Introduction: How to Engrave Glass
With the proper setup and safety precautions in place, the basic steps of laser engraving or etching are relatively simple:
Ideation: Come up with an idea.
Design: Realize your design with the aid of design software. Just make sure that the laser engraver is compatible with the files generated by your tool of choice. Some machines come with their own software while others are compatible with several software options.
Execution: Send the design to the machine. And press start Depending on the software and the device, you can control variables like depth of the cut, speed, strength of the laser, line thickness, and number of passes. This is why it is critical to test your glass under a variety of conditions to determine the settings that will give you the best result.
Engraving Glass does not require many materials, meaning if you have the correct machinery, you can make as many glasses as you like for a very cheap cost.
- Laser Cutter
- Design program (Prams such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Inkscape, ect. all work.)
- Rotary Turntable (There is no specific model needed as long as you are able to connect the Rotary turntable to your laser cutter.)
- Glass of your choice (Wine glass, mason jar, frame,ect.)
- Laser cutters ($4,000 to $15,000 depending on the model of the laser cutter)
- Design Program (FREE-???, you can use free programs such as Inkscape or programs like photoshop and Adobe Illustrator which are around 9.99/month)
- Rotary Turntable ($50- $400, depending on which model you get, the average price however is around $100)
- Glass ($1-$20 but an average $3 per glass jar)
This is video very helpful to help you gain some familiarity with the process and have a general idea with how you will be able to complete the process.
Step 2: Connecting the Rotary Turntable to the Laser Cutter
Before you can start engraving the glass you have to connect the Rotary Turntable to the Laser cutter so that you can engrave cylindrical object. For the longer more in depth version of how to connect your turntable to the the laser cutter go here:
Boss Laser Instructions For Connecting a Turntable and Engraving
First Remove the Y-Axis connector as shown in Figure 1. Then plug in the rotary’s 4-pin female connector in place of the Y-Axis connector. For HP-2436 & HP-3655 machines, it is located inside towards the back of the machine labeled Y-Axis Connector, as shown in Figure 1. Finally, line the rotary up with the gantry (the metal beam where the laser head rests on).
Now turn the machine on and let the laser head return to the home position. Since you unplugged the Y-Axis connector with the rotary attachment, you’ll notice that the laser head will only go to the right until it hits the X-Axis limit switch. This is normal and what it should be doing. The same motion needs to be done with the Y-Axis limit switch. To do so, move & push the gantry all the way to the back of the machine to trigger the Y-Axis limit switch. Notice after doing so, the laser head moves to the left and back towards the X-Axis limit switch. You will then need to copy this motion with the Y-Axis limit switch (bring it forward, away from the limit switch, then back towards it). Doing so, the rotary is correctly adjusted with the corresponding coordinates of your worktable and now should be ready to be used. Note: Throughout the manual, you will be told to press the RESET button. Once pressed, you'll need to do the same motion on the Y-Axis as previously discussed.
To make sure that your rotary is on the correct orientation, when pressing the DOWN arrow key, your object will need to be moving away from you, if not, rotate the rotary 180 degrees.
Locate the Control Panel that's on your machine. To properly set up the Roller Rotary, we need to set the correct Circle Pulse for the machine. To do this, press the Menu button and a list of options will appear.
Now select Common Parameters Settings, a list of options will appear for the common parameters. Select Rotate Engraving & Cutting and Press Enter. To set up for the Roller Rotary, you will use these parameters: • Rotate Fun - Open (Open - Enabled, Closed - Disabled) • Rotate Axis - Y (using the Y-Axis motor) • Pulse Count Per Rotate - 6800 • Current Diameter (mm) - 35 Press Enter to save those parameters. Now press the Reset button so the machine will restart and accept the new parameters. Before running your job using the Roller Rotary, make sure when using the autofocus feature (using the NON-METAL head), that the curvature of the material is leveled on the Roller Rotary and that the autofocus is aligned at the peak (top-most surface) of your material.
If you still have questions about how to connect the Rotary turntable this might be helpful.
Step 4: Preparation Before Engraving the Glass
Selecting What Glass to Engrave:
When selecting which type of glass to engrave there are a couple of variable to consider. Leaded crystal glass and other glasses with a high metal content will often cause there to be “skips” in the engraving (so the image will not be smooth) and the glass is overall more unpredictable. (Fracturing and breaking of the glass is very common with glasses with higher metal content)
Preparing the Glass:
To help prevent fracturing, breaking and minimize the clean up time there are a couple of this you can do. A wet paper towel should be placed over the glass to help get a cleaner cut. This paper towel should by one ply so that is not to thick, as to cause problems with the actual engraving. Make sure this paper towel has no air bubbles. If you cannot use a paper towel or are doing a longer more complex design that will take longer to complete you can place masking tape on the glass instead of a paper towel. There is also some clean up you will have to do after the actual engraving. To clean up the design use rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or a nail brush to remove shards of glass within the design.
Step 5: Preparing Your File for Engraving
There is not specific program or image that must be used when engraving. Almost any photo or design can be engraved (.jpg, .tiff, .ai , .eps, ect) however you may have to convert them into .pdf files before engraving. When creating your design keep in mind that any line that is thicker than 0.001 will not cut and instead will engrave. Depending on the complexity of the image the engraving process will take longer or shorter. 80% grayscale is recommended to improve engraving quality, as it converts black to a less intense shade.And when engraving a lower resolution, like 300 DPI, will produce better results. This is mainly because dots will be engraved at greater distances from each other.
Step 6: Engraving the Glass
After you have fully prepared both your file and glass, place your glass on the rotary turntable within the laser cutter. Before hitting start make sure you have gone through the proper safety steps such as having a fire extinguisher and knowing how turn turn off the machine incase the glass breaks. Make sure to never leave the laser cutter unattended while cutting!
After you have finally engraved your glass you After the glass is engraved clean up the design with rubbing alcohol and a paper towel or a nail brush if there are shards of glass within the design.