Looking forward - new unit on the way - stuff I do

I just placed my order, but I have been using a competing CO2 laser at my Makerspace for months. As it is now closed due to the shutdowns, it was time to bite the bullet and get my own.

These are done using an etching process I have developed which leans on the laser’s fine line capabilities. This can only be done using a tube based laser system, as it would ruin a diode based laser.


Nice work. Look forward to seeing what you do when you have your Glowforge!

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@ScottM welcome to the GF Community, I am sure your creations from a talented artist will inspire us all.


Well, the reason I picked the Glowforge is because it is a CO2 system, and it is hard to argue with the price. The things I’m doing only require a fraction of the available Wattage, so everything should come over cleanly from the old laser system to the new Glowforge. It is just a matter of resolution.

In that last picture, the etch is too weak for a client piece. However, the fact the the compass rose came out at all is downright amazing. There is no way I know to accomplish that with a vinyl resist or an ink transfer. Its too finely detailed.

I will be happy to post process pictures once I have my new system. :slight_smile:

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Hi, am I seeing Copper in the first picture?

The first one is copper, the second one is brass, the third one is fine silver.

Beautiful work! I look forward to seeing more, and learning how you are doing this…Thank you for showing us what you have done thus far, eager to see work done on the Glowforge!

You will want to be very careful with copper due to its reflectivity to the wavelength of the Glowforge, Please research this fully,



As I said, I have already been doing this for many months on a Full Spectrum 90W CO2 laser at my Makerspace. I had to research my method in advance and prove it to the board. I not only did that, I got the sign off of Full Spectrum’s tech support.

The issue is indeed the reflectivity, and is the reason you can’t use a diode laser for this.

The beam is scattered back to a degree. In a diode laser, that is right back at the emitter. In a CO2 laser, the laser is at the end of a chain of mirrors and is very far away from the focal point. There is minor risk to the mirror in the track head, but a good quality mirror should be fine.

I can also prep the surface of the metal by giving it a roughened surface, which diffuses what little reflections there are.

Choosing the right lens is also important, you want one with the smallest focal height you can manage. Again for slight diffusion purposes.

I am not using the laser to do anything to the metal. I am running at 15% power, as I’m using the laser to ablate a coating off of metal. I then use chemical or electrical methods to etch the metal, and then I remove the coating.

I understand that this is a risk of a certain level with the Glowforge, but I believe that based on what I know about the design it should be fine. I will, however, confer with support.

EDIT: Copper is VERY reflective in the IR Spectrum. So is Silver, but Copper is worse. You need a fiber laser to do any direct metal removal, either cutting or ‘etching’. What a lot of people refer to as ‘etching’ is using a coating like Cermark, which the laser then bakes into a permananet ceramic coating on the metal.

Those designs in my pieces are from .5 to 1 mm deep, and were removed by chemicals, not the laser.


I can’t wait to learn more about your process. I really like your pieces.

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And that is why I worded my response the way I did. You obviously have a very good grasp of the subject. I applaud your abilities, and your work is exquisite. Thanks for your very detailed reply and please teach us about the safe ways we can work with Cu.

Welcome to the forum!

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At one time before internet, and cellphone computers, I was doing 3D printing by hand and was engraving silver bracelets in nitric acid by scratching the design on the resist. The acid seemed to undermine the resist slowly, though I rolled with it so planning a rounded edge rather than a squared one, but I had to refrain from too much detail as a result.

I was wondering how much you had explored the various two step of cutting the resist first before applying to the metal, or what resist stands up better to acid and protects the laser from reflections best or what might be done to keep from any damage to the head at all.

You bring up two things. One is etchant vs the resist, and the other is a coating question.

When you scribe really fine lines in a resist, the chemicals have only the exposed surface area for any chemical action. (duh) If you are not circulating the etching fluid, the reacted metal is not taken away and refreshed with fresh etchant. That is why it was slow.

It can be sped up even more using DC current and the right etching medium.

I’m not applying a traditional etch mask like vinyl or stamp ink. I am basically painting the entire piece with a baked on enamel. I then use the laser to clear away my design and etch.

What you are suggesting would have to be a water soluble undercoat to my enamel which could withstand the laser. The issue with that is that it would wash away the now exposed areas, but it would also slightly undercut the supporting substrate of the second layer. This would result in flaking and bleed in your etch pattern. (If I’m understanding your question right)

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That certainly clears up many of the problems I had. To say the universe has changed a bit since those days would be a severe understatement, the highest tech I had at that time would be the flexible shaft and computers that were not as powerful as the average cell phone took up whole buildings, but I am still trying to find my way to achieve similar results.

The laser has different opportunities and issues and of course two dollar an ounce silver or fourty dollar an ounce gold harder to come by then they were at that time, but I have some rolls of dead soft copper and aluminium flashing I would like to include, and use the computer driven designs I could not have accomplished at that time either.

However I am very leery of applying the laser to the metal, but seeking to apply what I have accomplished with the laser/computer on the metal.

I don’t want to say to proceed without caution, and at the start of this thread I said that I had gotten the sign-off from the other company’s support. However, each one is different and I don’t expect a $3000 laser to perform the same as a $15,000 system.

I have no intention on voiding any warranty on my new system, so I will be bringing in Support.
Having said that, since due to the virus my alternative is to do no laser work at all, I’m willing to risk the expense of a few replacement parts now and again in the head. There is no way that I’m going to endanger the laser tube with what I do.

The trick is finding the coating treatment that is strong enough to stand up to Hydrochloric Acid yet able to be chemically removed. Second, it must ablate cleanly and not melt, so that eliminates a huge swath of coatings. Third, is that because I’m only ablating a paint, I barely need any power or dwell time. Lastly I score the surface before I coat it to give the coating better grip and to diffuse reflections so it isn’t going straight back at the mirror.

Once I get my new unit I will be posting process pictures with it.

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There are many alternatives that achieve “metal like” including acrylics that look very metallic to a recent experiment of mine or something like this

I can’t torch and solder “metal like” :slight_smile:

These are all components for jewelry or leather projects.




Torch might be pushing it, but solder definitely. Silver solder is a bit hot but I recall some folk have used leaded glass techniques that would be in reasonable range.

Also engraved agate and most quartz based stones. That gold Rub-n-Buff detail on tile could just as easily be on agate. If you are doing casting, then deeply engraved wood can make a great base to provide intricate castings. I have almost none of my jewelry stuff left much less the room to go there but looking at your shop makes me wish I did.

My original point however was that there is so much in useful stuff that can be done, that one need not wait on the last detail of where you want to go , to explore and run with all the others,

@ScottM I look forward to that. Greetings and congratulations!

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