Engraving 3d reliefs using different percentages black/gray or grayscale artwork?

Is the GF capable of doing graduated 3d engravings/reliefs by using grayscale artwork using various percentages of black/gray? Like in these examples: (1) http://www.kernlasers.com/3d_laser_engraving.htm
(2) https://www.google.com/search?q=3d+wood+engraving&client=ubuntu&hs=Cj1&channel=fs&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAmoVChMIqenw8P6zyAIVgZWICh0bRQS0&biw=1434&bih=1071#channel=fs&tbm=isch&q=3d+laser+wood+engraving


That’s awesome! Dan has mentioned that they are trying to get it to be able to do a carving effect, but I’m not sure if anything this intricate is even on their radar. Freaking cool, though!

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Wow, those 3D engravings are great. I hope the Glowforge can do something like that!

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They seem to hint at in on the main page.
Sale point number 10.
“Engrave complex, three dimensional curves with 1,000 DPI resolution. To get perfect detail and sculpt with real depth, Glowforge can carve away material with multiple passes, each one focusing more deeply than the last.”

I’m not sure what the software will look like to pull it off. But I would be really excited to see that! I know FS laser has it built into their systems, and they don’t have autofocus. So I’m sure GF can pull it off if they put their minds to it.

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FYI, this is from another laser makers site, seems possible… Maybe it’s a software setting?

You can create stunning 3D images using your Laser system!
With our regular engraving setting, the laser will interpret grayscale
images like a printer does - by firing the laser closer together
wherever the image is darker. This removes more material at that point,
which is why photographs and detailed artwork come out so well when
engraved. With the 3D setting activated, the laser will
also adjust the power it applies to the material based on the grayscale
value of the artwork, giving it a true 3D appearance with sloped edges
to the engraving.
**As a disclaimer, just know that 3D artwork can take a
long time to create so that it will engrave well with a laser, but when
it is created well, the results are spectacular!

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We can vary power when we engrave bitmaps, as this describes. What we’re working on is doing multiple passes, refocusing each pass, which should give us better depth resolution than you can accomplish on any other laser without software-controlled autofocus. So: yes, we haven’t done anything quite this impressive yet, but we should be able to do this and more.


This is blowing my mind right now. What kind of software would you use for this? It looks like the gradients would need to be more finely controlled than is possible in the programs I use most often.

Thanks Dan for your quick response, I love your hands on approach!

@septimus39: You can either create your depth map manually in photoshop/illustrator using gradients, or render what’s called a “z depth” pass in most 3D applications to get a black and white depth map of a 3D design.


I was wondering this myself. Id love to be able to take a greyscale design. set the black cutting depth and the have the cutter figure out the relief that needs carving from the greyscale. I might be dreaming though

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Other laser cutters do this, it just takes tinkering. My cheap chinese laser does but it doesn’t do autofocusing, which has been an exciting prospect for me. It’s not new, but at the price point of this laser and with autofocusing capabilities, the feature is unique.

Oh wow! Now I’m even more excited for my Glowforge to ship! Why couldn’t I be born a patient person!?!?! :wink:

This is one of the things I’m looking forward to. I’m hoping grayscale support is up and running when my GF arrives. Makin’ maps and designing layouts in anticipation already!

@dan once a piece has been cut down a bit by the laser, how does it know how far down it has cut? Is this determined by focusing?

As different materials take differing amounts of power to get to the same depth, this will require some ability to re-calibrate and detect depth after each pass to determine topology. Would be really cool if you had additional lasers to do a sweep to determine exactly what the topology was. A 3D scan essentially. That might be overkill though. You tell me =P

I’m looking forward to doing some work with reliefs. I’m going to start playing around with my copy of ZBrush to export a depth map… should be fun!

Would it be possible for a relief/texture to be copied from a real world object using the built in cameras? I’d live to be able to scan a texture from one object made or found and then engrave it onto another.

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you have to have stereoscopic cameras or laser measuring in order to accomplish something of that nature. it would be pretty sweet if the glowforge had that capability. You know if it was able to do 3d scanning it would be listed on their site in a pretty big bullet point lol

Likely right, but a guy can dream. Maybe an n.0 feature.

Though you can do a lot with a single camera, quantifiable movement, and a still object.

The Glowforge does have a laser on the head that is used in conjunction with the macro camera on the head to measure depth of objects to be cut/engraved. I have no idea if you could actually use it to create 3D scans.

Low-res 3D scans that will get you the curvature and shape of the piece, yes.