Anyone might have flashlights or other anodized aluminum items they wish to engrave. This Instructable shows how to mark anodized aluminum flashlights - both flat and curved.
This work was done at TechShop, in Round Rock, Texas!
Step 1: First, create your personalized marking artwork
Draw your marking design in a drawing package, like Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Either one can output the proper format files. I chose Illustrator because I have it and am experienced with it.
Note that TechShop provides many apps for driving the laser cutter/engraver and the drivers, allowing direct output from those apps to the engraver. This means you can bring your native format files for these programs, such as AutoCAD, Illustrator, CorelDRAW etc. Check with your TechShop or other provider of equipment time to see what apps they support, or if you must bring an intermediate format.
Step 2: Next, consider the location to engrave - flat or curved - and the width of the marking
TechShop provides complete classes and instruction for the laser engraver, including flat engraving and also rotational engraving - the latter is a method of holding the rotating cylindrical items instead of moving the Y-dimension, allowing engraving around bottles, glasses etc. In this case of personalized engraving, I'm showing a method that can utilize the normal laser head X-Y method, without the need for the rotational attachment.
Essentially we will engrave the flashlights and other items of this type as if they were flat. This will require assuring that the area to be engraved will be within 1mm or so of the highest surface. As in my case, one flashlights only varied in height a vary small amount over the width of the engraving, and the other one had a flat spot on the surface perfect for engraving (and already had an engraving on it).
As long as the surface varies in height only a small amount, the engraving will work. Have a look at this picture, showing a cylindrical shape and machined grooves, yet it still engraved/marked very nicely.
Step 3: Load the data file and position the item to mark
TechShop provides complete classes and instruction for the laser engraver, including how to position items, set focus, safety data and how the driver works. Please review all these details to set the procedure for your specific setup.
Step 4: Mark the Item!
Hit print and begin the marking!
Have a look at these flashlights I marked successfully, with little effort or time.
Remember that shiny unpainted or non-anodized metal surfaces are not usually approved for laser marking with this kind of machine, because of reflection damage. Please check with your instructions or your equipment supplier to be sure.