Imagine having a unique glasses lens or mug would be cool. Laser etch glass can help you to realise all your design ideas.
In this article, I will show you some of the inspiration for laser etched glass and the steps to do it. You can also use this technique to make money for yourself.
Whether you have experience engraving glass or not, this guide will provide you with the various techniques you can encounter in laser etch glass, so let's get started!
What is laser etching glass?
Laser etch glass involves using a laser beam to remove small amounts of material from the surface of glass to create a visual contrast in color. Compared to conventional glass etching, laser etching is a much simpler procedure. The following is a brief description of the traditional glass etching method.
- Acid etching: A hydrofluoric acid solution reacts with the glass surface to create a granular frosted surface. This involves dipping the glass into a strong acid and applying it to the glass surface to be etched, which is a very dangerous operation and is no longer used.
- Sandblasting: Sand is sprayed onto the glass surface and rubbed together by high pressure air to form a rough granular surface.
- Etching paste: It is an alternative to the hydrofluoric acid solution and a much safer process. Many DIYers who do not have the budget to buy a laser etching machine nowadays choose to use etching paste to etch glass. You apply the etching paste evenly to the pattern to be etched and wait for a while to get a complete etching pattern.
How to laser etch glass in steps
Before presenting the inspiration for laser etched glass, let's go through the steps of etching glass. Using a CO2 laser cutter or a blue diode laser cutter is recommended to etch glass designs.
The following section describes the etching procedure with the diode laser cutter.
Materials requiredRolling brush (diode laser engraver needed)
- Paint or paper
- Non-woven / cotton cloth
- Alcohol/glass cleaner
Step 1: Prepare the glass (glasses, spectacle lenses, etc.)
Once you have prepared the material, wipe the surface to be etched with a paper towel (cotton/non-woven) dipped in alcohol (glass cleaner).
Remove any impurities or dust that may affect the etching effect.
Step 2: Set the parameters and import the pattern
Import or design an etching pattern and set the etching parameters.
Using the gweike cloud G1 as an example, setting 100% laser power and 100mm/s engraving speed as the etching parameters will give you a contrasting etching effect.
If you want lighter laser etch glass marks, choose lower power and a faster speed.
Also, adjust the focus parameters, which directly affect your etching results.
If you choose to etch a rounded glass product, you will also need to add the step of placing the rotary axis.
Step 3: Pigmenting the etched area
The long wavelength of the laser light in a diode laser engraver can easily penetrate glass when etching transparent materials. This not only results in missing etchings but also wasted laser light.
We usually apply a layer of black pigment to the area to be etched or a layer of paper to solve this problem. If you apply paint, you may also need a roller brush to spread the paint evenly.
Step 4: Etching/Engraving Process
Place the glass on the table or fix it to the rotating attachment and once everything is ready, you can start your laser etching process.
Note: In the case of laser etch glass, placing some paper or other product inside the glass is recommended to fill it. Because the etching power is too high, the laser penetrates the glass and can etch to the other side. Filling the inside of the mug with paper or fabric will help to solve this problem.
Step 5: Clean up the paint
After etching, remove the paper or wipe off the paint. If cleaning the pigment with water is difficult, you may use alcohol or glass cleaner.
Check the results: Carefully check whether the pattern is complete or the etching depth is satisfactory.
The procedure will be the same if you use a CO2 laser cutter to etch the glass. A diode laser engraver is the best choice for DIY enthusiasts or small businesses without much budget.
The above describes the various considerations that need to be considered during each step of the laser etched glass process. If you encounter any other problems in practice, please comment and discuss them with us.
Advantages of laser etched glass
Laser etched glass is a popular choice for many professionals or hobbyists because laser etching glass has many advantages over traditional glass etching that it does not have.
High precision: laser etch glass can easily perform many difficult patterns. The computer is the control system for the entire machine, so it is able to complete the etching with great precision.
Your design and final result are almost identical; you can etch multiple products and still get the same result. This isn't easy to achieve with conventional laser etching.
- Speed: Whichever conventional etching technique you choose, you will have to wait a long time for the results to be ready. Laser etched glass, on the other hand, can engrave very complex patterns quickly.
- High success rate: traditional etching methods are prone to failure, and it isn't easy to control the etching depth. Laser etched glass has an almost zero failure rate and you can easily control the etching depth.
- Safety: Traditional processes require strong acids and high pressure, which can be a safety hazard. With laser etched glass, there are no harmful gases or risks to the operator during the entire process.
How laser etch glass works
The CO2 laser, with a wavelength of 10.6um, is the most suitable laser for etching glass. It works on the principle that when a specific laser frequency touches the glass, the air and water in the glass expands thermally and tiny cracks appear on the surface of the glass. The whole change is microscopic; we can only observe white frosted marks on the glass.
The 50w CO2 laser engraver can be set to 30% power, 2" or 2.5" focal length lens and 300mm/s speed to etch the glass for best engraving results. (Depending on the glass material, the parameters will need to be varied accordingly).
Types of glass suitable for laser etching
There are many types of glass and not all of them are suitable for laser etching. To avoid surprises for beginners when first laser etching glass, the following is a closer look at the types of glass suitable for laser etching.
Most of the glass comprises silica, lead and other trace impurities.
Glass with a low lead content is more suitable for laser etching. Crystal glass with a high lead content and tempered glass with metallic components are unsuitable for laser etching. This is because lead expands at an alarming rate when heated, which can cause the glass to break.
How to tell the lead content of glass
Glass cups, vases and most glass products are not labeled with the glass content on the product. How can we tell if the lead content of glass is high or low?
Here's a little tip: common glass is now divided into ordinary, tempered, and crystal glass. If there is no special marking on the glass product, it is generally ordinary glass.
You can tap on the glass with a knife, fork handle, or other metal utensil. Ordinary glass will make a dull sound, while glass with a high lead content will make a sharp and drawn-out sound.
Laser etch glass inspiration
If you want to start your own laser etch glass business, here are some artistic creations that might inspire you.
Image credit: DSGiftStudio via Etsy
Design exclusive patterns, monograms and other personalised marks on your glassware, such as glasses and champagne glasses, which can make it unique. It is also suitable as a gift for someone at a birthday party, wedding ceremony, etc. I am sure it would make a unique gift.
Photo credit: HicksandCoLLC via Etsy
Etching various interesting patterns on glass is a popular type of laser etched glass project nowadays. Of course, many personalized restaurants will inlay a whole wall with glass and then use a laser etch glass machine to keep the customer's leave messages on it permanently.
I was shocked when I first saw this design and the visual impact it gave me was something I will never forget. You can also make any home decoration around your beauty mirror, such as etching roses, camellias, etc.
To make a luminous photo, prepare a piece of thick glass of any shape beforehand and then prepare a luminous base. Import your favorite pattern into the computer and then use a laser etching machine to etch the pattern onto one side of the glass. Place the etched side on the back and turn on the base light to get a 3D glowing photo.
You can also design fonts or architectural symbols around the photo to enrich the whole picture.
Photo credit: TrendyGiftsinc via Etsy
Many schools now choose to use glass trophies for their sports days and competitions. If you start this business, you can make a very good profit.
Best laser glass etching machine
Gweike G1 - laser etching machine for glass
The Gweike G1 is an excellent value for money diode laser glass etching machine, ideal for laser etch glass enthusiasts and small businesses. It is easy to operate and is fully featured and advanced.
Let's learn more about the advantages of choosing the G1 as your laser glass etching machine.
At $439, the G1 glass laser etching machine is an excellent choice for many small businesses with a small budget or those just starting up.
Compatible with a wide range of materials
The G1 is not only suitable for etching glass but can also be used to engrave wood, paper, fabric and many other materials. Buying a laser glass etching machine that allows you to implement your multi-material designs means you can run a wider range of businesses to make money.
Fast etching speed
Although the G1's laser power is only 10W, it can engrave at speeds of up to 400mm/s, ensuring you can produce quickly.
Super Air Assist
The air assist makes laser etching even better, so you can easily complete many high-precision etching designs.
Full safety features
The G1 laser glass etching machine has a tilt emergency stop and an emergency stop button to stop the machine immediately in case of fire or other dangerous situations.
Metal laser enclosure
Many vendors nowadays only offer ordinary acrylic enclosures to save costs.
These enclosures not only do not protect against laser radiation during the laser etching process, but they also pose a risk of burning when exposed to heat. G1's metal enclosure is the complete solution to these problems.
Gweike Cloud Pro II - laser etching machine for glass
This is the perfect CO2 laser etching glass machine for professionals, with a full range of features to meet any need in the etch glass process.
Large working area
It can accommodate most etching designs with an engraving area of 510*300mm.
With rotary attachment
Supports the engraving of cylinders such as glasses and mugs.
Precautions for laser etch glass
- Etching of tempered glass and crystal glass is not recommended.
- The process of laser etching glass is different from other materials. When etching glass, a CO2 laser engraver can cause micro-cracks on the glass surface. Therefore, after completing the laser etch glass, try not to touch the etched pattern with your fingers. It is best to rinse the glass under warm water before touching it.
- Although the technology of CO2 laser glass etching is very mature, there is still a minimal risk that the glass may break during the movement of the laser head back and forth.
Q1: Best laser etching glass machine
CO2 laser engraving machines are the best for laser etching glass, followed by blue diode laser engraving machines. You can buy a diode laser etch glass machine if your budget is reasonable.
Q2: Is it necessary to coat the glass before engraving it
After etching, you can put a piece of tinted paper under the glass if you are concerned about missing patterns. For CO2 laser cutters, there is no need to apply a coating when etching glass. However, a diode laser etch glass machine must apply some coating before etching. Otherwise, the pattern will be lost.
Q3: Can you clean the glass after etching
The etch marks are permanent, so you can clean them with water without damaging the etch marks.
Q4: What wattage laser to etch glass
Laser glass etching can be done from 10w upwards. For deeper etch marks, a higher laser power is required.