Make 3D Laser Crystals
Laser-etched crystals have become a popular item for awards, mementos and keepsakes. Technically called sub-surface laser engraving (SSLE), the process involves creating a three-dimensional image in software, loading the image into a laser-etching system and etching it inside a piece of glass crystal. The image is permanent and sharply defined. Though largely automated, the process requires a craftsman’s careful touch and attention to detail.
1. Create a computer image of the subject, whether it’s a person, object or abstract design. If it’s a person or object, you’ll need a 3D camera. If it’s an abstract design, create the design with CAD software.
2. Select a blank crystal to etch. Note the crystal’s measurements. The piece must be clear and clean; otherwise, the laser won’t etch correctly.
3. Scale the image in the CAD software so that it will occupy the right amount of volume within the crystal. Use the measurements from Step 2. If the image is too large, it won’t fit. If it’s too small, it’ll look lost in the finished piece.
4. Import the CAD image file from the last step into the laser etching system. The system’s software will have an import function under its file menu or similar feature.
5. Align the blank crystal in the laser etching system. This will ensure that the finished image is placed correctly.
6. Start the laser etching process using the etching system’s program. Depending on the complexity of the piece and the speed of the laser, it could take a few minutes to a couple hours.
7. Examine the finished, etched crystal. If you see problems with the scaling or position of the image, you may have to adjust the image and try again with a new blank crystal.