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Learn how rotary laser engraving works for round objects like bottles and glasses

Rotary laser engraving is laser marking around the outside of a cylindrical object. In this Blog post we explain how custom rotary laser engraving or personalised rotary laser engraving is used. For off the shelf products made with a specific design the price can be easily worked out. However, when you want to personalise a gift or promotional product the pricing follows a different path.

The difference between laser engraving and rotary engraving is just the shape of the object being engraved.

Usually with a laser engraving machine the objects are flat. Products such as a rubber stamp, acrylic sheets, wood, glass and stone. They are placed on the laser table and for flat objects that is all that is required. More irregular shaped objects may need to be tilted and supported to ensure the area to be engraved is level and will not move during engraving. Then adjust to height for correct focus of the laser beam. Once focused it can then be laser engraved. The more objects stacked to get to the full width of the laser engraving machine the better as the machine is more efficient. The longer the width distance the faster it can run. The laser engraving is extremely fast at up to 3.55 metres per second!

There is one major difference with rotary laser engraving.

While rotary laser engraving follows the same process there is one major difference. The object to be laser engraved is supported in a special rotary device, like a lathe which grips or holds each end of an object. It can then be rotated slowly around in a circle. While it is rotated the laser beam tracks along the centre line and engraves the area required on the object. While it might sound simple there is some mathematics involved as the diameter or circumference of the object has to be used to tell the machine how big the object is. Therefore adjust the rotation speed to allow engraving at the correct size for the area being laser engraved. Again the object is placed in the machine and held in place. The laser engraving machine bed is raised to focus the object at the correct distance from the lens. Then the laser engraving machine is started and laser engraves the image you need on the object.

What are the usual types of rotary engraved items?

There are many different personalised laser engraving items from just a single glass through to large orders for weddings. For food and beverage businesses and promotional products.

Here are some products we commonly rotary engrave for our customers;

  • Personalised wine glasses for weddings
  • Personalised drinking glasses for events
  • Steel drink bottles promotional products
  • Wine bottles for wine makers
  • Promotional products such as pens
  • Drinking cups for restaurants and bars
  • Christmas presents and tree ornaments
  • Wooden baking rolling pins
  • Duck callers

Learn about laser engraving and what can it be used for.

Laser engraving is a non mechanical way of changing the surface of an object or cutting right through. It does not touch the item being engraved. The energy from a laser beam is captured and focused on a specific point to heat an object to the point of making a change. In essence laser engraving is burning an object. Just like when you were a kid and used a magnifying glass and the sun’s rays to burn paper or ants. This process makes changes to these cylindrical objects:

  • a dark/light brown mark with varying depth into wood like a rolling pin.
  • vaporising paint off painted steel like a painted vacuum insulated drink bottle, the paint disappears, and the steel is left alone and bright.
  • micro fracturing the surface of glass to give a frosted effect on wine glasses and beer handles.
  • a dark/light brown mark on cardboard tube.
  • cutting intricate patterns through cardboard tube.
  • frosted effect on acrylic and with variable depth of engraving.
  • black marking on steel with a heat activated ceramic paint.

Learn what can be rotary laser engraved.

There are a wide variety of items that can be rotary laser engraved. If it is round or cylindrical and is made from the same material as regular laser engraving it could be done. Generally if it is organic it can be engraved.

  • Glass like champagne flute, wine glass, beer glasses, beer handle, 21st presents, wedding gifts.
  • Steel needs to have a painted surface. Here the paint is removed on items like vacuum insulated bottles and cups.
  • Cardboard like shipping tubes.
  • Most types of wood like a rolling pin

Learn how much detail can be laser engraved.

The laser engraving process can engrave at up to 1,000dpi. This can achieve stunning small detail with fonts as small as 4 point in size in glass. However, it is really hard to read with the naked eye and for vision impaired people you may need your glasses on and/or a magnifying glass to read text this small.

Black and white photographic quality is achievable depending on the material being laser engraved and more importantly the quality of the image supplied. However remember that the smaller the detail the harder it is to see. Bolder designs have a greater effect. This is most pronounced on wood where lower dpi and different laser settings achieves more visually appealing results. The higher the dpi the slower the process is as each row of dots processed at a time is much smaller. This can add to your cost.

Can you engrave all the way around an object?

Yes. With the rotary unit the item to be engraved can be fully rotated 360 degrees. This will allow engraving on opposite sides as well. If it is important to match the image being engraved on the start and finish point this can be difficult to achieve. If there is any taper at all to the object then the engraving will not match. If the start and end points of the image are not important to match then a full wrap is possible to engrave.

How big an object can be rorary laser engraved?

Oh this is a good question as each laser engraving machine has a different bed size. For our laser engraving machine an object up to 550mm long and 207 mm in diameter can be engraved. An item up to 10kg maximum in weight can be supported. The end shape of the object can vary these specifications. This is for items held by each end and cylindrical rather than a taper. Or with a side roller type where the item just turns balanced on top of rollers the length can be up to 745mm and a diameter of up to 96mm. Up to 3kg items can be engraved this way.

Is it possible to have a curve sided object laser engraved?

The best engraving happens when the laser beam is focused perfectly on an object. Like a camera when out of focus the result is not too good. This is the same with a laser beam. Like a camera we can use different lenses with a different focal length to increase depth of field. However that is not very much. For the best results on glass a small focal length gives the best results.

Therefore the flatter the surface along the line of travel of the laser beam the better. If you are imaging a flat sided wine bottle then that flat side is just right. However if you think tennis ball then that is extremely difficult. Right in the middle is good then as you move away towards the top or bottom the beam will not reach correctly and the mark will become blurry and eventually not mark at all.

How about a glass? Some have flat sides like a champagne flute and are fine. Others are more balloon shaped and have to be tilted to get the angle better on the machine. There are adjustments which will do that but only so far. Carefully consider how big that mark needs to be and where on the glass it could be positioned. Also the larger the mark on a curved area there will be distortion of the image. If you take a piece of paper and try to wrap that around a wine glass you find it will wrinkle up to try and match the compound curves. That is why a flat 2D image on a page does not look the same on a 3D surface of a glass.

How many objects can be laser engraved at one time?

For personalised rotary engraving it is just one item at a time. Each end of the glass or bottle to be engraved must be supported in the correct position to hold it at the correct distance from the focal lens. As you can imagine dropping a glass while rotating around has catastrophic effects when landing on a steel frame. If your items can be stacked and gripped together firmly without damage and rigidly held in place it is much more efficient use of the machine. That time saving equals dollars back in your pocket.

Why does custom laser engraving take so long?

As you can see from above every single item must be selected, carefully mounted in the device, focused and only then can the laser engraving begin. This takes time for good results. Also the total area of engraving required can take longer. A logo on the side of a glass might be only 50mm wide and not take too long. However to engrave a full rotation right around a bottle or a thermos flask can take a considerable amount of time. The larger the circumference the longer the time it takes. In the custom laser engraving business, like any other business, time equals money and time is the biggest cost to laser engraving.

laser engraving cutting nz

Laser Engraving for Thermos Drinkware.

We can laser engrave cylindrical objects like wine glasses, wine bottles and hot or cold drinking flasks.

Do all materials laser engrave the same?

This is a big NO!

Testing on each type of item is required.  There are many variables to set the machine up for each and every material type. Working within a batch of material is good. The formulation to make those items is the same and we can achieve a more consistent effect on your items.

However every piece of glass is different from every manufacturer. Each drink bottle will have a different type of paint and a different thickness of paint. Every piece of wood and across each part of the grain is a different effect.

Every time we meet a new material we have to spend time testing different settings for that item. That means laser engraving the item to see what happens. If we have a setting that works on the last similar item and tried your new piece we could have a result from one extreme to the other from no mark at all to smashing or burning a hole right through it.

Testing is important.

Having a spare item to test helps a lot to get a great result for you. Testing is included in the cost to engrave your item. The more items you need engraved the lower the per unit cost.

Generally if we supply the materials we have already gone through the testing process and will not charge for that part of the process.

Shipping and protection.

This is a critical part of the process. Getting your items to us in one piece and then back again has so many issues. For fragile items like glassware they must be protected well. Murphy’s law will mean that the minimum number of items you need then there will be some sort of incident and one or more items could be damaged if not packed safely. Think about this before sending us items. Once picked up it is totally out of our/your control. Hand delivery is much more reliable for fragile items like glass. Likewise drop off and pick up is advised. 

How much does rotary laser engraving cost?

Here are the variables that change the cost of engraving:

  • Graphic design time for converting your image to a vector image for laser engraving print file and supply of a proof for you to check and approve before commencing any work.
  • Testing for laser engraving effect on the specific item if applicable.
  • Who supplies the material you or us?
  • Number of items to engrave?
  • Time to laser engrave the item(s) and labour.
  • Packaging for transport.
  • Administration for all the paperwork involved with communication, invoicing and payment.

After all these variables are calculated we can advise a price to you.

Bulk discounts.

Here is the part of interest to you. Can I get a bulk discount for laser engraving? Yes.

If the item is the same image on multiple items the set up time is able to be spread out over the number required and lowers the cost per item. One item is expensive by comparison. Two, three or ten items lowers the cost per item. Over a hundred items can make quite a difference to per item cost. We take the number of items and the number of images into account when pricing your project up to ensure we can get your cost of production down to the minimum. The faster we can do your job the lower your cost. And in return the faster we can produce your work the faster we can help the next person. Everyone is happy.

How do I get some engraving work done?

If personalised engraving is of interest to you to have something custom laser rotary engraved you can use the quote product in our website below. We need to know particular details to be able to help you and until we have it all we can’t help you. The Quote form will assist both of us to get a great result quickly minimising back and forth question and answer time. It can save days. The quote is free and there is no commitment to buy.

Have questions? Contact our team.

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