I'm a metal guy at heart, and therefore I've completely fallen in love with this stuff called powder coat. For the uninitiated, powder coat is the paint that destroys all other paints. Essentially, it is a pigment encapsulated inside of a plastic binder. After application, the polymer is set in an oven. In the end, you essentially have a plastic encapsulated paint that is very difficult to remove. It is weatherproof and doesn't even scratch easily. How cool is that? Now you can see why I'm in love with it.

The biggest issue with powder coat is that you typically need a conductive base for application (i.e. metals), seemingly limiting its use. I refused to believe that I could only powder coat certain things, and therefore wanted to do all I could to push powder coating technology into new arenas.

Additionally, I had done some work before on lasering ceramic tiles. I ended up really liking the effect of having a shiny glazed surface right next to a gritty textured, bare sintered tile. However, I really wanted there to be some way to increase the depth of this effect - was there any way to add more colors?

I decided to combine both the ideas to use a laser as both an etching instrument and a powder coat mask creating instrument. Additionally, I ended up figuring out a way to get enough conductivity on a ceramic tile to apply powder coat evenly to a non-conductive surface! The end result? Some sweet Legend of Zelda themed tiles (that I ended up turning into coasters for now).

Step 1: Find Thee Some Tiles!

Before you start, you're going to need to get some tiles. Although you could make your own, when pre-manufactured & glazed tiles only cost ~$0.25/each, I'm going to end up going the pre-manufactured route :). The tiles I used for this project were "Rialto White" Floor Tiles from Lowe's. Cost? $0.28/ea.

Don't want to use the tiles I did? No problem. Here's some tips for picking a nice tile that looks cool when you are done lasering it:
  • Really light colors or really dark colors look a lot better than neutral colors. Remember that the underlying ceramic will be a gray color which only becomes noticeable if the color of the tile ceramic stands out against the color of the tile.
  • Shiny tiles don't work so well. My guess is that you get some reflection of the laser, and you get more "etching" than cutting of the underlying material.
  • If you need these to fit into something, don't trust the sizes of tiles to be perfect. The size of the tile is pretty much always overstated...you know how those marketing people work. The 4" x 4" tiles that I purchased were about 3.6" x 3.6". So, if you need your tile to fit something, buy 1 first, before you plan a magnificent Legend of Zelda fresco around tiles that are the incorrect size :).
Not a big deal but I installed tile for seven years, so about the tile sizes, those are the dimensions that the tile take up with their grout joint when installed. For example a 3.6 inch tile would have a .4 inch joint making the unit 4 inches. It would be maddeningly complex to try and lay out a wall or floor if the tile was a full 4" and then you had to add a 1/4" grout joint to each course.
Ah, nice! So there is a reason for this instead of it just being a marketing thing :). Thanks!

About This Instructable




More by sheetmetalalchemist:"Spiro" - a 5' Diameter, Wall Mounted Spirograph Make an interactive iPad controlled LED Wall How to Survive an Inpatient Hospital Stay 
Add instructable to: