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TIP 1: LASER ENGRAVING GLASS• VIEW A DEMONSTRATION ON YOUTUBE
Marking glass with a laser is fast, easy, clean and doesn't require a mask, film work or water. Most important, it doesn't require the product to be clamped down since there is no physical contact with the product being engraved. If it can be positioned properly, it can be lasered. Lasered glass can include almost anything you can generate on a computer screen. Text, photographs and artwork can all be lasered. Lasers are especially good at turning out highly detailed artwork—artwork that would be too complex for a mask or on products that have complex surfaces that wouldn't allow a mask to be applied.
Lasers have some real limitations. One is the type of glass that can be lasered. Any glass with metal in it is suspect. Although most coloured glass will laser, there are times when so much metal has been added that it causes the laser to "skip" over an area of the glass. No matter how many times you laser it, those spots just will not mark.
Leaded crystal has so much metal in it, trying to mark it with a laser is nearly hopeless. Don't waste your time. In fact, the best glass by far for laser engraving is the cheapest glass you can lay your hands on. This really inexpensive glass has little or no metal content and usually marks very well. Those imported Christmas ornaments, wine glasses from your local store, inexpensive plates and platters from glass supply houses and beer mugs almost always laser like a dream.
WHY WOULD YOUR CUSTOMER ACCEPT LASER ENGRAVING OVER SANDBLASTING?TIME : In the same time it takes to make a stencil for a blasted item, you could probably laser a dozen of them and have them out the door. Time is money. A real-life example is an order to engrave both sides of 1,000 hand blown Christmas ornaments. Blasting would have required two stencils over a sphere, blasting and cleanup. By using the laser, I was able to complete the order in 1/10th the time. With no preparation, the ornaments came out of the box, into the laser and back into the box. A matter of three minutes each. The only overhead was the labour of taking them out of the box and putting them back.
COST : Except for the few who are looking for and willing to pay for first quality sandblasting, most people are more than happy to save money and live with the quality of a mark made with a laser. Truthfully, until you point out the differences, most people won’t know there is a difference.
COMPLEXITY : If you’re working with a wine glass or beer stein and want to put an image on both sides, you’ll probably have to make and apply two masks for blasting. If the shape of the product is very complex, you may have difficulty applying the mask without distorting the image. Using a laser, there are no masks. Just flip the item over and tell the laser to "Start." As for complex curvature, as long as you’re within the limits discussed, it doesn’t matter.
PRICE : Making stencils and applying them takes a lot of time and costs money. Blasting the product and cleaning it up afterwards also takes time. Waste can be a major factor since bits of the stencil can be "blasted" or blown off during the blasting process and ruin the item. Waste with a lasered product is less likely and there is minimal setup time beyond generating the artwork. A sandblasted beer stein may look a lot better than a lasered one but how much is a customer willing to pay?
After engraving, the glass may need to be cleaned up a bit. If shards are present, use a nail brush to remove them. Cleaning the glass will usually be necessary. I use rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle and a paper towel. The alcohol cleans oils off and dries quickly.
Sometimes it's nice to add some colour to engraving. Other times, the nature of the glass may allow it to be marked but the mark is difficult to see or the image is so highly detailed, the detail is lost due to reflections off the shiny glass surface. One way to solve this problem is to add Rub-n-Buff (or similar product). Rub-n-Buff is available in 18 colours from most craft suppliers. It comes in a small tube and is applied best with the tip of a finger. Very little is needed since this stuff goes a long way. Rub-n-Buff is not intended for glass so the instructions on the tube are not appropriate. The instructions say "allow to dry." Do not do that. Apply the Rub-n-Buff and remove excess prior to drying. Otherwise, you may never get this stuff off. Once dry, it is relatively permanent.
One of the biggest problems with lasering glass is that glass often varies in size and shape. Even two wine glasses that look just alike may actually be quite different in size and shape. This affords a considerable challenge to engraving them. For me, the magic button for engraving glass lies in two things: One is something I call "Sample Engravings" and the other is the ability to create simple jigs or fixtures to hold the glass in place while being engraved.
What I mean by "Sample Engraving" is simple. Place a sheet of tag board, paper or cardboard on the stage of your laser. Adjust the focus and actually engrave the image on the cardboard. Now, all that you have to do to be sure the glass is positioned "just right" is to position the glass over the engraving so the engraving on the cardboard is positioned exactly where you want it. Then, re-focus and engrave the job again. No offense but it's pretty hard to mess up a piece of glass using this method.
The other key is the building of "quickie jigs" or fixtures to hold things like wine glasses or other odd-shaped items so they don't accidentally move while being engraved. I usually do an "idiot engraving," then build my jig around it. This not only holds the piece in place, but it allows me to do multiple pieces quickly and easily. Items that vary slightly in size are easily accommodated because of the sample engraving on the cardboard underneath. The fact that items don't have to be clamped in place is where a laser really pays off in the glass market. Marble trophy bases make great temporary jigs. For round products, consider a roll of tape. I keep several rolls of masking tape around. One has 1/2" wide tape, another 3/4", another 1" and so on. By adding these 3" hubs of tape together, I can create a wide variety of fixtures to hold oddly shaped items.
SUMMARYIs laser engraving as good as sandblasting?
Usually not but it has many other advantages over blasting making it a preferred method by many people (particularly laser owners).
What kind of glass should you use?
Cheap glass works best. Avoid anything with a lead content such as crystal. Key to good engraving: Keep the glass as cool as possible. Don't over engrave. Use wet towels and space out the ppi setting as much as possible.
If you aren't already engraving glass, I hope you will give it a try. It really is easy, especially flat pieces. People love the look of glass. It speaks of quality and class. It carries with it something of permanence and prestige and affords a high profit margin. Although some glass certainly works better than others, most inexpensive glass does very well. Even brand name stemware does quite well and because those brand-named products are very consistent, once you have engraved a few pieces, you will know exactly how it will react each and every time. Glass, there is something about it that everyone loves so why not give it a try?
| || ||DISCLAIMER / WARNING : Laser cutters/engravers sold by Perfect Laser are Class IV Laser Devices and are extremely dangerous. These lasers will instantly ignite clothing, wood, paper, plastics, and many other common items and will seriously burn flesh, including eyes. Care must be taken to avoid serious injury and/or blindness. Always operate any high power laser in an environment free of flammable materials, children, pets, spectators, etc. Always ensure that flooring around your laser is clean and free of any obstacles. Always ensure that the work surface is kept clean. Always ensure that water cooling is sufficient to keep the tube cool. Always use eye protection when operating your laser. Failure to do so may result in permanent blindness. This laser uses lethal high voltages. Care must be taken when working with high voltage. Failure to do so may result in Serious Injury or Death. Untrained operators are forbidden to operate any laser equipment supplied by Perfect Laser. The use of any laser equipment is dangerous, and you do so entirely at your own risk. Perfect Laser, its staff, employees, family, consultants and technical representatives will not be held liable for any injuries, damages to property or any other damages whatsoever caused by operating laser equipment.|