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Thread: Anyone do glass etching? (need machine recommendations)

  1. #1

    Anyone do glass etching? (need machine recommendations)

    Hello all,


    New member here, looking for some advice on lasers for engraving. I plan to do some wood engraving to make some custom gift crates, but I am really interested in engraving glass. I am very new to lasers, just started looking at them.


    Today I pretty much etch one thing - maple syrup bottles. I am currently using acid etching cream to put relatively simple designs on our bottles; however, I do a thousand of these a year. It's labor intensive and the designs don't show up very well. My bottles are very thick pressed glass that do not have a perfectly flat surface. They curve at the edges and some of my patterns slip around the edge a little.


    I recently spent quite a bit of time with Trotec, and they were kind enough to demonstrate their laser by etching some of my patterns on my bottles. See attached picture. The results are good, a little chippy if you look super closely, but perfectly acceptable. The bottles did not need to be de-scaled afterwards, just wiped off. They took around 2-3 minutes each.

    20211012_1505412.jpg


    I was all set to order the Speedy 300 (60 watt with a 29" x 17" bed to fit two rows of bottles at one time), but there was a huge miss on pricing. My budget tops out at $15K and they were significantly higher than that. It's just not practical for what is essentially a side gig for me, selling $11 bottles of maple syrup.


    Trotec says the price difference is due to their having "servo motors that allow Trotec to engrave faster and more accurately than stepper motors used on other systems, and ceramic laser sources which are air cooled and RF fired vs glass laser sources which are are water cooled and are DC fired". They tell me that "ceramic produces a finer beam and pulse more rapidly which allows faster engraving with higher quality than a glass source."


    Given what I am trying to do here, do I care about this? I do want sharp clean edges and I do need speed (I do large lots of bottles at a time), but this feels like maybe more than I need to etch a simple pattern on a glass bottle. I see Boss has a laser that seems similar (LS-1630) and it is a much better price point for me. Thoughts on this or any other machine?


    Your advice and recommendations are greatly appreciated!


    -Lisa
    Laser etching
    Wood baskets and glass bottles

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    On the one hand you need to sell an awful lot of syrup to justify that kind of expense, on the other, if you have that kind of volume you need to ask whether engraving bottles is the best use of your time and capital. I'd look hard at the economics of contracting the work out before making such a purchase.

    Our Epilog Mini 40 watt (close to your budget) does a nice job on glass, but it is not particularly quick.

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    There is a Trotec 45 watt laser in our classifieds forum right now listed for 10K

  4. #4
    Hi Roger - Thanks for the reply. I sell a lot of etched glass bottles; it's kind of our thing and we are the only ones doing it. I tried to find someone local to do it, but ran into a lot of issues and the results were terrible. That's actually what starting project this off, trying to determine whether the problems were a skill issue, a laser performance issue, or both. I do just enough bottles to be too high of a volume for a small operation, but not enough for a large one. And because it's essentially a food product, the margin is low enough there isn't room for another middleman.

    In part, my desire for a machine is to save on my time (which I value above all else), because etching by hand is consuming my life and there are other things I could be doing with that time. Plus the results are not what I would like. I also have the opportunity to supply etched glass to the rest of my industry, based on an unusual set of supply circumstances with containers right now. Again, that isn't going to allow me to quit my day job, but it will pay for the cost of my own bottles. Striking the right balance between machine cost vs. cost of my time is where my budget came from.

    How big of a table is available on your 40 watt machine? Ideally, we wanted to place several bottles at a time on a frame to allow the machine to run, while we go and do other things.


    Quote Originally Posted by roger wiegand View Post
    On the one hand you need to sell an awful lot of syrup to justify that kind of expense, on the other, if you have that kind of volume you need to ask whether engraving bottles is the best use of your time and capital. I'd look hard at the economics of contracting the work out before making such a purchase.

    Our Epilog Mini 40 watt (close to your budget) does a nice job on glass, but it is not particularly quick.

  5. #5
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    I would jump ALL over that Speedy 300 that is for sale in the classified if we weren't $40,000 over on a house. Stupid construction materials.
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  6. #6
    I see that and would love to talk with her about it, but I seemingly have no way to reply to her, contact her, or reply to that thread on the ad??

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Lisa Kerns View Post
    I see that and would love to talk with her about it, but I seemingly have no way to reply to her, contact her, or reply to that thread on the ad??

    you must become a contributor to answer posts in the classifieds
    If the Help and advice you received here was of any VALUE to you PLEASE! Become a Contributor
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  8. #8
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    Our machine has a 12 x 24" deck. Probably take at least 30 minutes or more to raster over that entire surface, much longer if you need to slow the speed down much. We have the rotary attachment for doing glasses, bottles, and such, it works nicely albeit one at a time. Cheap glass engraves much more nicely than expensive crystal.

    The Epilog dealer was very helpful in spec'ing a machine that did what we wanted-- mostly making museum signs, tchotchkes, and displays and providing an example of modern manufacturing technology.

    The software can be maddeningly stupid about optimizing the path it uses. You need to watch and change your file accordingly if it is spending a lot of time traversing from place to place rather than cutting. This really shouldn't be a problem in such a mature product; it needs a more clever algorithm. It's the only machine I have experience with, so I can't comment on its relative merits. Years of working with engineers programming lab robots tells me they could do much better if they cared to.

  9. #9
    I would be interested. Where are you located?

  10. #10
    1. I laser all my glass and crystal using the wet "newspaper" style packing paper. I've tried most/all the other methods. My experience is, none are better. My etch is very smooth, consistent and rarely has chip out. The chip out I do get is typically when I'm doing a production job and the item is out of focus or I don't clean up the wet packing paper immediately. Essentially user error.

    2. I also found that my 30W LS100 and 60W VLS 6.60 both had to run at nearly identical settings to get good results. With the LS100, it is 100 PW and 25% speed. On the VLS it is about 60 power 70 speed I believe. Before I got my VLS, I tested glass and crystal on Trotecs and Epilogs and couldn't get the settings dialed in with the higher power. I used conventional thinking that I could use the extra power to speed things up. I'm pretty sure if I sat down tomorrow on a Trotec Speedy, I'd be engraving using about 30W and approximately 30ips to get the results I'm looking for.

    What I'm trying to get at, you could likely get away with a much cheaper laser than you're looking for. You probably could get away with using a Chinese laser because 30ips is close to their max speed.

    3. Based on your posting, I'd seriously look into sandblasting over laser engraving. You're already used to putting down masks. Sand blasting equipment is a fraction of the cost and much faster. You also get much better depth in the same amount of time. Overall, sand blasting is a much better product.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

  11. #11
    Ross - I hate using the laser to do glass so much so that I got a sand etch system and we all know the quality but cost of that process. Ive never gotten a result I loved with the laser but you have me rethinking the power levels now. Im going to try some tests - for the cheapskates who wont pay for sand etching : )
    Trotec CO2-Fiber Galvos-Sandetch Cabinet

  12. #12
    tip for glass engraving, which depends on your machine:
    Engrave as photos, NOT as solid color art. The dithering REALLY helps with the consistency of the etching (or fracturing, which is really what's going on)

    Some examples:
    When I was approached by the owner of this wine bar, this was one of my earliest forays into engraving glass. These first 2 pics show my results just engraving the glass as if it were wood or Rowmark...
    nopaper2.JPGnopaper1.JPG
    The etch is inconsistent and simply looks terrible...

    So I painted the graphic 80% black, and put the laser in photo mode,
    the difference is profound...
    dither2.JPGdither1.JPG
    dither3.jpg

    No, not perfect, but definitely not bad
    and the logo border--while it looks like the laser missed-engraved some of it, it didn't,
    that's how the logo is drawn

    Couple of pics from their website--
    btg1a.jpgbtg2a.jpg

    so yeah, lasers can do glass!

    Yet, while I have good luck lasering drinkware, I've NEVER not once ever been able to engrave a decent photo onto glass. Frustrating!

    As I mentioned, it depends on your machine-- My two Gravograph LS machines are wonderful at 'automatically' creating a decent halftone to engrave. My GCC Explorer, it has an extensive halftone 'menu' to choose from, which means it's not really 'automatic'- but no matter what I've tried, I can't keep the etching consistent.

    On thing I haven't tried yet, is creating a halftone to use on glass with my One-Touch photo software. I should try it, it's fantastic for wood engraving--
    pink floyd wood.jpg
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  13. #13
    I find if you get a great result from the laser it’s the glass. That setting won’t work on another brand just for spite.
    Trotec CO2-Fiber Galvos-Sandetch Cabinet

  14. #14
    I'm sure the glass itself is a big part of it-- but the only glass I've really had a problem engraving is Borate glass, which this is:
    borate.jpg
    I probably engraved this jar 15 times, slower and slower, and about 15 minutes after I quit the glass started popping and all those splinters showed up.

    Had some wedding glasses brought in once that just wouldn't etch either, kind of like the above but without the splinters. Not sure what type of glass it was-

    I've engraved leaded crystal, lots of plain old Libbey glasses, glasses around the house for practice, dollar mirrors, root beer mugs, I've had pretty good luck overall. I've tried wet paper towel, wet newspaper, never saw any difference.

    This is the acid-etched glass they brought in as my sample to work from-
    btgacid.jpg
    - while it's 'consistent', overall it's pretty yucky IMO... (theirs too)

    Interesting to watch too
    laserlgs.jpg
    ========================================
    ELEVEN - rotary cutter tool machines
    FOUR - CO2 lasers
    THREE- make that FOUR now - fiber lasers
    ONE - vinyl cutter
    CASmate, Corel, Gravostyle


  15. #15
    I use solid, 100% black, no half tones. I use wet "newspaper" packing material I get from JDS as my buffer. I get the same result whether it's cheap glass or "expensive" crystal.

    Here are only two times I get shards or issues with chipping.

    1. I let the packing material dry. It seems to "fuse" to the edge and when I go to remove it afterwards, I can get some chip out. Since noticing this occasionally happening, I just wipe it off immediately. Potentially rewetting the paper could prevent this from happening, but I couldn't say for certain.

    2. Not being in focus. Doing crystal awards, they are always slightly different. Every once in a while, I'll get caught not focusing every crystal on a production job and one will go out of focus, causing some chipping.

    Otherwise, I get a really smooth and clean etch.
    Equipment: IS400, IS6000, VLS 6.60, LS100, HP4550, Ricoh GX e3300n, Hotronix STX20
    Software: Adobe Suite & Gravostyle 5
    Business: Trophy, Awards and Engraving

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