Laser engraving glass is one of the quick and easy ways to personalize wine glasses, carafes, beer mugs, vases and other glass products. How will you feel when you finally engrave your favorite picture, text, or even a painting on your glass? I am sure you will be proud of the elegance and sophistication this technique creates.
Glass is inherently fragile, which often makes laser engraving a challenge. However, if you know what you're doing and have the right tools, you'll be able to produce results quickly and easily compared to other traditional methods like sandblasting and mechanical engraving.
But those who are new to the technology may find it difficult and time-consuming. But in this article, you'll be able to learn everything you need to know about laser engraving on glass and open up new possibilities for customizing glass to your needs.
How does laser engraving glass work?
When the glass surface is hit by a laser beam, the air and moisture trapped in the silica element expands, which can cause microscopic cracks in the glass surface because it is inherently rigid. Microscopic cracks are what we see as carvings.
Just like any other laser engraving project, you start with an idea. Your thoughts can be in the form of text or images.
To start the process, you need to have your files ready. If you have raster or vector files (prepared with Illustrator, CorelDraw or any other software), you need to prepare G-code, which is a file format that 3D printers or CNC machines can understand.
You can use a variety of tools, but we recommend Inkscape software. It has two plugins; Endurance Laser G-Code and J Tech Photonics Laser Tool, you can prepare G-code with the click of a button. You can watch the video below to learn how to achieve this.
Before sending it to the machine, you can adjust various settings such as depth of cut, speed, laser intensity, etc. Once you have the G-code, you can send it to a 3D printer or CNC machine with a laser engraver attachment.
5 key tips for laser engraving glass:
Decrease engraving speed
For best results, engraving at the lowest speed but high power is recommended. This is because when working with surfaces, you may encounter hard and soft spots, and if you don't set the proper parameters, you may end up with a heavily and lightly frosted surface on the glass.
use a damp towel
During the laser engraving process, high temperature is one of the main causes of glass cracking and cracking. Placing a damp paper towel around the engraved area can help avoid glass breakage by providing good heat dissipation. Using a damp paper towel also produces a white engraving and a smooth finish.
When using wet wipes, make sure there are no air bubbles or wrinkles, as these may appear on the final product. Application tape or damp newspaper can also be used instead of paper towels. These alternatives are very useful when measuring surface roughness, but the end result looks grey and not shiny.
Use lower dots per inch (DPI)
Lower resolutions (around 300 DPI) sculpt a bit further away, which results in a better matte finish. One cannot tell that the final product was engraved at a lower resolution because it looks great.
Use correct grayscale rasterization
If you're laser engraving an image on glass, you'll want to use a rasterized grayscale of 70% black for better results, as it reduces the amount of heat applied to the glass. The final product is smoother because the engraving is not black.
You can combine laser engraving with sandblasting for great results
If you want amazing results, you can combine the two techniques. To do this, you laser engrave the glass and then use sandblasting to deeply etch the glass.
To do this, you can place a mask material on the glass surface and run a laser through it. Once done, you remove the glass from the sandblasting and laser engraving machine and you will be able to get the laser engraved/sandblasted item.
use a mask
Using a mask helps absorb the heat in the glass that is created during the laser engraving process, and it also produces high-resolution designs due to reduced edge cracking. Wearing a mask is easier. You just place it on top of the glass and laser engrave as normal. The only downside to using a face mask is that it takes a lot of work to remove it.