Rubber cutting and engraving using a laser machine is tricky! Let’s dig out more and see which are three best laser engravers for rubber laser engraving!
Rubber is a flexible material mainly used to create stamps, gaskets, electric insulation, and engine seals. Also, rubber is used for prototyping industrial and medical components. Laser cutting and engraving rubber offers precise cutting which makes it suitable for specific application.
This article mainly focuses on the technical aspects of laser cutting and engraving rubber and will suggest some laser engravers which may be suitable for rubber engraving.
How does laser cut rubber?
A laser cutter uses its focused laser beam to cut through the rubber and other materials. Typically, a CO2 laser is used to cut rubber due to heat absorption and the required laser wavelength.
The process starts with placing a rubber sheet, preferably a wrinkle-free one into the laser cutting bed. A computer-aided design or CAD file will then be used to instruct the laser machine to cut or engrave. Usually, you need a CO2 Laser cutter to cut through the rubber which emits a high-power laser at the required wavelength. Besides, a CO2 laser is preferred due to the capacity to control the power of laser emission due to the material being so flexible.
The system will then automatically focus and position the laser on the rubber sheet and cut or engrave at the appropriate settings, There may be some laser cutters where you need to set the laser parameters otherwise the excess power will burn the rubber sheet excessively.
In some cases, assist gases, such as nitrogen or air, may be used to enhance the cutting process. These gases help remove debris and prevent charring on the cut edges. As the laser cuts through the rubber, it simultaneously cools and solidifies the cut edges, minimizing the risk of deformation or melting beyond the cutting line.
Difficulties and Technical Complexities:
- Material Composition: Rubber is a diverse material with various formulations, including natural rubber and synthetic rubber compounds. Different rubber compositions can react differently to laser cutting. Understanding the specific rubber’s properties is crucial for achieving the desired results. Here comes the need to understand the different laser engraving glossaries that help in setting the appropriate parameters for rubber cutting through laser.
- Material Thickness: The thickness of the rubber sheet affects the laser-cutting process. Thick rubber may require multiple passes or increased laser power, while thin rubber can be more delicate and prone to melting or burning. In some cases, vaporizing is preferred over burning if the need is to make a rubber stamp instead of giving the rubber sheet a particular shape.
- Charring: Rubber tends to char when exposed to laser heat. This can result in discolored and uneven edges. Managing the power, speed, and focus of the laser is critical to reduce charring. For example, Thicker rubber typically requires more laser power to cut through efficiently. However, excessively high power can lead to charring even in thicker materials, and Proper ventilation and the use of air assist systems can help remove fumes and reduce the heat-affected zone, contributing to cleaner cuts.
- Edge Quality: Achieving clean and precise edges is challenging with rubber due to its tendency to melt and deform. Optimization of laser parameters and settings is essential for obtaining high-quality cuts.
- Complex Geometries: Cutting intricate and fine details in rubber without causing distortion or burning can be technically challenging. It requires careful programming and laser control.
- Material Adhesion: Rubber can have adhesive properties, and this adhesive layer can build upon the laser optics, reducing the cutting quality and necessitating frequent maintenance.
- Material Resilience: Rubber is elastic and resilient, which can make it challenging to hold securely in place on the cutting bed. Proper fixation is necessary to prevent material movement during cutting.
In summary, laser cutting of rubber is a precise but complex process. Achieving consistent and high-quality results depends on understanding the specific rubber material, optimizing laser parameters, and implementing appropriate safety measures. Overcoming challenges like charring, edge quality, and material adherence requires experience and expertise in laser cutting technology.
What types of rubber are perfect for laser cutting & engraving?
Laser cutting and engraving can be performed on various types of rubber materials, but the suitability depends on the intended application and the specific properties of the rubber. For instance, Silicone rubber is a popular choice for laser cutting and engraving due to its versatility and heat resistance, and the EPDM rubber is popular for Gaskets, weatherstripping, automotive seals, and industrial components due to its excellent weather resistance and durability.
The below table shows which types of rubber are good for laser cutting and engraving referring to their usability.
|Types of rubber||Application||Reason|
|Silicone Rubber||Gaskets, seals, rubber stamps, custom silicone products, silicone molds||versatility and heat resistance|
|EPDM Rubber||Gaskets, weatherstripping, automotive seals, industrial components||resistance and durability|
|Neoprene Rubber||Gaskets, seals, wet suits, sports equipment, and more||chemical resistance and flexibility|
|Natural Rubber||Rubber stamps, custom rubber products, industrial components, and more.||elasticity and tear resistance|
|Foam Rubber||Foam padding, cosplay costumes, packaging inserts, and more.||good for precise and intricate designs|
|Nitrile Rubber||Seals, gaskets, O-rings, industrial components, and more.||oil-resistant and offers good chemical resistance|
|Acrylic Rubber (ACM)||Seals, gaskets, automotive components, and more.||combines the properties of rubber and acrylic|
|SBR Rubber||Gaskets, industrial parts, footwear, and more||cost-effective|
|Microcellular Rubber||Sealing, padding, shock absorption, and more||can be laser-cut to create intricate and lightweight parts|
Rubber stamp laser engraving
Laser engraving rubber stamp comes with unique challenges such as depth, clarity, and alignment. However, addressing the issues beforehand can save both time and cost.
Depth and Clarity of Engraving
Achieving consistent and clear engraving depth can be challenging, especially when dealing with small, intricate designs.
To address this challenge, ensure that the laser settings, including power, speed, and focus, are optimized for the rubber material you are using. Experimenting with different settings can be beneficial to finding the right balance between depth and clarity. Using a high-resolution image or vector file is suggested to ensure fine details are captured accurately.
Odor & Fumes
Laser engraving rubber can produce strong odors and fumes that may be unpleasant or harmful if not properly managed.
Proper ventilation and exhaust systems are essential. Ensure your workspace has good airflow, and use a dedicated exhaust system to remove fumes and odors. Additionally, consider using rubber materials that are designed to emit fewer fumes during laser engraving.
Similarly, using an enclosed laser engraver such as Gweike or xTool P2 can be a clever choice to reduce odor and fume. These two laser engravers are fully enclosed and are delivered along with the fume exhaust.
Selection of material
Not all rubber materials are suitable for laser engraving. Choosing the right rubber is critical for achieving quality results.
We prefer to select rubber materials specifically designed for laser engraving. Laser rubber sheets can be a good choice which are optimized for laser processing and provide consistent results. Ensure that the rubber is free from contaminants or coatings that can interfere with engraving.
Precisely aligning the rubber stamp on the engraving bed to match the design on the computer screen can be tricky.
Use laser alignment systems that can help you position the rubber stamp accurately on the engraving bed. Additionally, consider using registration marks on your rubber stamp and in your design file to ensure proper alignment.
If you are running batch processing and worried about the alignment, The xTool P2 can solve it, which doesn’t want the user to place material at a fixed dimension rather the laser machine itself identifies the right alignment of the rubber pieces using its automatic intelligence.
Achieving clean and sharp edges in the engraved design can be challenging due to the nature of the rubber itself.
We recommend using high-quality rubber materials and ensure that the laser beam is correctly focused. There may be an advanced laser machine like OMTech Polar that doesn’t need you to adjust focus. Adjust laser parameters to minimize charring or melting at the edges. Consider post-processing techniques, such as trimming or sanding, to refine the edges if necessary.
Rubber Band laser engraving
We tried some experiments to laser engrave Apple watch’s rubber bands. The test was mainly done to figure out the probable challenges someone can face during such engravings.
Have a look at the pictures of the first experiment:
Despite the initial challenges, I was thrilled with the final result. The engraved symbol on my Apple Watch rubber band looked sharp, meaningful, and perfectly aligned. It added a personal touch that made my watch even more special to me.
Here’s the second experiment of rubber engraving using xTool P2
Choosing the right rubber band for engraving was our very first challenge. Not all rubber bands are suitable for laser engraving, and some may produce undesirable results. We had to ensure that the selected rubber band wouldn’t deform or melt during the engraving process.
To address this issue, we opted for a high-quality, silicone rubber band that the engraving service recommended for laser work. This ensured that the material could withstand the heat generated during the engraving process.
Ensuring precision was another challenge due to the fact that the watch will be in the wrist and the letter should not seem like unreadable. For that, we have chosen xTool P2 that engraves at a precision of 0.002 mm which made the whole job easier.
Creating design was another challenge as we wanted the symbol to be crisp and easily recognizable. We worked with a graphic design to create a vector image of wrist band design, which ensured that the laser engraving would capture even the finest details. This step was crucial in achieving a clear and sharp result.
laser engraving an Apple Watch rubber band was a rewarding experience, but it did come with its share of challenges. However, by choosing the right material, working on a precise design, ensuring proper alignment, addressing fumes, and optimizing laser settings, these challenges can be overcome. The personalized touch on my watch band made the process entirely worthwhile.
Why CO2 laser is perfect for rubber?
CO2 lasers are often preferred for rubber cutting and engraving due to their specific wavelength and the interaction between their beam and the material. This interaction makes them highly suitable for rubber processing. Here’s why CO2 lasers are commonly used, explained using an example:
CO2 lasers emit light in the far-infrared spectrum, typically around 10.6 micrometers. This wavelength is highly compatible with rubber materials because it is readily absorbed by organic substances like rubber. On the other side, Laser engravers such as xTool F1 are suitable for wood and metal due to the fact that they have two laser heads one being an IR laser.
Example: Imagine you have a piece of rubber in a CO2 laser system. When the CO2 laser beam is directed onto the rubber surface, the energy from the beam is efficiently absorbed by the rubber. This absorption leads to rapid heating and vaporization of the material at the point of contact with the laser beam. This localized heating allows for precise cutting or engraving of the rubber.
For the best engraving result – we recommend xTool P2 which offers maximum engraving speed with great precision.
Minimal Scorching and Charring:
The wavelength of CO2 lasers is well-suited for controlled heating of rubber, resulting in minimal scorching and charring when used within the recommended power and speed parameters.
Example: Suppose you’re engraving a rubber stamp with fine details using a CO2 laser. The focused laser beam will accurately heat and vaporize the rubber, creating the desired engraving without causing excessive charring or damage to the surrounding material. This ensures clean and precise results.
Versatile Material Compatibility:
CO2 lasers can effectively process various types of rubber, including natural rubber, silicone rubber, EPDM, neoprene, and more. This versatility makes CO2 lasers suitable for a wide range of rubber applications.
Example: Consider a scenario where you need to cut gaskets of different rubber materials for industrial equipment. A CO2 laser can handle the task efficiently, regardless of the specific rubber compound, by adjusting the laser parameters accordingly.
Precision and Detail:
CO2 lasers offer exceptional precision and detail, making them suitable for intricate designs and fine engraving on rubber.
Example: You want to engrave a complex and detailed logo on a silicone rubber bracelet. A CO2 laser can accurately reproduce the logo with intricate details, ensuring that the final result is both visually appealing and of high quality.
While CO2 lasers are well-suited for rubber cutting and engraving, it’s essential to note that other laser types, such as fiber lasers and UV lasers, may also have their applications in specific rubber processing scenarios. However, the interaction between CO2 lasers and rubber materials, combined with their versatility and ability to minimize charring, makes them a popular choice for a wide range of rubber-related tasks.
Best Laser Engraver for Rubber
These are the best laser engravers for rubber:
- xTool P2 (Best among all)
- OMTech Polar
- Gweike Cloud Pro
xTool P2 is a 55W CO2 laser having engraving speed of 600 mm/s which is just perfect and best among all for cutting and engraving rubber. The P2 cuts at a speed of 35 mm/s which is more than enough if someone is looking to laser cut rubber stamps or other rubber items. The P2 also features curved engraving which may not be suitable for engraving rubber; however, this feature is not available in any other CO2 laser machine. Moreover, the P2 is a lightburn-compatible laser machine which makes rubber engraving and laser cutting more efficient compared to other brands such as Glowforge lasers.
Besides, the OMTech Polar is our second-best laser cutter suitable for rubber which comes at a similar engraving speed of P2 but with a cutting speed of 29 mm/s. The cutting speed mentioned is tested on basewood so, the rubber cutting speed will be much higher than that. OMTech polar offers slightly smaller laser work bed than that of P2 (20.1″ x 11.8″) which may not be an issue for rubber cutting and engraving. However, there are not any motorized passthrough in Polar like P2 which may be an issue while engraving or cutting large rubber pieces.
The Gweike cloud pro is a budget beast which is available at a price of nearly USD 2500 but offers similar working speed and features like OMTech Polar. Moreover, the Gweike features a 50W co2 laser which is lower than the xTool P2 but enough to laser cut and engrave rubber items. All three laser here is available for upgrading with rotary attachment that will assist in rubber-made tumblers and water bottles.
xTool P2 – Best c02 laser machine for rubber
The P2 is the very first co2 laser from xTool which was earlier known for their popular diode lasers. Even though the P2 is said to be first, but the features and other benifits helped the laser machine to stand amnong all. It comes with an engraving speed of 600 mm/s which is notably higher in any co2 laser engravers. There are other features that helped the P2 to be the perfect laser for rubber which are mentioned below:
First, have a look at the rubber stamp engraving done with the xTool P2
First of all, The P2 is the only laser engraver in the market which offers motorized pass-through that enables the user to engrave on longer rubber sheets. This is highly benificial if someone wants to laser cut or engrave any rubber made matt or larger rubber pieces. The length of the rubber is infinity as it depends on the space you can accommodate. As far the width of the working material is matched with the machine, the motorized pass-through feature will slowly push the working material in front to engrave.
Secondly, The P2 is becoming so popular due to its new feature of intelligent batch processing. Till today, we have seen that the laser engravers can perform engravings on many pieces of materials but the user needs to place the materials and set the design for each and every pieces. For P2, you just need to set design for a single rubber piece then the engraver itself will detect the other rubber shapes for the rest of the pieces and so will the designs as well. It saves time and boosts crafters’ efficiency.
Read the detailed review of the xTool P2 here.
We highly recommend P2 for its engraving speed of 600 mm per second which is the fastest speed as of today for the CO2 laser engravers. For, instance, recent releases such as Gweike & OMTech Polar offers 500 mm/s and the Glowforge lasers engraving speed is limited to 450 mm/s. Notably, the engraving accuracy of the P2 is 0.001 which depicts that the user can engrave any material at the maximum precision having no sacrifice on print speed.
These are the key highlighting points that makes the xTool P2 different from other laser cutters.
- 55W CO2 laser tube which is powerful than the Glowforge Pro but, comes at a 40% lower price than what Glowforge Pro asks
- Available with RA2 Pro (rotary attachment), Riser & Motorized pass through for cutting spherical, larger & thicker materials
- Smoke purifier available that sucks all the smokes and vents outside with duct fan & exhaust pipe
- Offers advanced safety features such fire solution integration ability
- Can engrave curved material which is first in laser engraving market
- Features two powerful camera for better focus & monitoring
- Air assist & water chiller ensures better laser engraving
- Maximum engraving speed is 600 mm/s which higher than Glowforge Pro
- Engraves at a precision of 0.001 & 1000 DPI which makes the engravings more accurate & vibrant
- Automatically detects the material shape during batch engravings that saves users time
- Offers larger bed size compared to Glowforge & Gweike
- xTool is comparably new in CO2 laser industry so, glass tube replacement services are not declared yet
- Slate bed offers too much gap between two slates which limits smaller jwellery engravings
- Exterior is made of plastic but looks great
Omtech Polar co2 laser cutter & engraver
OMTech polar is a less noisy laser engrvaer suitable for rubber cutting and engraving. This is less noisy than the other laser machine and offers specific wavelength laser power suitable for rubber cutting.
Let’s have a look at how amazing Polar engraves and laser cuts rubber:
Moreover, the Polar comes with both air assist and water cooling that helps gain better precision and protects the rubber sheets from excessing burning and vapourization.
The Polar offers a bed size of 20.1″ x 11.8″ which is just perfect for rubber cutting and engraving. Moreover, the nbatch processing facility allows the user to make multiple rubber stamps at a time; however, the intelligent shape detection feature is not available in Polar whcih is only available at the xTool P2.
Read the detailed review of OMTech Polar here.
Furthermore, the duct fan of the Polar increases efficiency that throws the odors away which can be a concerning issue while engraving and cutting rubber sheets.
We highly recommend OMTech Polar after the xTool P2 due to the following benifits.
- Faster Engraving Speed
- Powerful CO2 laser
- Water Chiller Included
- Air Assist Included
- Rotary attachment included
- Fully enclosed
- Low Noise (below 70 Decibels)
- Water chiller included
- Supports Lightburn
- Allows pass-through
- No Pull-out drawer for easy dust removal
- Maximum working height without tray is 51 mm which could have been increased by an additional 10 mm.
- Top lid lifting is not automatic
Gweike Cloud Pro
Gweike cloud pro is a 50W co2 laser, suitable for rubber cutting and engraving. The gweike was a market shaker due to the fact it was the very first laser that offered all the Glowforge facilities at the Glowforge’s half price.
To date, Gweike’s overall review is satisfactory and we strongly recommend Gweike after the Polar and xTool P2.
- Air assist is now built-in with the Gwike Cloud Pro which is very essential to control excessive vapourization of rubber items
- An emergency stop button has been added as an extra measure of safety precautions that protects rubber from overburning and fire
- Operating noise has been reduced by 9 decibels which is great for regular tasks
- A ruler has been added to the honeycomb bed so that the crafters can have measuring benefits from the camera and it helps in proper positioning of the rubber pieces
- Machine sealing has been improved that directly affects in reducing noises
- Camera functions and other operating bugs have been updated that offers a better laser engraving & cutting experience
- Gweike laser engraver can print at a resolution of Upto 1000 DPI at full power. This is great when someone is in need of high-contrast engraving output. However, there might be edge burns to soft materials such as rubber pieces.
- The Pro model comes with double rotary attachments which enables the laser head to work on uneven materials such as tumblers & Yeti mugs, especially with a rubber shield outside.
- There would be 18 months of warranty along with 30 days no reason refund facility which takes the laser cutter into the biggest appealing position in the market.
- The noise would be as max as 70 decibels. (20% lower than the OMTech laser cutters)
- Gweike is FDA certified and hereby comes with HEPA filter & duct fan. This laser engraver is fully enclosed so the risk of toxic fumes is lesser than the open version of Xtool D1 Pro & AtomStack S20 Pro.
- There is a built-in cooler that helps the laser beam reduce heat substantially without air assistance.
- Gweike also allows pass-through which helps the user to feed extra material for larger engraving.
- Doesn’t have any mobile app like the xTool P2
- There has been limited information on whether their desktop applications run smoothly on Mac / Linux.
- Smaller customer forum than xTool
- Doesn’t allow any batch processing
- Doesn’t have a smartphone application to control or oversee the laser engraving activities.
Here’s rubber engraving example done by the Gweike cloud pro:
Frequently asked questions
These are the frequently asked questions which may solve some of your quiries:
Can you laser engrave rubber?
Yes, rubber can be laser engraved. For example, you can engrave intricate designs or text on a rubber stamp or personalize rubber items like phone cases and watch bands with laser engraving.
What is the best laser for cutting rubber?
CO2 lasers are often preferred for rubber cutting and engraving due to their specific wavelength and the interaction between their beam and the material. We recommend xTool P2 or the OMTech Polar due to its laser quality and other features such as water cooling, air assist, and exhaust fan facility.
Can a CO2 laser cut rubber?
Yes, a CO2 laser can cut rubber. For example, it can cut rubber gaskets used in industrial applications. CO2 lasers are well-suited for this task due to their efficient absorption of the rubber material’s wavelength, enabling precise cutting.
Can you laser engrave silicon rubber?
Yes, silicone rubber can be laser engraved. For example, you can engrave intricate patterns or text on silicone rubber wristbands. Silicone rubber’s ability to absorb CO2 laser wavelengths makes it suitable for laser engraving.
How to clean rubber after laser engraving?
To clean rubber after laser engraving, use a soft brush or compressed air to remove loose debris, dampen a cloth or sponge with isopropyl alcohol (IPA), and gently wipe the engraved area to remove residue.
After engraving a rubber stamp, you can clean it by brushing off loose bits, and then wiping the engraved surface with an IPA-soaked cloth. This process helps maintain the clarity and cleanliness of the engraving.
In conclusion, laser cutting and engraving on rubber materials offer a versatile and precise means of customization and production across various industries. By harnessing the capabilities of CO2 lasers and selecting appropriate rubber materials, it becomes possible to achieve intricate designs, clear engravings, and clean cuts with minimal charring. While challenges such as material compatibility, odor management, and edge quality may arise, these can be effectively addressed through proper equipment, techniques, and safety measures.
We always recommend the rubber laser engraving guideline mentioned by Lindas. Especially tips for taking pauses during rubber cutting using CO2 lasers.