The Feasibility of Leather Laser Engraving and Cutting

leather laser engraving

Leather and Laser Engraver Machines

Leather is nearly as old as mankind itself. Early man first utilized dried animal hides as clothing and shelter in prehistoric times. Globally, leather has continued to be one of the go-to materials for fashion and upholstery purposes due to its appealing look and feel. Different types of leather exist for specified purposes, yet all are known for being durable, recyclable, and versatile.  

Today, more and more leather products are finished with unique designs and patterns via laser engraving. This engraving adds an extra touch of customization and style to improve the overall aesthetics of leather, not to mention making it more marketable. This brings us to leather laser engraving, a cost-effective method of embossing any design to a leather accessory. You can also cut leather with a laser engraver. Let’s look at laser engraving leather from top to bottom to help you understand the whole process in a matter of minutes.

What Types of Leather Can You Laser Engrave?

Synthetic Leather

This type of leather is man-made and is sometimes referred to as faux leather. This leather is made from synthetic fiber such as polyurethane (PU) or Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) compounds and coated with plastic polymer. Synthetic leather is commonly used in vehicles and for clothing material. It gives the look of natural leather on the outside, when in fact, it is not made from animal hide or skin.

Suede Leather

Suede leather is made from the underside of animal hide and is known for its comfort and visual appeal. It is popularly used for jackets, shoes, bags, and wallets. Due to its softness, take careful measures when engraving and laser cutting leather to avoid any tear or stain. To prevent staining, you can use a coat spray to improve its stain resistance. 

Natural Leather

This is the purest form of leather in its most natural state. Since this type of leather is extracted from different types of animals, its response to laser engraving may vary, so there's no laid down rule. But a general precaution is to reduce the laser power and test run with a small piece of your leather material until you get the desired engraving quality.

Other Types of Leathers

  • Bonded leather

  • Pigmented leather

  • Veg-tanned leather

  • Antique-grain leather

  • Top-grain leather

How to Laser Engrave Leather

Leather is a soft material, so carrying out leather laser cutting or engraving is quite simple and straightforward. Laser engraving on leather is almost as easy as printing a document from your computer. All you need to do is create your design, send the design to the machine, place your leather in the workbed, and begin the lasering process. As straightforward as this may seem, this does not rule out the need to understand the following procedures:

Know your leather

You must be aware of the type of leather you want to engrave on. This includes understanding the power, depth, speed, and probably the number of passes needed. A lot of this has been covered in our Average Parameter Settings. Another precautionary note to take is for leathers that contain PVC compounds. These leathers can risk the user inhaling harmful gases or ruining the metallic part of your laser engraver. Finally, you should also make sure the size of your leather material can fit into the available working area of your CO2 laser engraver.

Design and software set-up

For an OMTech laser engraver, the design should be ready in any of these formats: JPEG, DXF, BMP, HPLG, JPG, DST, GIF; using RDWorks or Lightburn. The design itself can be customized and modified using CorelDRAW or Adobe Illustrator.

Color Contrast

You can improve the color contrast of the design by engraving deeper, depending on the color of the leather. Light-colored leathers produce better contrast than dark-colored leather. By doing this, you can take advantage of your leather design and truly stand out as a creator or business.

Workspace Safety

With all settings tuned appropriately and the leather piece placed inside, you can turn on your CO2 laser engraver and expect your job to be successfully engraved in a matter of minutes. Ensure that you connect an air purifier and fume collector to extract dust and smoke generated due to engraving or cutting to avoid the dust smearing over the main engraving. 

Additional Precautions

  1. Switch off the machine before opening to avoid burns or skin injury.

  2. Use eye goggles to protect your eyes from laser heat and smoke.

  3. Wear a nose mask to protect your respiratory tract from inhaling the bad odor given off during leather cutting.

Final Thoughts

The major take-home from this blog is that leather laser engraving is feasible and fast- becoming a business niche that can be set up at a reasonable price. Laser engraving leather with an OMTech machine can be truly beneficial due to its high precision, game-changing power, reliability, and efficiency. Depending on your budget, you can always find the right machine to start your leather engraving journey today.