Despite glass’s brittleness and fragility, this useful material is utilized across various businesses such as jewelry making, home decor, signage, etc. In these businesses, customization is king, and one of the fastest and most efficient ways to personalize glass is via CO2 laser engraving. Whenever you need to engrave an elegant design on glass, you can count on a CO2 glass laser engraving machine to do a perfect job. Compared to traditional methods such as sandblasting, CO2 laser engravers are often used to produce precise and reliable results in a matter of minutes. Let’s dive into the necessary steps, game-changing tips and tricks, and the advantages of using a CO2 laser engraver for your glasswork.
Brief Steps for Glass Laser Engraving
To begin, glass is made up of different constituent elements which determine their characteristics and behavior when engraved. Soda-ash glass is well-renowned and is common in most engraved glasses. While engraving, leaded crystal glass or any other glass with a heavy metal component presents a significant challenge since the laser beam skips some sections, leaving other areas unmarked. These types of glass can also break under heat stress. Bear in mind that highly leaded glass tends to retain heat and causes inconsistency in the engraved product. After getting the right type of glass, the next thing is to laser engrave effectively. Laser engraving is a straightforward process with the right machine, software, and training. Depending on the nature of the glass (i.e., flat or curved), you might need a rotary attachment. This accessory can mount a curved or cylindrical object on the laser bed and spin it 360-degrees to allow for engraving around a curved surface glass object.
Once you have the necessary equipment, the next step is to prepare your design. This can be done with laser engraver software such as LightBurn, RDworks, LaserCAD, and more. Once prepared, you will send the design to your laser and watch it beautifully engrave onto the desired object.
Tips & Tricks
To make the process of laser engraving glass easy and efficient, here are some tips to follow:
Use a Damp Paper Towel
The major cause for fracturing glass during laser engraving is excessive heat. This is common in glass objects with high lead content. The good news is that there’s a hack to this! Place a moist paper towel over the engraving area before starting the process. This helps release heat better and ultimately prevents the glass from breaking. The wet paper towel also produces a white clear engraving result. Ensure the paper towel doesn’t have wrinkles or air bubbles, as this may show on the final product. In addition, a damp sheet of newspaper is a good alternative to a wet paper towel.
Another thing you can do is use dish soap to coat the surface before engraving. The only downside to this method is that dampening agents like dish soap eventually dry out. So to use this method, you will have to reapply repeatedly.
Invert Your Photo
A huge tip when engraving photos onto glass is to apply an inverse effect to the image while processing. This concept is also called the “negative” — those strange and sometimes creepy photos that change each color to its opposite. Please note that you should only invert a picture with a dark background. If the photo has a light background, inverting isn’t necessary. As a result, the final design will have a better contrast on glass.
Use a Lower DPI
A low dot per inch (dpi) helps to engrave tightly close dots which forms a better frosting effect and resolution. At the end of the process, it will be hard to say that the picture was printed at a low resolution because the final product will look perfect. This can also prevent the engraved glass from being too rough. Usually, a resolution of 250-300 dpi is recommended.
Optimal Engraving Parameters
You will encounter hard and soft spots when working with bottles and other curved surfaces. If you don’t use the recommended or optimal engraving parameters such as speed and power, you may end up having light and heavily frosted surfaces in different areas of your final product. To avoid this shortcoming, use optimal power and minimum speed when using glass laser engraving machines. Make sure you adjust the speed and power to the optimal level before you start because the higher the number of times required to run the same design on the glass surface, the blurrier it will look.
There are several techniques for engraving glass, including sandblasting and wet etching. CO2 laser engraving is more advantageous than these techniques for the following reasons:
- Consistency: Your drawings are saved as files with laser engraving and can be duplicated with the same quality. Since there is no touchpoint during the engraving process, there is less camping and sheet breaking.
- Cost: Laser engraving is a low-cost method for engraving glass. Companies like OMTech offer quality CO2 laser engravers alongside the necessary accessories and software at an affordable price.
- Speed and Accuracy: You can laser engrave a dozen items for the same number of hours as you would make a stencil for a sandblasting product. Furthermore, laser engravers can produce designs with a high degree of detail because of their high precision. If you are dealing with complex designs and pictures, a laser engraving machine is your go-to for the highest precision.
- Simplicity: Unlike other techniques, laser engraving removes the need for masking. Whenever laser engraving an image on both sides of flat glass, flip the glass surface over and start your laser. For curved glass, just spin the rotary attachment carefully to the desired side.
These tips mentioned will go a long way in helping you achieve a great result in your next glass laser engraving project. Without a doubt, CO2 laser engravers are the best option for engraving on glass, considering the advantages listed above. OMTech is known for its collection of affordable, powerful, and spacious glass laser engraving machines that are up to the task, and easy to operate. Explore their machines and look to start your laser engraving journey today!