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Laser Engraving

Laser engraved plaque
Laser engraving on China Black granite

Laser Etched Granite

This is another option. The piece above was done for me on a 12” x 12” piece of black granite. It is quite beautiful. The resolution is excellent. I experimented with the technique for some time. I had several tributes done to remember my cat, Zoe, and dog, Kiwi. I was not happy with either of them. The images were dark and hard to see. The images reproduced need to have outstanding quality and high contrast.

Although the laser process on black stone is very nice, the actions of blowing sand and debris along with acid rain will make this tribute disappear eventually. I toured the cemetery where the Wright Brothers are buried in Dayton, Ohio. I noticed the lettering on some old stones, 150 plus years, was half eroded away. Laser imaging is very shallow compared to that deeply sandblasted lettering. So it’s not hard to predict the eventual outcome. Also the laser engraved images have a tendency to disappear temporarily when they get wet. Some manufacturers rub the engraving with paint or stain to stop this from happening and increase contrast. That can present its own problems since those fillers are not UV stable. I believe laser imaged stone is better suited for indoor displays.

We worked, at one time, with a company that used a variety of lasers. I thought we might be able to do laser imaging on the stainless or titanium. They made twenty passes with a YAG laser on a piece of coated stainless. The eventual image was no good, and the heat generated by the multiple passes warped the .060” metal. There has been a great improvement in lasers in recent years. We worked with a company in Florida that did some experimental etching on our coated stainless. The results were mixed. Some of the imaging was good, but results were not consistent.

Photo Pendants

Lasers can etch gold and silver because they are soft metals. You can find many companies offering laser engraved photo pendants. The look is somewhat holographic. The drawback, as explained to me by an owner of a gold photo pendant, is the softness of the metal. After wearing the piece for two years the image had almost disappeared. And the piece cost this lady over $200. We can do custom pendants as well, but our technique is superior! This technique might lend itself to larger memorial tributes if you could afford the gold - silver will tarnish. The inherent problem is that someone would probably steal it due to the value of the metal alone.

Laser Etched Aluminum

This has been done for quite some time. It is especially popular in the sign and award industry. Thin sheets of 'laserable' anodized or painted aluminum are etched with a low power CO2 laser. We experimented with this as well. The images are pretty good, but they can't get the resolution we achieve. In fact, most photographs set up for laser etching on wood and aluminum are put through a program designed to render the photo as line art. The sharp contrasts produced through this procedure render better using the laser. Aluminum also oxidizes. Have you ever seen an aluminum lawn chair that has been outside near salt water? The paints or anodized colors are not UV stable, meaning they will fade with time. At any rate, you wouldn't put an aluminum plaque on a loved one's memorial stone.

Laser Etched Marble Plaques

There are companies offering a laser etched, marble plaques that can be affixed to an existing stone using a bonding agent. Marble is a softer stone and will be subject to quicker degradation via the sand blast effect. These thin plaques can be easily broken, and the glue that holds the plaque to the stone will eventually fail. This is an option, but probably not the best.

Family Heirlooms

If you have photos that have high contrast, a leaser etched granite heirloom would be very nice for home display, just like my tiger above. The only concern should be breakage. That could happen. I want my family members remembered in a medium that cannot break, fade, or burn.

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