technical issues. After all, why bother transferring the call if you have everything you need to help?
“If somebody has a problem or a tech support question, they can just call me. Typically, I can help them right away and they don’t have to go through the tech support guys. It’s just nice when it’s one call and you get your quick answer, fix it and you’re done.”
KNOWING OUR NICHE
Nate will be the first person to tell you if a Kern laser system isn’t your best option. Sure, we’re in the business of making and selling lasers, but if the needs of a customer don’t quite fit with what our systems have to offer, we find it’s best to be upfront and honest about it.
For many new customers, learning that multiple CO2 lasers in the Kern lineup can cut metal is a welcoming surprise. It’s a level of versatility you don’t find everywhere. Luckily, we have knowledgeable and friendly salespeople, like Nate, guiding our customers and helping them find the laser system to meet their needs.
Thank you, Nate, for being a part of the Kern Laser Systems family and for all you do to help our customers!
Precisely Our People
Meet Jeremy Hagen
Without a doubt, one of the things that makes Kern Laser Systems special, is our employees. The pride they have in their work, and the work ethic that they show up with, day in and day out, is unmatched. Our laser systems are powerful and industrial-grade, but they don’t have anything on our employees. As I’ve mentioned before, I might be a bit biased, but we have some of the best people around. Today, you’re invited to meet Jeremy Hagen and learn why he is precisely our people.
Jeremy joined Kern Laser Systems in 2014, and since then, he’s been an integral part of the team. He’s a hard worker who knows what it means to put in an honest day’s work and take pride in production.
“When I get to work, I work. I don’t mess around, I get straight to it, I do quality work. I always say, I’m pretty much building a Ferrari, so in my eyes, you take care of it like a Ferrari.”
FROM THE GROUND UP
At our facility in Wadena, MN, Jeremy builds Kern laser systems from the ground up. He is the one bringing all the materials and components together to create the large-format laser systems in the Kern lineup.
“I build the machines from the ground up. I get a bare stand, I get all my materials, and I start to go to work. And when I’m done, we got a full machine.”
To say Jeremy knows these machines from the inside out doesn’t even capture the skill, expertise, and passion he pours into every system.
“They’re very, very well-made industrial products. They can take abuse, and they don’t need much upkeep, really.”
FAMILY FIRST, FAMILY ALWAYS
The fact that Kern Laser Systems is a family business doesn’t end with the people with the last name Kern. The family business—and the family values we believe in—extend to our employees and to our customers as well.
“I can’t say enough good things about the Kerns. They are amazing people, and they’re very family oriented. If you need something to do with your family or something’s going on, they’re like, ‘No problem. Go. Go deal with your family.’”
Kern Laser Systems wouldn’t be the company it is today without our employees. We believe they deserve respect and care, and we believe that well taken care of employees are going to turn around and put care into their work, with customers and with equipment.
And as you saw in the video, working at Kern Laser Systems is a family affair for the Hagen family as well! Jeremy’s brother and his father, Keith, are also members of the team.
“I really like working here. I could’ve found jobs, but it’s so nice. They treat their employees so well. They’re super flexible, they’re understanding. I ain’t going nowhere.”
Thank you, Jeremy, for sharing your insights and experiences and for helping us grow. We appreciate you and all of your hard work!
Improve Laser Resolution
4 WAYS TO INCREASE LASER ENGRAVING RESOLUTION
Depending on the material you are engraving—whether it’s wood, acrylic, laserable plastics, marble, granite, aluminum, anodized aluminum—you’re going to have different settings for DPI (dots per inch), air pressure, speed, and power to create the best resolution on the end product. So, creating the best resolution is a combination of the right settings and the right application.
In this article, we’re going to share some of the factors impacting laser engraving resolution and provide operator tips for achieving the best results.
We’re going to start with the number one thing operators need for optimal laser engraving resolution.
1. START WITH A HIGH-QUALITY IMAGE
There is no amount of settings and capabilities that can compensate for a poor-quality image. If your laser-engraving goal is clear, crisp resolution, starting with a high-quality image is essential. Too often, people try to laser engrave an image that’s either scanned from a physical photo, taken with a low quality cell phone/camera, or even found online and screenshotted.
Typically, these images will not provide enough detail for high-resolution engraving. Instead, it’s best to choose images that have higher dpi/resolution and were taken with a digital camera.
As a good rule of thumb, high-resolution images are those with 300 DPI and a large pixel dimension.
Also note that what is considered a high-quality image depends on the desired result. In some instances, an image 400 or 600 DPI may be needed. To learn more about high-resolution images, check out this article.
2. SET YOUR LASER’S DPI ACCORDING TO THE PROJECT
When it comes to laser engraving, the image’s dpi is not the only one you need to know about. There is also the dpi laser setting, which literally tells the laser how many dots to lay down per square inch. Unlike with the image, choosing a higher dpi in your laser settings does not necessarily translate into a higher resolution engraving.
Here’s a quick look at how we look at dpi in laser engraving:
- Low – 150 DPI
- Medium – 300 DPI
- High – 600 DPI
This is where you’ll see operators choosing the highest possible dpi available in their laser settings, under the assumption that it will create a higher-resolution engraving. What actually ends up happening is that their engraving has basically the same look as if they had chosen 300 DPI, but the actual processing takes longer. This is because the laser is passing over the same area multiple times.
3. CHOOSE SPEED AND POWER SETTINGS TO SUPPORT RESOLUTION
When operators want a higher resolution laser engraving, it can mean taking some time to test settings and find the best result. Typically, processing speeds will be lower for high-resolution engravings, while power settings will be greater. Here’s a look at the same image laser-engraved at different power settings:
For this engraving, the laser wattage and dpi remained the same, but the power was set at either 40%, 60%, or 75%. As you can see, the engraving’s resolution becomes more clear as the power settings increase.
In this next example, we have made changes to both the speed and the power settings while using consistent dpi and air assist.
4. TEST YOUR ENGRAVING TO CHECK SETTINGS
As you saw with the examples, how an operator chooses their laser settings has a big impact on laser engraving resolution. This is one of the reasons why we always recommend testing your engraving on a piece of spare material to assess and tweak settings. We recommend this even if the operator is running off of settings specifically geared toward their material, application, and end goal. At the end of the day, the only way to truly know what the result will be is to test it out.
The ability to create high-resolution laser engravings is a valuable skill for laser operators to have. Whether you’re looking to laser engrave images or lettering onto materials, the advice provided in this article will help you achieve high-quality results.
Do you have specific questions about achieving a high-resolution laser engraving? If you do, please contact us so that one of our craftspeople can help you.
Create Stunning Stone Monuments With CO2 Laser Engraving
What do we want our monuments to do? Should they be an open and honorable representation? Should they provide an emotional response within those who view them? Should they showcase the love and appreciation we hold for the people, places and pets who impacted our lives? Whatever it is you want a stone monument to accomplish, you can do it with laser engraving.
CO2 LASER ENGRAVING STONE
Stone is one of the many materials that responds beautifully to laser engraving. The use of lasers can create clear, crisp words and images on stone surfaces. Wondering what types of stone are used for laser engraving? The most common materials are:
- River rock
With the many colors and characteristics of these types of natural stone, the possibilities are near-endless.
CREATING PERSONALIZED STONE ENGRAVINGS
With the use of laser technology, creating personalized stone engravings can happen in three simple steps.
- Imagine a design
- Create the design
- Engrave the design
When it comes to imagining a design, the sky truly is the limit. A little later on, we’ll share a handful of stone monument designs created on Kern Laser Systems. All of these designs were imagined by someone, then they were designed using computer design software like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Finally, those design files were loaded onto KCAM, our proprietary laser software before being engraved into a personalized, one-of-a-kind stone monument.
LASER ENGRAVING TIPS FOR STONE ENGRAVINGS
Unlike human-made materials like acrylic, stone types aren’t known for their consistency from piece to piece. After all, they are formed via natural processes and develop their own unique characteristics. And because no two pieces are the same, it’s important to be willing to reassess and adjust your laser engraving settings to create consistent results.
To get started laser engraving stone, it’s good to begin with focusing the laser beam similar to how you would for acrylic or wood. Stone, like acrylic and wood, responds well to direct engraving, where the energy from the laser causes a whitening effect.
Finding the ideal power and speed settings are perhaps the most important component of creating stunning stone monuments via laser engraving. While your manual will come with recommended power and speed settings for natural stone, it’s typical to tweak and adjust these settings to get the ideal result.
For best results, always do a small test engraving with a piece of scrap material to troubleshoot speed and power settings. If the engraving looks blurry, you may need to decrease power. On the other hand, if the result is more gray than white, your power setting may be too low. Tweaking the power settings is a simple, yet necessary step in getting the results you want.
LASER ENGRAVED STONE MONUMENT EXAMPLES
Precisely Our People
Meet Mark Haataja
It shouldn’t be a secret that what makes a company great is its people. Products are designed and created by people and services are provided by people. Now, we may be a bit biased, but here at Kern Laser Systems, we have some of the best people around. Our team members, at every level of the organization, make direct contributions to Kern’s success as a company. They are precisely our people, and we want you to meet them. Watch this video to meet Mark Hataaja, Vice President at Kern Laser Systems.
Mark joined our team as a Machinist and Laser Technician in September of 1997. Since then, he’s held numerous roles throughout the company, including Product Development, Sales, Research and Development Manager and his current title, Vice President. So, when Mark says he’s learned the laser industry from the bottom up, he means it.
“Putting machines together, fixing machines, providing tech support, research and development. Everything.”
FROM ONE SYSTEM TO SIX
Mark’s time with Kern has granted him a front row seat to the growth and evolution of Kern and the laser industry as a whole.
When he first began, Kern Laser Systems offered a single laser system in various sizes. Over the years, Kern’s offerings have grown to include six laser systems, all with different standards, capabilities and target markets.
“Because of customer demands, we’ve been innovative, make changes. Customers will ask for certain things on the machines. More speed, more throughput. Now Kern has multiple laser systems, each focused to a certain market.”
KERN TAKES CARE
Mark is a testament to Kern’s focus on caring for customers and employees. Kern knows that when your employees are well taken care of, they’re going to ensure the customers are taken care of too.
“Kern takes care of their customer, and it’s been the same way here as an employee. The Kern family is always taking care of us as employees.”
Beyond Kern’s product line, it is their ability to care for and support customers that truly sets them apart.
“That’s what sets us apart, our setting the customer first. Our level of support surpasses any other company in this industry.”
Thank you, Mark, for sharing your insights and expertise with our company and our customers all these years!
What's the best laser system for cutting or marking metal?
When it comes to cutting or marking metal, there are multiple options to choose from, the two we carry are CO2 and fiber laser systems. Our fiber lasers are going to be a good choice when you’re looking to cut thicker metals and when you want to operate at faster speeds. However, if what you’re looking to accomplish is to cut thinner gauged metals,such as mild steel, stainless steel and aluminum, a properly outfitted CO2 laser is going to have all the capabilities you need.
Yes, CO2 lasers can be outfitted to cut metal, it just requires the addition of a metal cutting option. You can learn more about this option here.
VERSATILE LASERS FOR METAL AND OTHER MATERIALS
There are multiple industries where people are looking for a laser for cutting thin-gauge metal. And even more of them want a laser system with the versatility to go from cutting metal to working with other materials like wood, acrylic, glass and leather. The great news is, CO2 lasers can provide that level of versatility.
CUTTING THICK METAL
If we look at a thicker, more reflective metal, like ¼ in. aluminum, the size of CO2 lasers we offer are not going to be able to process it. Instead, it’s going to require a high-powered fiber laser. Another option for that material might not be a laser at all.
LASER ENGRAVING MACHINES FOR METAL
When the goal is engraving, what a laser needs to accomplish is getting depth into the surface of the metal. But many operators asking for the capabilities to laser engrave metal are actually looking for the ability to etch and mark metal. This is where it can be helpful to contact us and talk through what materials you’re using and what effect you’re looking to achieve.
It’s worth noting there are lower wattage fiber lasers that are made specifically for marking metals. However, They’re usually not capable of cutting through the metal material.
KERN LASERS CAPABLE OF CUTTING AND MARKING METAL
When you’re looking at the Kern lineup of laser systems, all but one of them is going to give you the capability to process metal.
The FiberCELL is the single fiber laser we offer. The FiberCELL come in wattages from 1kW to 3kW, and comes standard with the metal cutting option and is capable of cutting and processing thicker types of metal material.
The CO2 laser systems we offer that are compatible with the metal cutting option are:
For individuals interested in the versatility of being able to process mild steels and other materials like wood, foam, acrylic, leather and more, these four lasers are able to provide that versatility. They can be outfitted to cut metal material with relative ease, and they can turn right around and process non-metal materials too.
Enterprise Minnesota Magazine
MN Laser Technology Family Business
Kern brothers combine two related laser-tech companies with growing international market
From their headquarters in rural Wadena, Kern Laser Systems and Kern Technologies are family businesses that have partnered with national players as large as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, NASA, and the U.S. military. They even have an international presence in Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and Japan.
“We have a machine in every continent besides Antarctica,” Derek Kern, president and CEO of Kern Laser Systems, says.
Not bad for a “bunch of farm boys,” says Derek’s brother, Aaron Kern, president and CEO of Kern Technologies.
Today, the pair of cutting-edge, laser tech companies have a combined revenue of $15 million and sell to manufacturers of high-end consumer electronics, electronic signage, and aviation equipment. Such an outcome may have seemed unlikely in 1982. A father of four and respected professor of electronics and telecommunications at Wadena Vocational Technical College, Gerald Kern was an entrepreneur possessed by an endless curiosity for tinkering and invention. His company began in the family garage. Through experimentation, Gerald developed a motorized X/Y gantry system and imagined agricultural applications, among others, for his new product.
Technical Tip- Purge Gas 101
We hope this article helps you better understand the purge requirements of your laser system. With proper purge gas setup and consideration, your lasers performance and lifetime will be improved.
WHEN TO PURGE
Kern’s 250 watt and greater laser systems require a purge gas connection. This includes Kern’s CO2 and fiber laser systems.
The purge gas serves two ultimate purposes. First, is prevents component damage by creating a positive pressure inside the laser tube housing. This reduces the chance for dust, smoke and other contaminants to enter the laser housing. Secondly, the laser purge gas will reduce high humidity inside the laser housing. When solely considering CO2 lasers reducing the humidity will also reduce water vapors that can distort the laser beam by optical absorption. Ultimately, a clean and dry environment is optimal for peak laser performance.
Kern’s lasers can use one of two purge gases, compressed air or nitrogen. The purity of the purge gas is a very important factor and will extend the life and reduce maintenance costs. In general, purge gas needs to be clean and dry. The purge gas should be filtered to remove particles that are larger than 1 micron. The gas should be dried so that the dew point is 18 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the chiller’s inlet cooling fluid temperature. The purge gas should also be oil free to better than 99.995%.
If a nitrogen purge is being used a simple 1 micron filter in-line with the laser system will suffice. When considering compressed air (notorious for moisture and oil), there needs to be a “line-of-defense” and “last-line-of-defense” in place. A good quality compressor with an after-cooler and separating condenser make up a good “line-of-defense”. The images below show a standard purge gas configuration.
Closer to the actual laser source a “last-line-of-defense” filter system will be required. For compressed air users, Kern recommends utilizing our purge filter setup shown below and available on laserlocker.com.
For nitrogen users, Kern recommends our nitrogen filter setup. Please follow this link to laserlocker.com.
FINAL PURGE CONNECTION
Kern’s laser systems feature a simple ¼” push connect fitting at the back of the laser system for the connection of the purge line. There is also a purge flow gauge at the rear of the machine to set the proper flow rate.
Once the proper purge system is in place, it is just as important to perform ongoing maintenance. This includes replacing filters and draining water traps as required. Kern suggests checking your filter weekly, keeping spares in stock and replacing dirty filters immediately.
If your purge system becomes contaminated with excessive moisture or oil, all filters, tubing, and fittings should be replaced with new parts. This will ensure that all contamination is removed from the system that could potentially harm the laser source.
In short, if you have a laser from Kern that is greater than 250 watts, you will require a purge gas. Compressed air or nitrogen are acceptable purge gases. Ensure the correct purge configuration and “last- line-of-defense” filter system are in place. Do not ignore maintenance!