Gradient Materials?

Pardon my complete ignorance on this, but are there materials out there, possibly that glowforge could supply, that change color with depth? For example, a plywood or plastic that goes from beige to green, or beige to blue the deeper you cut?

Ive seen some really cool plywood reliefs (like below) that showed off the layering in that material, and I thought it would be pretty cool if there were other materials that had similar properties. Does anyone know if this exists?


Seems pretty common to get. Search: laminated veneers colored.


Those look pretty cool. Definitely bookmarking that link. Are you aware of any plastics that are similar? Opaque color transitioning acrylics could be really interesting to work with for depth cuts.

Agreed. if there was a way you could take 6x1mm sheets of different color acrylic sandwiched together in one Glowforge job, i imagine it would take your lithophanes to a whole other level.

there are two-color acrylics and marbled acrylics available at Inventables. Many translucent acrylics that could be layered and then smoothed… maybe by a defocused pass with the laser, or using a blowtorch

yeah im starting to wonder what kind of fidelity can be achieved by melting multiple layers of acrylic together to produce the desired effect. I would love a piece of opaque acrylic that would transition smoothly from one color to the other, from bottom to top. e.g. black on the bottom to white on the top so that depth cutting would be much more noticeable.

for example, cutting out a relief of a mountain range with white on top that transitioned through grey to green at the bottom, maybe even blue under that.

I could see this being pretty hard to accomplish with plastics though. I cant really find anything on the market (so far).

Maybe carve the book of colors one page at a time then :stuck_out_tongue:

Except Cousineau only seems to supply large orders of stuff. Maybe @dan needs to contact them and explain that they are about to ship several thousand laser cutters with a maximum material depth of 1.5" to people who would find layered plywood of many colors to be a must have.

Get in touch with your local woodworkers’ guild, especially those who turn bowls. Colored laminate bowls are a big deal. Often they make them up themselves to reveal cool patterns when turned.

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The materials clearly exist. I’d wonder, though, whether you can get the result you want with laser cutting - the photo is of something that looks CNC milled, which gives great control over Z (depth) with no burning. I’m not sure that with a laser you could cut a smooth curved surface with varying depth…

That’s the Holy Grail of design and capability for the GF in my estimation to make it truly 3D and straight from the box and not through further build steps. @dan’s pyramid in acrylic is promising. Resolution and depth to come. When we have a smooth sided pyramid and not a step pyramid we will be good to go. So imagine those bathymetric/topo maps with smooth curved transitions to the next layer. Am I dreaming of something that won’t be possible? How does the greyscale translate into depth of engraving?

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On top of all the solutions mentioned, you can probably laminate acrylic yourself by gluing it together with solvent.

We don’t really know the level of z-depth precision possible yet, but it will be much more precise in acrylic (constant density) than plywood (which has natural variation).

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My earlier post may have come across as less than helpful. I have since read Sam’s Laser FAQ and have come to a greater appreciation of exactly what the Glowforge team is accomplishing. The section on CO2 lasers is enlightening. I can appreciate the fact that things had stalled a bit in making lasers more approachable for the average person. A few other things I have read help me appreciate the complexity of how the laser interacts with materials. So the knots in plywood or different densities of grain in the growth rings all make a difference in what is possible. Makes sense that Acrylic has more potential for smoother transitions in depth. And thanks for participating so much in the forums.

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That’s why I thought I would ask. I was under the impression that I would have to just glue pieces together, but was really hoping for some sort of acrylic with a perfect gradient transition from one color to another. It would look really cool with the laser depth cutting.

In your materials testing, are you guys seeing much difference in how color is affecting the amount of power needed to get a cut? (e.g is black acrylic taking noticeably less power than white to get the same cut)