The possibilities are endless when it comes to laser marking leather. With a little insight and experimentation, you can customize this classic material. Here are five more things you need to know before laser marking leather products:
- Types of lasers: The nd:YAG laser generates the laser beam using a different wave pattern and frequency. This allows the nd:YAG and fiber lasers to mark substrates a typical CO2 laser has great difficulty with.Typically, what works with a CO2 laser will not work well on an nd:YAG or fiber mark laser. This is especially true with organic products such as wood plaques and cotton-based fabrics. However, using an nd:YAG laser system works well on black leather belts and maintains crisp graphics using low power. You can even re-run the graphics a few times to increase the clarity, which improves the overall appearance. I find that the darker-colored substrates accept the laser beam well on the nd:YAG.
- Paint-filling: Another technique to improve the contrast when laser marking leather is to paint-fill it. Essentially, you need to mask the surface prior to laser marking the graphics. You could use a paper adhesive mask, which is available from any sign shop. This paper product is also known in the sign industry as a premask or transfer tape. After covering the surface of the leather, you would laser through the paper and into the leather.The next step is to apply the paint. Using a spray paint is usually the easiest method of application and provides many color options. Be aware that the ingredients in some paints can dry out the leather. If this is a real concern, there are paints and inks specially designed for leather decoration.
- Photos: Not only do text and graphics work on leather products, but photos do, too. Numerous third-party software programs include presets for laser marking on leather. These programs factor in the nuances of leather to help you produce a great-looking final product. While it is not absolutely necessary to use one of these photo filters, it minimizes the risk of halftones not translating properly on the leather service.
- Cutting: Intricate designs and patterns cut out of leather are easily done with a CO2 laser system. You will immediately notice the smell. Once again, proper ventilation is essential. You can also spray leather protectant over the item to further contain the small, which can linger for days.
- Markets: Like everything in business, you need to generate revenue from your products. Some companies specialize in laser cutting intricate patterns for apparel. There are some laser shops which concentrate on laser marking logos on leather gloves. Gun accessories such as leather holsters can be another market worth looking at.
-Richard Korbyl, Columbia Awards