With the help of a laser cutter you can personalize your possessions in really amazing ways. In this example I added a Trilobite image to a friend's phone.
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Step 1: Find Yourself a Laser Cutter
Laser cutters are becoming more and more common. This is due to the amazing things that you can do with them and the fact that their cost keeps dropping. I would expect that in another 5-10 years they will be found in every Kinkos.
For right now, there are a number of services that you can go to who have laser cutters. In the Bay Area we have Tap Plastic or East Bay Laser & Water Jet. Once you've tasted this tool you will never be happy without one.
In our case we have a 45W Epilog Mini 24. Shown here:
Step 2: Find Your Art Work
The next step is to decide what art work you want to put on your phone. Black & White line art works very well, as does any sort of text.
This image started as a GIF. I then imported the image into Corel Draw and sized it correctly.
Step 3: Choose Your Target
You can etch into a huge range of different materials, including:
+ Anodized Aluminum
This corresponds to a huge variety of different items that you can personalize:
+ Picture Frames
+ Etc. Etc. Etc.
Step 4: Choose Your Laser Settings
Unfortunately this step depends heavily on the material that you are engraving into and the power of your laser cutter. In my case I chose a Raster Mode cut with 100% Power and 100% Speed. These settings work well for any semi hard surface, including anodized aluminum, wood, and acrylic. For softer materials like some plastics you want to use a lower power setting, (otherwise the material melts too much and you lose image definition.) And, if you're engraving into glass you might want to use a lower speed.
Step 5: Do the Engraving
I recommend doing a test engrave first to make sure that the image is sized appropriately and looks good.
Then make sure you position your object correctly and HIT START.
It's not unusual for small sparks to pop off the surface, but in general this should be a reasonably safe thing to do. That being said, my recommendation is to never walk away from a running laser cutter and be prepared to stop it if things go wrong.
When it's done. Take it out, wipe off the surface, and enjoy.