Top 5 Tips For Lasering MDF

MDF Processing Tips

TOP 5 TIPS FOR LASERING MDF

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a strong, engineered material made of wood fibers, wax, and resin. The ability to laser cut profiles and engrave deep numbers and logos has much money-making potential in the crafting, signage, interior design, and furniture industries.

Laser cutting is an easy way to process shapes with minimal scrap material. A common problem I see from customers who are trying to use their laser to get the most production and the best quality parts comes down to incorrect machine settings. I would like to spend some time and look over all the essential machine settings to get the best results for laser cutting and engraving MDF.

The following 5 parameters are crucial to understand to gain the biggest benefits from your laser system.

POWER

Each Kern laser system is specified by its laser wattage. The actual laser wattage emitted from the laser tube is known as laser power. The higher the wattage, the more power the laser machine has. Every Kern CO2 laser can cut MDF at full 100% power. At this full power setting, you will maximize your machine’s efficiency, or it’s ability to cut out the greatest number of pieces in the shortest amount of time.

Alternatively, you may only be needing to engrave the surface, mark a logo, etch a part number. In these instances, a REDUCED power setting may be best, resulting in a depth and color according to your desired look.

A final consideration with laser power is adjusting the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation). The Kern CO2 laser is a pulsing laser that allows you to adjust the pulsing frequency during the laser process. This frequency range varies from 100 to 50,000 Hz. I have found the peak cutting performance for MDF processing to be in a range from 3800 to 5000Hz. If you increase the pulsing to 10,000 and above the audible noise level will be noticeably quieter, but it will not be in the peak cutting performance range.

SPEED

The goal when cutting MDF is to complete the job in the least amount of time, with the highest quality results. A point of consideration for clean fast cutting is to push the speed as fast as you can and still get completely through the material. One of the problems with cutting too slow is that you will create more dark char or burning on the profile as well as dark smoky spots on the back of the material. This will require your operator to clean the honeycomb bed more often, as well as require a more detailed cleaning of the parts.

When it comes to engraving the MDF, a faster speed will produce more smoke and fumes so be sure the top-side engraving vacuum is enabled and pulling away any lingering smoke from the engraving process.

Sometimes a much lower DPI of the image or artwork will be sufficient when engraving MDF boards and panels. This decrease in picture resolution will allow your overall speed to increase, which will reduce the time it takes to complete the job.

VACUUM

When cutting the MDF material you will notice a good amount of smoke being generated by the lasering process. Most of our machines are equipped with two 2-3 HP blowers, and it is essential to ensure your vacuum system is in operation and running optimally.

One of the import steps when setting up your MDF cutting is to have a powerful suction holding your sheet of material down flat. Since you do not have any clamps to secure or keep the material from bowing up, you will need to be sure to have your vacuum running at full strength as well as sealing off any open area of honeycomb to ensure full vacuum potential.

When engraving with the OPTIFLEX or LASERCELL machines, the top gantry has a vacuum manifold built into the underside of the moving gantry. This manifold is connected to a vacuum unit that assists in the removal of smoke and debris. You will notice when you engrave a piece of MDF the white smoke will rise up into this manifold area and not be deposit back onto the material.

The most misunderstood aspect of cutting this material cleanly is assuring you have your material flat and held down so the nozzle will stay in its proper focus position.

FOCUS

The Kern laser systems have an adjustable tube that allows the movement of the lens assembly into the correct focusing position. Once the lens has been moved to the proper height using a lens spacer tool, the lens assembly has been focused. Now, the part of the beam with the thinnest width can cut the MDF material quickly and cleanly.

If, over time,  the material starts to lift up, or the honeycomb table is bent you may notice some wider lines during the cutting process. This is because the distance from the center of your lens to the top of the material has changed and it is no longer in focus.

Several times I have seen where the operator has assumed the lens assembly and the lens spacer tool spacing is correct, but it was not due to the material lifting or the bent honeycomb. Typically, this space is set at the factory so you can quickly place your cutting lens into focus, but in your shop there are other variables that can skew the accuracy of this focusing tool.

The best way to find your focus height is to do a focus test. This focus test can be found in our video library (also shown below) and you only need a a piece of paper or scrap wood. The goal of the focus position it to have the finest or narrowest beam width possible. This may require the operator raising or lowering the internal lens position OR the focus dial slightly to get the lens into the correct focus height.

AIR ASSIST

Finally, another important parameter when cutting this hard fiberboard is to use a good amount of assist air when cutting or engraving. Mounted on the lens assembly, you will find an air elbow. The lens assembly has a ¼” airline that allows for a steady stream of air flowing out the nozzle during the laser process.

The air compressor source will need to have a moisture and oil trap to prevent any contaminants from getting onto your lens. The best pressure to use when cutting MDF will depend on the nozzle size you are cutting with, but I have found the best cutting and engraving pressure with a 0.100″ diameter stock nozzle to be 40 psi.

Kern’s KCAM Laser Software has advanced settings to allow you to piece the material with one air pressure and then cut the profiles with another. The machines have two air gauges that will assist in getting the cleanest entry hole as well as allowing a clean look by pushing and spreading the vaporized MDF away from the kerf path.

If you plan on cutting MDF in the future, be sure to learn and review these five essential parameters to cut your material cleanly, smoothly, and with maximum speeds.

7 Tips for Cutting Mild Steel

Mild Steel Processing Tips

7 TIPS FOR LASER CUTTING MILD STEEL

Cutting mild steel with a CO2 laser isn’t just possible, it’s an excellent choice for those seeking clean, consistent and precise cuts. In this post, we’ll be discussing tips for laser cutting mild steel.

When equipped with the laser cutting option, Kern’s CO2 lasers are quick and efficient at mild steel cutting.

The following tips will help operators be successful…  

1. MATCH MATERIAL THICKNESS AND WATTAGE

As you likely know, the wattage of a laser will dictate the thickness of mild steel you’re able to cut, and the speed at which you’re able to cut it. 

Check out the manufacturing specifications of your laser’s system to see what thicknesses of mild steel different laser wattages can cut. While there may be some variation, the manufacturer recommendations provide an excellent guide. 

2. PIERCE YOUR MILD STEEL 

An important part of cutting mild steel is the moment when the laser first pierces the material. Keep in mind that the settings during the piercing process will be different than the settings during cutting. The pierce point requires lower power, about half the air pressure and steady contact for 1-2 seconds.  

3. DON’T CLIP YOUR BEAM

Laser beam placement is a key component of cutting mild steel. The goal here is to align the beam so that it goes directly through the center of the nozzle. 

The copper nozzle on Kern laser systems has an opening size of about 60/1000 of an inch. If the beam is not centered, the nozzle will clip the beam. A clipped beam spells all sorts of trouble for cutting mild steel. 

First, it will decrease the power, which can prevent the beam from having enough strength to pierce the material. Additionally, it will prevent the laser from making clean cuts. Instead, it will leave the mild steel with burrs and unclean edges. 

4. ADJUST YOUR FOCUS POINT

In order to effectively cut mild steel, the copper nozzle needs to be at a distance of 0.010″-0.020″ from the material being processed. This provides the laser beam with the ideal focus point for the laser to perform optimally. This also allows the assist gas to penetrate into the cut to help clear away debris and create a precise clean cut. If your nozzle is too high, not only would your nozzle be out of focus, but the assist gas would be dispersed over the cut leaving debris within the cut.

This same principle is in effect when using a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun’s heat. Making slight changes to the height of the magnifying glass affects how powerful the beam is, just like adjusting the height of your laser’s copper nozzle affects the beam’s power. 

5. CHECK YOUR OPTICS

A laser outfitted with bad optics is not going to cut mild steel effectively. Check your mirrors and your lenses to ensure they are free of debris. 

6. CHOOSE YOUR ASSIST GAS

When cutting mild steel, choose either oxygen assist or regular shop air. For thicker mild steel, choose oxygen assist with a lower psi. 

7. ADJUST YOUR POWER SETTINGS

Although it does take a fair amount of power for a CO2 laser to pierce and cut mild steel, too much heat will leave burn marks on the material. As a rule of thumb, less heat is better for mild steel. 

Instead of defaulting the power setting at 100%, try to figure out the lowest power setting that will still allow you to cut the material. The lower setting will help you prevent marks and dross on the back side of the mild steel. 

CUTTING 18 GA MILD STEEL

In this video, Jake Shaw will lead you through the basics of cutting 18 gauge mild steel with a 400W CO2 laser. 

If you have additional questions about cutting mild steel with a CO2 laser, please contact us. We would be happy to provide you with additional information.

4 Ways To Increase Laser Engraving Resolution

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

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: 

  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Basalt
  • Slate
  • Limestone
  • 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. 

  1. Imagine a design
  2. Create the design
  3. 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

4 Things To Avoid For High-Quality Laser Engraving

4 THINGS TO AVOID FOR HIGH-QUALITY LASER ENGRAVING

Laser Engraving Mistakes to Avoid

Laser engraving can take some getting used to. Even seasoned operators will find themselves confronted with the occasional head-scratcher during a laser engraving project. Below, I’ve outlined a handful of laser engraving tips and techniques to help you avoid costly mistakes.

What are some of the common mistakes laser owners and operators make that end up costing them in the long-run? Here are four laser engraving mistakes to avoid.

WRONG AIR PRESSURE

Setting the proper optic air pressure when cutting metal is a very important step, and you will notice the negative effects of incorrect air pressure almost instantly.

When it comes to engraving, air pressure commonly gets overlooked as most materials are much more forgiving, and the air pressure setting is not critical. However, there are certain engraving and etching applications where setting the air pressure correctly is key.

One of these applications is plastic etching—such as an acrylic sheet. Using a higher optic pressure through a small nozzle concentrates the air flow onto the area being processed and can leave a hazy ghosting or shadowing effect around the etched area. By simply decreasing the air pressure you might see a decrease in this effect immediately. Don’t turn off the air completely, as you do need some positive pressure to keep smoke from entering the beam delivery.

Another tip to go along with this is using a wider nozzle opening. Kern offers a wide nozzle that can be added to any S-FOCUS assembly.

SKIPPING THE TEST RUN

Before diving into a new project, it pays to run a little test cut on an excess piece of material, even when you’re relying on presets. The fact of the matter is, you never truly know what the final result will be until you see it. Material variation is a common problem especially in wood and stone.

One tip here is using a neat feature in our KCAM laser software. The “Position in File” feature allows you to move to any engraving line in your project. If there is a more critical area of your engraving with lots of detail, you can simply type in that line and the laser will start at that point. KCAM makes it easy and highlights the line you type in so you can get to the line you are looking for easily.

Notice the red and cyan line across the engraving file below. Generally, an inch or two of engraving will give you a good idea if your settings are correct.

TREATING ALL MATERIALS THE SAME

Laser engraving leather is going to be different from laser engraving glass. And the same thing goes for engraving acrylic or wood. These materials are all different, and those differences impact how they respond to laser engraving.

Taking the same approach to laser engraving regardless of material types is a recipe for disaster. There is no one-size-fits-all to laser engraving, because the variables—and possibilities—are endless. 

The KCAM software accompanying your laser system includes the ability to save your settings in a directory for future use. This works great for customers that process the same materials on a regular interval. Simply load in the settings file and you are back to the same great settings you were using a month ago on the same material. This helps to maintain consistent engraving from job to job, and it helps reduce startup time for each project. 

Over time, your settings directory will become one of the most important parts of your system!

FORGETTING TO CLEAN YOUR MACHINE

Are you noticing your laser engraver’s performance is slower than it used to be? It might be time to give your machine a thorough cleaning, with special attention to the optics. Like any piece of equipment or machinery, laser engraving machines require routine maintenance.

Depending on the materials you are engraving, dust and debris buildup may be a frequent problem. It is important to make sure your vacuum blower system is running efficiently. Ensure there is not build up in your vacuum hose lines and smoke/dust is quickly being picked up by the vacuum ports. As always, check your operator’s manual for tips on cleaning your machine and other maintenance specifications, especially if you’re noticing a sharp decline in processing speed.

One common mistake I see is when customers are using a known good setting but for some reason they are not getting the results they did previously. Most users instinctively increase the laser power to get back to the proper setting. However, most times that is the last thing you want to do. The best solution is to determine what is causing the drop in power. It could be a dirty optic that just needs a good cleaning. If you ignore these warning signs, the increase in power will only heat up the optic more and eventually it will crack.

 

For customized laser engraving tips and techniques, you can always connect with the team at Kern Laser Systems to discuss your approach to engraving. Oftentimes, it comes down to understanding your material, your laser system and how the two react to each other. Luckily, getting the hang of laser engraving is relatively quick and easy, especially when you have the support you need. 

 

Laser Maintenance 101

HOW-TO: LASER MAINTENANCE 101

Laser systems are a large investment. Especially the good ones. And just like any other investment, laser systems come with some responsibility. Routine maintenance provides two key benefits:

  1. Keeps the laser system running properly and producing parts to the best of its ability
  2. Prolongs the life of the system components to increase ROI

Paying attention to maintenance supports both the well-being of the laser machine and the quality of the items it helps to produce. 

The best part? Laser systems are pretty simple to maintain.

On the whole, there’s very little maintenance required. But, by completing the little bit of maintenance there is, owners and operators can help decrease the chance to have costly CO2 laser repair services. 

LASER MAINTENANCE 101

LASER OPTICS MAINTENANCE

Without proper settings or with heavy use, the optics of the laser system can become contaminated with smoke or debris. And when they’re dirty, they can cause poor focusing and reduce the power of your laser. These problems lead to diminished cutting and engraving quality. 

Left unattended, dirty optics can lead to cracked and burned lenses. If that happens, not only will you have to stop processing, you’ll have to purchase replacement parts too. But this can all be prevented with a bit of routine maintenance.

Optics are one of the most critical parts of the laser system, so give them adequate care in your maintenance schedule.  

LASER CHILLER MAINTENANCE

If temperature controlled water isn’t circulating through the laser source, you run the risk of overheating the laser tube. In other words, it can put you on the fast track toward laser failure, unnecessary downtime and ultimately a costly repair. 

By properly maintaining the chiller, which mainly means keeping it clear of debris and replacing the water every six months or so, you’ll help to preserve the laser tube and the laser’s output power. 

You can learn more about laser chiller maintenance in these videos I put together a little while back. They feature maintenance tips for our Polyscience and S&A chilling units.

At the end of the day, a little attention to the chiller can help to extend the longevity of your laser system and prevent downtime. 

LASER RAIL AND TRACK MAINTENANCE

Another important area of the laser system that deserves some consideration is the motion system mechanics. The x-axis rail guides need to be oiled regularly — this ensures the gantry has a friction-free path to move quickly during processing. The y-axis also consists of linear guide bearings that need lubrications to prevent premature failure. These efforts will keep the moving parts of your laser system from wear. 

HOW TO PLAN FOR LASER MAINTENANCE

Laser system ownership comes with the responsibility of care and maintenance. The manual that came with your laser system should include maintenance directions, as well as a maintenance schedule. It is always best to follow the manufacturer’s directions as it relates to maintenance. 

It’s also important to note maintenance requirements are typically based around hours of operation, so whether your system is running on one, two or three shifts per day will impact its maintenance schedule. So will the cleanliness of your shop and the materials you process most often. 

Proper system maintenance will help protect your purchase, and decrease the chance for costly laser repairs. 

How to Cut Metal With a CO2 Laser

HOW-TO CUT METAL WITH A CO2 LASER

At Kern Laser Systems, we’ve cracked the code on combining low wattage CO2 lasers and metal cutting applications. Our customers have been doing it for years! Request a demo to see it for yourself or keep reading to learn more. 

Here’s a look at how you can cut metal with Kern’s CO2 lasers.

HOW TO CUT METAL WITH A CO2 LASER

Here at Kern Laser Systems, we’ve developed metal cutting technology that enables CO2 lasers of 150 to 400 watts to quickly and efficiently cut metal. This technology makes thinner gauge metal material, like stainless steel, aluminum and brass, processable via CO2 lasers. 

METAL CUTTING TECHNOLOGY 

Our metal cutting option was developed internally by the team at Kern Laser Systems. It allows our customers to save time, lower operating costs and laser process sheet metal with intricate designs. 

Watch this video to learn more about this innovative laser technology: 

As you saw in the video, Kern’s metal cutting technology allows for laser processing of stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum and other light gauge metals without the high operational costs of a large, multi-kilowatt laser. 

In fact, the sheet metal applications that fall within Kern’s metal cutting capabilities have been known to shock customers.

Here’s a cut edge comparison between oxygen and nitrogen assist gasses. These gasses are injected through the metal cutting nozzle, resulting in a dross-free cut edge on cut metal.  

In terms of cutting capabilities, a 400W laser outfitted with the laser cutting option can cut:

  • Mild steel up to 4.8mm thick
  • Stainless steel up to 3mm thick (with oxygen assist)
  • Stainless steel up to 2mm thick (with nitrogen assist)
  • Aluminum up to 1.5mm thick

The metal cutting option is compatible with four out of the five CO2 lasers in the Kern lineup. The Kern lasers compatible with the metal cutting option are: 

Once properly outfitted, these CO2 lasers will etch metal, providing stunning, intricate and consistent results. 

The products created with our metal cutting options are endless. From control panels to interior design, our productive and accurate metal cutting technology is a perfect fit for your business needs. 

Top 5 Tips For Laser Cutting Thick Acrylic

OptiFlex Cutting Acrylic

Thick Acrylic Tips

5 Tips for Laser Cutting Thick Acrylic

When laser cutting an acrylic sheet, the last thing you want to see is an uneven cutting edge or surface — or even worse, your cutting kerf turning white while processing colored acrylic. Armed with a few quick tips, anyone can increase their skills in cutting thick acrylic with a laser cutter. 

Acrylic is one of the top materials chosen for laser processing. That’s partly because lasers can create such a stunning result. Other technologies, like routers or saws typically leave behind hazy or milky edge colors, requiring a secondary process to achieve flame polishing.

But that’s not the case with lasers. If it’s done properly, that glossy, flame-polished edge is achievable through a single process.

1. CHECK YOUR WATTAGE

For laser cutting thick acrylic, you’ll need a high enough wattage to get the job done. Thinner sheets, like ⅛ inch acrylic cut beautifully on 150w or 200W, but if you’re looking to cut one inch acrylic, you’re going to want a 250w or 400W laser. 

2. REDUCE AIR ASSIST 

Air assist will prevent your laser cutter from achieving a fire-polished edge and instead result in a frosted white effect. When air assist is reduced (we recommend using a wide nozzle to dissipate the air pressure) it lessens the chance to have a ghosting effect on the acrylic.  

3. CHECK YOUR LENS

While most operators know they need a very low air pressure to achieve that fire-polished edge, they might not be aware of how dirty that can make their lens. A dirty lens is going to give operators a whole host of problems, from poor focusing to reduced laser power. Prevent these possible downsides by checking your lens daily or at least every other day if you’re cutting a fire-polished edge into acrylic. 

4. FOCUS INTO THE MATERIAL

To achieve a more consistent beam width, adjust your focus toward the middle of the acrylic sheet. If the focus is on the top of a thick sheet, the laser will be out of focus by the time it reaches the bottom. 

5. ADJUST YOUR FOCAL LENGTH

To get a laser to cut nicely through thick acrylic, it’s helpful to adjust your focal length so that the laser energy is concentrated. For instance, if you want to cut a half inch or one inch piece of acrylic, a longer focal lens is going to spread out the focus distance and give you a straighter cut. It will make the beam a little wider, but will prevent a slanted or uneven edge. 

When you’re investing in laser processing, you deserve to see picture-perfect laser precision, but the reality doesn’t always live up to those expectations. If you’re interested in cutting thick acrylic, we can match you up with the Kern Laser System to meet your needs. 

If you’re interested in seeing how Kern lasers cut acrylic, request a free sample kit. 

How Customers Use Laser Technology to Combat COVID-19

HOW CUSTOMERS USE LASER TECHNOLOGY TO COMBAT COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis has placed intense pressure on companies as we strive to maintain (and potentially future-proof) bottom-line revenue amidst possible shutdowns, corporate mandates, and operational changes. As the pandemic is teaching us, unique challenges require unique solutions as well as pivoting where required. At Kern Lasers, we’re always impressed with the work our customers do and appreciate where our efforts help them achieve theirs. Now, more than ever, we’re in awe and proud of the work our customers are conducting to combat the effects of COVID-19 and its far-reaching implications within industries and the economy alike.

Here are some of those stories of impact and versatility.

WOODCHUCK USA

Ben VandenWymelenberg is the founder and CEO of WOODCHUCK USA, a Minneapolis, MN-based custom wood production company specializing in truly unique gifts. As Minnesota entered the shelter in place mandate from Governor Walz’s Stay Home order, Ben entered his company into a new production territory.

Originally, WOODCHUCK USA shifted half of its production to face shields for medical staff members and personnel, developing a prototype within 24 hours of the decision. As word spread and obvious need grew, Ben and team shifted 100 percent of its production to that of face shields, cranking out 45,000 a day at first, and ramping up to 105,000 units per day now. Ben said their team recognized the “extra, extra high demand” for PPE across the U.S. and made the unanimous choice to support the cause. He explained that the face shields are compliant with N95 masks and are produced at John Hopkins’ standards. The face shields essentially elongate the lifespan of N95 masks worn by medical professionals on the frontlines of this crisis.

On the company website, Ben writes, “As an entrepreneur, you get used to the daily intensity of ever-changing situations and opportunities to grow. The opportunity to go against the beaten path, venture out, experience something new, and forge a new road. Over the past few weeks, we have all experienced an exponential amount of change. A change in the global markets, a change in our national procedure and benefits, a change in our state policy, likely a change in our employment, and a change in our homes and family life. Myself and my entire team here at WOODCHUCK USA are standing by and ready to help in whatever way possible.”

Order Face Shields from WOODCHUCK USA

Watch Ben’s Video via LinkedIn

Kudos, Ben and the entire team at WOODCHUCK USA. As part of your mission statement reads, your passion is to be a daily reminder of our planet’s vulnerability … it’s not about you, it’s about your planet and how you can make a difference now.

I’d say you’re doing just that.

LASER CUTTING, INC.

LCI is a full-service sign and point-of-purchase display house located in Milwaukee, WI.  For nearly 30 years, LCI has served the industry to design and manufacture signs and displays, while also offering laser cutting and laser engraving services with secondary operations. Now, for perhaps the first time ever, Laser Cutting, INC. has turned its capabilities to that of the growing PPE shortage in a time of global pandemic.

John McMillan is the sales manager at LCI and shared, “We have 10 lasers for short lead times and make protective barriers, face masks, and other custom parts. Our lasers can cut most non-metal substrates, and we are making essential parts for fighting the Coronavirus.”

Inquire About LCI for PPE Needs

Connect with John on LinkedIn

We appreciate your service, John and team, and applaud your efforts!

FAULKNER PLASTICS

Faulkner Plastics is a family-owned and operated plastic distribution and fabrication company celebrating its 50th year in business. Based in Hialeah, FL near Miami, Faulkner Plastic is a source for all types of plastic custom fabrications for retail, wholesale, and export. Though Faulkner has decades of experience, the company hadn’t produced any medical equipment, but the coronavirus changed all that.

Responding to local fire and rescue and first responders in Hialeah facing a shortage of PPE and safety equipment, Faulkner Plastics quickly flipped production to plastic face masks. Joseph McCabe, VP of Faulkner said, “we’re operating 24 hours a day now to make these face masks.”

Mask orders came in rapidly and the first batches were in the hands of first responders and emergency personnel by March 26th. In addition to the City of Hialeah, Faulkner also collaborated with Lawrence Franchetti, CEO of One Beat Medical in Miramar, FL, a business that distributes medical supplies. After learning about the new equipment Faulkner Plastics is creating, he reached out to the company to help get the equipment in the right hands. He told 7 News Miami, “We are able to work with them to protect our first responders out there.”

Because Faulkner Plastics has been successful in making these face masks during the upheaval of normal business, they’re currently looking at different organizations across South Florida to determine who they can help during this pandemic.

Order Face Masks from Faulkner Plastics

Watch News Story via 7 News Miami

Way to go, Joseph and Faulkner Plastics crew. Florida is lucky to have you.

CLEAR IMAGE, INC.

Based in Glendale, AZ, Clear Image, Inc. has been manufacturing lucite embedments for over 30 years. As one of only a few embedments producing manufacturers in the world, Clear Image, Inc. offers in-house casting, printing, silk screening, lasering, fabrication, design, artwork, and now, USA Splash Guard a new line of business dedicated to the COVID-19 crisis.

When the shortage of PPE products started being reported by the media, the company’s first thought was, how could we help and how do we keep our staff working through this? The answer became obvious: face shields.

They purchased the necessary materials, and found an inexpensive conveyor that was refitted and motorized to accelerate the bagging, boxing, and shipping process. In a matter of days Clear Image, Inc.’s went full throttle into manufacturing face shields. The team at Clear Image, Inc. is now in the process of bringing on a second shift to help fill the shortage of PPE’s.

“I’m so proud of the way our staff has responded to this change in direction” said Greg Smith, owner of Clear Image, Inc. “My creative team is working on the assembly line right alongside our shop and management team. This is a true case of American ingenuity and USA manufacturing at it’s finest. The worst of times does bring out the best of people. I wish everyone in the country could get a glimpse of our day to day operations… it would give them hope.”

Order Face Shields from USA Splash Guard

Keep up the good work.

EXCEL PLASTICS

Excel Plastics has three locations — two in Minneapolis and one in Fergus Falls, MN. Currently undergoing marketing initiatives including a rebrand as Excel the company also shifted its production from typical custom point of purchase (POP) for visual merchandising in retail settings to PPE capabilities. The company had a team meeting to determine how they could keep their business running as essential to ensure employee welfare while also serving a need for the community. That led Excel to produce plastic face shields from a prototype, resulting in the first batch of 4,ooo units created for Lake Region Healthcare in Fergus Falls.

Craig Koefod is Excel’s COO and told Otter Tail Lakes Country, “As a local family-owned business, we pride ourselves not only on making great products but also in the way we care for our employees and our community. We are privileged to help in any way we can,” Koefod said.

Because of Excel’s specialty in plastic, the company is also considering other products that can aid in the safety and protection of individuals during the pandemic, including sneeze guards or other plastic installations to be used in public settings, like grocery stores and other essential businesses.

Watch Excel Plastics Story via Otter Tail Lakes Country

Order Face Shields from Excel

Craig and everyone across the Excel brand, thank you for serving your communities so well.

Enterprise Minnesota Magazine

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.

Read the full article in Enterprise Minnesota