What is a Laser Rotary Attachment?
Can you laser engrave round objects?
Laser engraving a round object is possible with the use of a laser rotary attachment. A rotary axis attachment is a specialized laser engraving accessory, sometimes called a round device or rotation attachment, that plugs directly into your laser engraving machine, allowing you to engrave round or cylindrical items, such as glass cups or metal bottles and tumblers.
Because the nature of a CO2 laser engraving machine is to fire the laser straight down, images and text will come out distorted on any curved surface. Using a laser engraver with rotary attachment overcomes this problem by rotating the cylindrical item as the laser fires. These useful accessories mount directly inside your laser machine’s workbed with easy plug-and-play compatibility via a 4-pin connector cable.
There are several different types of laser rotary attachments. With roller-style, jaw chuck-style, and 4-wheel rotary attachments to choose from, it’s not surprising that people don’t know where to start. In this article, we’ll explain the benefits of each type, highlight the five best laser rotary attachments, and guide you through your first tumbler engraving project.
The Five Best Laser Rotary Attachments for OMTech Laser Engraving Machines
These five laser rotary attachments are compatible with various OMTech lasers machines. Some may be difficult to fit inside the workbeds of smaller machines, which may necessitate machine modifications. Before you purchase, make sure that it’s compatible with your respective machine. Most CO2 laser rotary attachments will not be compatible with fiber lasers and vice versa.
The rotaries are not listed in any particular order. They are all incredibly useful laser engraving accessories for the capabilities they offer. We’ll explain the uses and benefits of each laser rotary attachment to help you decide which one is best for your specific application.
PiBurn Laser Rotary Attachment V3.0
The PiBurn Rotary Attachment V3.0 is an upgraded roller-style, four-wheel rotary attachment with exceptional build quality. The experts at Lens Digital added a clamp to hold your cylindrical object in place, rather than relying on just the object’s weight to keep it stationary, like most other four-wheel rotaries. In fact, the overall construction is designed for extra stability. They even offer magnetic feet as an upgrade option, adding a more secure grip on the object while rotating so that the laser can engrave it line by line. The PiBurn 3.0 allows you to engrave cups, tumblers, glasses, bottles, and champagne flutes with ease and precision. Plus, this CO2 laser rotary attachment is compatible with OMTech cabinet lasers and other Ruida controller-based machines right out of the box.
The Jaw Chuck Laser Rotary Attachment by OMTech
OMTech’s jaw chuck rotary attachment holds parts in place with a metal clamping system. Recommended for perfectly cylindrical objects, it’s good for wood, plastic, metal, and ceramic. This CO2 laser rotary attachment is not recommended for glass because of the possibility of over-tightening.
The Jaw Chuck Rotary attachment is a great option for bottle and tumbler engraving. Take a look at this 360-degree engraving that OMTech user Willie Lowe executed with OMTech’s jaw chuck-style rotary:
Photo courtesy of Willie Lowe
This technique involves careful planning and much trial & error, as the engraved image completely wraps around the tumbler and connects seamlessly. Cheers to Mr. Lowe!
OMTech’s 4-Wheel Rotary Attachment with 360 Degree Rotation
The most popular type of laser rotary attachment, the 4-wheel rotary, has an adjustable side that raises and lowers to “counteract the slope” of tapered and irregular-shaped objects. This feature makes it great for bottles that are not perfectly cylindrical — those tricky tumbler engravings that are wider at the top than the bottom. Before engraving one of these, you can place a small bubble level on top of the bottle to make sure it’s perfectly level. It works well for almost any laserable material. But use caution with very lightweight objects and fast speeds, as some materials can occasionally roll off the surface of the wheels.
This dependable laser rotary attachment also has adjustment screws (pictured below) to ensure proper alignment between the four wheels. This is a great benefit to the performance longevity of the rotary device.
Roller-Style Rotary Attachment for Perfectly Cylindrical Objects
This OMTech Laser Rotary Attachment for perfectly cylindrical objects is just as described—it’s only for perfectly cylindrical objects. Sometimes called a “hot dog roller rotary,” it can accommodate products with wider diameters than many other rotaries, making it a great option for engraving those extra-large bottles of 40 oz and even larger. While its unsophisticated construction is somewhat limiting, it also makes it very dependable. Users rarely report technical problems with these workhorse rotaries. However, the metal bars don’t have much traction. They can sometimes allow smooth-faced objects at high engraving speeds to slip, throwing off the whole engraving. Users often wrap the metal bars with electrical tape or a rubberized material for better grip. A quick DIY modification makes this CO2 laser rotary attachment perform perfectly in most cases.
OMTech user Andy Cheremsak uses his 50W OMTech laser engraver with rotary attachment to engrave beautiful pictures and logos on tumbler bottles. “I use a piece of neon poster board taped to the cup. With a low setting, it marks the paper so you can see how it’s going to look without ruining the cup. Once you’re satisfied, then turn up the power and go for it.” Great work, Andy!
Photo courtesy of Andy Cheremsak
OMTech’s Jaw Chuck-Style Fiber Laser Rotary Attachment
The 80mm Rotary for Fiber Lasers ONLY is the perfect solution for laser marking metal bottles, mugs, and tumblers with a fiber laser machine. It’s basically the same as the other Jaw Chuck for C02 lasers, but it’s limited to hard plastics and metal objects that are perfectly cylindrical. It’s still plug-and-play compatible with OMTech’s fiber laser machines, but it will not work with CO2 lasers.
Those are all of the laser rotary attachments that we currently recommend. To see some of these products in more detail, check out our helpful laser rotary attachment introduction video. There may be others compatible with your OMTech laser machine, but our laser technicians cannot offer support for other models.
How To Use a Laser Rotary Attachment with Ruida Controller Engravers
Using a laser engraver with rotary attachment is not as difficult as you might think. Most attachments, including those sold by OMTech Laser, have plug-and-play compatibility, meaning you don’t have to configure extra settings or download additional software to use them. To get started using your laser rotary attachment, follow the steps below.
- Turn your machine on.
- Lower the workbed down to provide extra space to fit the rotary below the laser head.
- Load the rotary into the workbed and place your cylindrical object on the rotary. You’ll need to adjust the various rotary components to accommodate your specific object. (If you’re using a 4-wheel rotary with an irregular or slanted tumbler, you’ll need to use a bubble level and make adjustments to counteract the slope and level the object.)
- Move the laser head directly above the tumbler and raise your workbed to the proper focal distance. (If you have autofocus, be very careful to ensure the highest point of the tumbler is actually below the red autofocus sensor, as pictured below. Failure to do so can result in ramming the tumbler into the laser head, causing potential damages.)
- Once you have it focused, disengage the Y-axis by unplugging the Y connection cable from its port on the interior right side of the machine.
- Plugin the rotary connection cable at the same port.
Now, follow the steps below to set up the rotary project in your respective software program. Skip down to either LightBurn or RDWorks instructions—whichever software you’re most comfortable with.
How to Setup a Rotary Attachment in Lightburn
- Open Lightburn and connect to your laser machine.
- Click on Tools at the upper left corner of the screen. Scroll down and click Rotary Setup.
- Switch on Enable Rotary and select your Rotary Type. Always keep the “Y-axis” option selected.
- Four wheel rotaries and flat rollers fall under the Roller category. Three-Jaw Chucks fall under the Chuck category.
- For roller selections, you must input your Roller diameter.
- Set your Steps Per Rotation to 3000 (as a starting point). Then, input your Object Diameter. Please note that Object Diameter and Circumference are the same concepts in this setup. Click “OK” to finalize the Rotary Setup.
Pro Tip: Set your Job Origin to the center location for framing. Not necessary, but I feel that it helps.
Do a cut! I would start with a 1″ x 1″ square and measure it out. If it does not cut a 1 inch square on the Y axis, go back to the rotary set up and adjust your steps per rotation.
Important: When you are done using the rotary and want to go back to flat cutting, go back into Rotary setup and disable the rotary attachment. Click Read Settings and ensure that the rotary is disabled. If you fail to do this, you will experience issues with parameters.
How To Setup a Rotary Attachment in RDworks
- Open RDworks. On the right side column, click on the User tab and read your user settings.
- After you read your settings, click on Other and scroll down to Rotating. Switch Enable rotating to Y.
- Next, set your Circle pulse to 3000 (as a starting point) and set your object diameter. I have mine set to 50.8mm (2”), then click Write.
- Now you can go back to the Work tab and do a cut! I recommend starting with a square about an inch by an inch and measure the Y-axis length. If it cuts too short or too long you can change your Circle pulse to get the correct size.
Important: When you are done using the rotary and want to go back to flat cutting, go back into User settings and switch “Enable Rotating back to Off. After switching it to Off, make sure to click Write so the change saves to the controller. If you fail to do this, you will experience issues with parameters.
Completing Your Laser Rotary Attachment Bottle/Tumbler Engraving
- After you load your image in LightBurn or RDWorks, frame your workpiece. Framing involves moving the laser head to the exact point that you want the image to be engraved. Frame speed is important. When you frame the tumbler engraving, if the rotary spins too fast, it can cause the tumbler to slip off of the rollers or wheels. Start your frame speed at less than 50mm/s. (If your bottle is completely blank with no prior logo, you might even place a temporary sticker on it, away from your planned engraving spot, for a reference point while framing.)
- You’ll need to move the laser head around in between frames to find your desired position. Frame it as many times as you need to dial in that perfect engraving spot.
- Once you’ve found the perfect frame position, you can press start and fire the laser!
- Observe the project to make sure it doesn’t slip off the rotary. If it does, immediately press the emergency stop button. Failure to react quickly could allow the laser to damage your rotary device.
- If the shapes in the image come out distorted, you’ll need to either increase or decrease your steps per rotation. This is a trial and error process, as this variable changes based on the circumference of your bottle, your rotary device model, and the size of your engraved image.
Extra Tips for Tumbler Engraving with a Laser Rotary Attachment
- Lightburn gives you the option to disable the y-axis sensor if you want to turn the machine off while you’re plugging the rotary into the y-axis connector.
- Always make sure you place the tumbler in the correct upright direction based on your image’s orientation in the software. If not, the image could come out sideways or upside down!
- Since the y-axis is disabled, the rotary axis roller bars must always be placed parallel to the x-axis gantry, as pictured below.
- Always spin your image 90 degrees in LightBurn or RDWorks, as seen below. Make sure you orient it in the corresponding direction your tumbler is facing. For this project example, we placed the top side of the bottle on the left, so we rotated the image counterclockwise.
- For uncoated metal tumblers, laser marking spray is a great way to make your markings darker and more detailed. We recommend using Brilliance.
- Use a DIY weight or clamp to secure lightweight bottles or cups in place. There are also clamp attachments available for purchase.
- For powder-coated bottles: Different bottles have various coatings that require different power and speed settings. Even the same brand bottles in different colors can engrave differently.
Utilizing a laser engraver with rotary attachment might seem like an advanced technique, but it’s gaining popularity as engraved tumbler bottles keep flying off of store shelves. In fact, a recent survey showed that about 30% of OMTech users engrave metal bottles as one of their primary applications. Many people in the laser community consider engraving bottles with a rotary attachment a standard skill that you must master.
Don’t be left behind by the rise of rotaries! From CO2 laser rotary attachments to fiber laser rotary attachments, OMTech certainly has the best one for you. Start spinning today and create customized tumbler engravings and personalized mugs for your friends and clientele.