Leather is a general term predominantly used to describe some form of hide (skin) that can be natural (of animal origin) or synthetic (man-made). If at all possible, when laser engraving or laser cutting leather try to use synthetic materials. Not only is this morally responsible but often the job is easier to achieve with a more predictable result due to the consistent nature of a man-made product compared to a natural animal hide.
There are a multitude of different colours, thickness and types of leather. Leather can be plain in finish, embossed with patterns or even retaining fur or hair.
When laser cutting or laser engraving leather the best laser wavelength to use is a CO2 laser at 10.6µm.
When laser engraving leather the best effects are produced by using lighter colours, such as tan or even better results can be achieved using colour dyed leathers where the contrast can be further enhanced.
One of the main obstacles to overcome is the adverse reaction that leather can have to the heat of the laser engraver, particularly when laser marking over larger areas. One way to overcome this is to pre-soak the leather before it is placed within the laser engraving machine. CAUTION: do not place wet materials inside the laser machine! Prior to attempting this technique seek detailed advice from our support department
When pre-soaked the excess moisture within the material acts as a heat-sink to minimise the material warping and/or excessively charring during the laser cutting and laser engraving process. The retained moisture also adds weight to the leather, which minimises it from moving as air flow across it from the laser fume extraction unit.
After laser engraving, some types of leather can be further enhanced by rubbing hand cream or sun lotion onto the material to moisturise it and provide for a luxurious looking lustre, especially where it has been intensely laser engraved.
If using leather with hair, such as cowhide for example, some visually stunning effects can be produced by setting the parameters of the laser engraving machine to remove the hair but without marking the hide beneath. The results can be very eye-catching, similar to some hairstyles supported by basketball players! One examples of this technique is use the hide associated with one type of animal but etch it with a fur pattern associated with another type of animal.
Commercial applications for laser cutting and laser engraving leather range from decorative marking and branding of wallets, purses and handbags to cutting intricate patterns for shoes or even the creation of decorative hides to be used in manufacturing footstools.
At Lotus Laser Systems we manufacture a wide range laser marking and engraving solutions ideally configured for laser cutting and laser engraving all types of materials. Our experts would be happy to recommend which configuration best suits your application.