Introduction: Laser Etched Glassware
Ever wanted a custom glass to celebrate and remember a special occasion? It's possible to "do it yourself" with the help of a laser engraver. You ask, "Now where can I get access to a laser engraver?". You can buy one for quite a sum of money or join TechShop in your area. I engraved this glass at TechShop Detroit.
Learn more about TechShop and their locations at http://www.techshop.ws/
Step 1: Materials Required
Not too many things required:
- Laser Engraver (I'm using TechShop Detroit's Epilog 60 watt)
- CorelDraw (used in my example) or similar like Adobe Illustrator
- Rotary attachment for the laser engraver
- A glass to engrave
Step 2: Setting Up Your Image File
Setup of the file in my case is in CorelDraw. You can do this two ways, the easy way and the more advanced way. I'm going to discuss both ways because you might want to do some advanced patterns that wrap all the way around the glass. If you want to do the simple way, it just means you'll most likely just put an image on one half of the glass or put an image on the "front" half of the glass and maybe another on the "back" half of the glass.
So what we need to do for our glass is measure the widest part of our glass. You can see in my pictures my widest part measures about 3.46" (sorry my picture says 3.48" but I used 3.46"). Then we want to convert this diameter reading to circumference for our CorelDraw file so just multiply by pi = 3.14 and we get 3.46 x 3.14 = 10.86". This dimension is our overall vertical dimension. We want to setup CorelDraw to have a canvas size of 10.86". If you are going the simple way, that is good enough to get started on measuring the height of the glass, which will be our canvas width in CorelDraw. If not, we just need to measure the bottom diameter of the glass so we can get the other dimension for what will be our trapezoid if we are using advanced layout technique. Use the same measurement of the diameter and multiply by pi to get the circumference of the bottom of the glass. Now you have all the data necessary to create a template of your glass in CorelDraw.
Step 3: Add Your Graphics and Text
Now that we have a template of our glass laid flat in CorelDraw, we can add our graphics and text. You can see in my picture that what I did was pull in a few guide lines. First vertical guides which are really horizontal on the glass. The first and most important guide for me is the guide that is 1" offset from the lip of the top of the glass. The 1" is an arbitrary dimension but a nice rule of thumb for let's call a "keep out" area. We don't want to get our engraving too close to the top of the glass, because if we do that the end user might get their lower lip on part of the engraving of the glass. While it's not really that sharp to the touch, your lips will NOT like it. So don't put your graphics all the way up near the top.
Next I added horizontal guides which are really vertical guides on our glass. These are for setting up quadrants on our glass and making sure we don't make our graphics and text too wide. We don't want to exceed 180 degrees or maybe even 150 degrees so the graphics can be seen clearly. If you want your glass to have graphics on 2 "sides" or let's say opposed by 180 degrees, then that is what these guides are also good for. That's what I'm doing in the example that is pictured here.
Step 4: Setup Your Laser Engraver
This step is pretty easy after you take the Safety and Basic Use course at TechShop. In short, the steps to get your laser engraver setup to cut a glass like this involve the following:
- Lower the work table surface at least a few inches down from the laser head, more is better
- Turn off the laser engraver
- Remove the work surface and the "junk catcher" tray
- Gently place the rotary tool into the engraver in the three holes punched in the bottom of the main tray
- Connect the rotary tool to the laser engraver at the electrical connector
- Place your glass to be cut onto the rotary tool
- Level the glass (as shown in picture). This ensures focus of the laser is consistent on the glass
- Remove level and turn on the laser engraver
- Set the focus manually like you would with any other job
Step 5: Final Steps Before Engraving
I don't have a lot of experience yet but can offer some great advice from my class and the 12 or so engraves I've done so far. I've found the Epilog recommended settings for the 60 watt laser as far as speed and power work just great. I've been using speed 45 and power 90 with excellent results. This is the setting for 400 dpi, so remember when in the Epilog Properties page to set up for 400 dpi along with those other settings. The other setting to keep in mind is the dithering and I'm using the Floyd Steinberg setting which is turning out really nice.
Step 6: Let's Do This!
At this point we're all set and ready to engrave. I don't do anything special to the glass as far as coating it with wet newspaper, soapy water, or any trickeration like that. My glass is dry, I wipe it down a bit first with a cotton cloth which probably makes no difference... put it in the engraver and hit the "GO" button. The engraver does the rest of the work. A two-sided masterpiece like this takes about 3-4 minutes to engrave and you're done. I'm really impressed with the results as are the folks I've shown my work to so far!
I hope this Instructable gave you some insight on how glass laser engraving is done. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.
Thanks again to TechShop for having these cool machines available to us!