3 Essential Steps to Successfully Laser Engrave Using a Rotary Attachment

Introduction: Laser Rotary Setups

If you run a small business primarily dependent on laser engraving, you’re constantly coming up with innovative ideas to help scale your operation. Building your product portfolio and taking on more challenging projects can only help increase your sales and profit. The demand for rotary attachments has grown tremendously in recent years. Customers always want the newest novelty item engraved, and the products are becoming more complex every year. Using a rotary axis attachment will expand your engraving capability, giving your small business a competitive edge. Let’s learn more about how to laser engrave a variety of items with a rotation axis attachment.

Here are a few prominent projects you can engrave with a laser rotary attachment:

  • Tumblers
  • Mugs
  • Bottles
  • Pint glasses

Any small business owner or up-and-coming DIYer who uses a laser engraver should learn how to use a rotary attachment with curved objects. Read below to learn the steps involved in mounting a typical rotary setup and running your engraving projects from start to finish. We'll even provide some RDWorks rotary settings and details on LightBurn rotary setups. Before delving into the steps, you must understand what a laser rotary attachment is all about.

What is a Laser Rotary Attachment?

This device helps you laser engrave curved objects (canonical, cylindrical, or spherical) of various material types. Specifically, it has two ends to hold the workpiece in place while continuously rotating through the engraving process. This device’s primary idea is to hold and rotate an object for 360-degree engraving without the object falling off. Furthermore, it is noteworthy that this device comes in three basic designs, which are;

Generally, these three rotary setups are fantastic and will get the job done anytime, any day. The chuck-style rotary can engrave objects up to 8.6 inches and 3.1 inches in length and diameter, respectively. This chuck-style device has the best control over different objects but lacks the adjustment to process tapered objects. The 4-wheel rotary has two sets of adjustable wheels opposite each other with a maximum of 14-inch length in between them and a diameter of up to 5 inches. Although the 4-wheel rotary setup doesn’t have the precise control ability of the chuck style device, it can accommodate tapered objects/ objects with an angle. Lastly, the roller-style rotary can engrave 10.39 inches and 2.87 inches in length and diameter, respectively. The roller-style is the easiest rotary setup to use but is only compatible with perfectly cylindrical objects. 

There are a few rotary setup factors to consider before buying. Be sure to contemplate how these different styles of rotary attachments can accommodate your intended workpieces. Check out all the specs below before choosing your rotary setup:

  • Size of your machine: The machine’s workbed size will affect the type of rotary attachment that can enter it. This, in turn, determines the workpiece’s maximum height that can be engraved. In summary, the bigger the machine, the larger the rotary attachment and the larger the workpiece both in height and width that it can engrave.

  • Workpiece height: After placing your rotary attachment into the correct position inside the laser engraver, there is limited room for the workpiece to sit in. This implies that the workpiece will have a height that allows the laser engraver to be closed properly. The workpiece height should be lesser than the available space between the rotary attachment and the engraver’s laser head. Check your machine specs for maximum Z-axis depth and account for the rotary device’s added height.

  • Maximum and minimum length and diameter of the workpiece: This is most applicable to the chuck-style rotary device. The chuck has a maximum extent it can open to which determines the maximum diameter of the workpiece it can carry and engrave. Plus, the maximum length depends on the distance between the chuck and tip of the tailstock. However, if it's a roller or 4-wheel device, the maximum length is the distance between the roller and the opposite end. Be sure to check the rotary attachment’s maximum diameter and be sure it can accommodate all your product applications before buying. 

Sequential Steps to Setup

Hardware Rotary Setup

This step is the essential part of the whole process, and it involves connecting the rotary attachment to the laser engraver through a 4-pin connection port. This 4-pin connection port is specific to OMTech’s laser engraver — it can vary by brand. First, ensure the laser machine’s workbed table is lowered to its minimum height, then switch off the laser. Second, larger Mid-Range and High Power laser engravers may require you to take out the honeycomb and knife bed for more room and then place the rotary attachment with the cable plugged into the laser engraver. Third, connecting the rotary device requires you to disconnect the Y-axis. This means that after you connect the rotary device, you will not be able to move the laser head. So, make sure you place the laser head in an ideal location on the workbed. Afterward, place the rotary device under the laser head and double-check that it is placed on the centerline of the rotary device. This guarantees that your projects will be engraved evenly while the device rotates. With these steps, the device is in place and gradually getting ready for use. Nevertheless, bear in mind that any wrong connection will mean your software will automatically not recognize the device through the laser engraver. 

Software Rotary Setup

Software varies depending on the machine; however, LightBurn and RDWorks are the most compatible with OMTech laser machines. Once you have the rotary setup device connected, make sure to activate the device with a proper LightBurn rotary setup or RDWorks rotary setup. Don't forget to choose which style of laser rotary attachment you are using. The program needs to know if you are using a roller style or chuck style device. The correct steps per rotation setting is vital for your rotary setup project; we recommend starting at around 3,000 steps per rotation. Before starting, your graphics design must be ready and in a suitable format compatible with the engraving software. On all machines, you will need to input the object's diameter in the software. For the roller type or 4-wheel type devices, you will also need to input the diameter of the roller/wheel. The graphic’s dimensions must be inputted to allow the software to calculate the proper angle to commence engraving. More so, make sure the engraving fits nicely around the circumference. Last, double-check that you are using the correct power and speed settings for processing the specific material. Once you import your design and modify it the way you want, you will be ready for the next step. Your specific software configuration is essential to making your laser rotary attachment work correctly, so it's best to doublecheck your LightBurn rotary setup and RDWorks rotary settings before moving to the next step.

Rotary Setup Positioning & Measurement

Gently mount the workpiece on the laser rotary attachment and clamp firmly, then place the laser head above it. Measure the laser head position to ensure it correlates with the start point from the graphics on the software. For workpieces that are not cylindrical but conical, counteract the slope by adjusting the cone on both sides to permit engraving workpieces of various diameters. When engraving glass, you should mask the outside or place a dark-colored cloth inside your workpiece to prevent laser beam reflections.

To engrave glass or anything with handles, you have to ensure the handle does not interfere with the engraving environment. If you want to engrave conical objects, the engraving area must be set parallel to the x-axis to ensure a stable focus position.  

It is important to remember that after you are finished using the rotary device, you will need to disconnect it and re-connect the Y-axis connection. Once connected, press the “refresh” button on the control panel. This will let the machine know to go back to its regular X and Y-axis. 

Let’s Get Rotating!

Rotary engraving is not a difficult process. It’s just like engraving flat objects, but with a couple of extra steps and variables in play. Follow all the above steps properly to execute flawless engravings on circular surfaces. If you’re still not sure about engraving with a laser rotary axis attachment, OMTech has a Demo Room program to demonstrate how all their machines and accessories work, and a helpful Technical Support Team offering virtual sessions. Partner with them today to ace your next project and impress your clients.