Can my Glowforge etch CDs?

I write and record custom songs for people and wondered if the Glowforge could etch an image and song title into the top of a recordable CD. Thoughts?

Jill Pearson

I’ve etched tempered glass phone screen protectors, so I would think that a CD would be child’s play.

Only trial and error will tell, however, my initial thoughts are that CD’s are a poor candidate for lasering. Essentially the plastic of the CD is a capsule that covers a very thin layer of foil the information is etched onto. Unfortunately, that layer of foil is not centered in the capsule, but placed very close to the back (the layer you would write on with a Sharpie). It’s not far below that surface at all. This is done so if the reading side is scratched, an abrasive can remove a layer of the plastic and render the CD readable again.

I see you already have a reply which believes this is do-able, and it may well be, but your etchings will have to be shallow indeed.


CDs are made from polycarbonate which doesn’t interact with IR lasers well. The material is described as ‘melty’ which I assume means it melts before it vaporizes. So it won’t etch well. I’ve never seen an example posted in this forum, and I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff etched here.

Look for “Lightscribe” discs, they were made to be used in special drives that could etch info on the back but you should be able to figure out a setting on the GF.


Probably not because of the way the CD is made unless you can find a brand that is designed for it.

Namely, the data portion of the CD is really close to the surface of the label side of the disc. Typically, the protective coating is truly that, a coating. And it is thin.

So, while you might be able to dial in a power setting that could disrupt just the surface of the coating enough to call it labeled, it is going to be very hard to find and, worse, you’ll find that the manufacturing differences between brands and, even, lots of a single brand will be very inconsistent.


They look really cool in (someone else’s) microwave. And interesting burn tracks occur.
If you do give it a whack, pictures needed.
(disclaimer, this is not to say this is a good laser candidate and any reference to anything real was a miscommunication).

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That is how I erase the data from CDs before disposing of them. I microwave for about 4 seconds but most of that time is the magnetron warming up. The aluminium layer explosively fractures into a grid pattern, which I expect is related to the wavelength.

Big old laser discs are even cooler. Oft result in Lichtenberg figures.

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This question is outside our team’s scope. I’ve moved it to the Beyond the Manual so the discussion can continue there.

Would you be willing to share your process/settings? I’d be very interested in doing screen protectors!

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