In this era of mass-produced products sold online and taken straight off the shelf, discerning buyers are often disappointed by the offerings available. As a result, the creation of bespoke or personalised items is a sought-after service by those seeking a unique object to keep for themselves or gift to another. Glassware is an ideal example. From trophies and awards to glasses designed for different drinks, this material is made into an abundance of items and there are two methods which are most often used to customise them. These are etching and engraving.
Many people confuse etched and engraved glass and use the processing terms interchangeably. However, these options for adding a personal touch to glassware are entirely different. It is true that there are several similarities between these solutions. For instance, both processes are compatible with different types of surfaces and can effectively produce clear images and easy-to-read text that doesn’t wear away over time.
One of the key differences that exists between etching and engraving is the costs involved to complete the work. However, this can vary greatly depending on the service engaged, among other key factors. For instance, the type of glass involved has a bearing. Harder materials are generally trickier to work with increasing costs.
The depth, size and complexity of characters or images will also impact price. Put simply, the more intricate and complicated the engraving or etching requires is, the more the work will cost. Another consideration is production volume. Engraving is often recognised as a cost-effective choice for small-to-medium-sized batches.
Understanding the difference between glass etching and glass engraving processes
While exceptionally similar in regard to the end results that they offer, the technological processes involved in etching and engraving are decidedly different. For instance, laser engraving efficiently cuts out a cavity through the surface of the glass. Depending on the design selected, this crevice effectively reveals either text, an image, or both, at eye level. Furthermore, the engraving can be felt through as well.
On the other hand, the process of laser etching only takes away the very top layer of the glass surface without cutting into the material and creating a cavity.
Glass laser engraving is performed by aiming a high heat laser that effectively causes the surface of the material to instantly vaporise. In contrast, machines designed for laser etching are a far less powerful type of device and provide a mere fraction of a dedicated laser engraver’s maximum cutting capacity.
As well as glass, engraving and etching are both used to cut lines into a variety of hard surfaces, including metal. Perhaps the primary difference between the two methods is that the process of engraving is physical, while etching involves a chemical process. Expert engravers use sharp tools or a precision laser to cut lines into the surface of the material, while an etcher will traditionally burn lines into the surface using acid or burn off the utmost layer when using modern techniques.
Using the latest laser technology for engraving and etching glass
A laser is a device designed to emit a beam composed of coherent light via the process of optical amplification. Today there are a diverse range of lasers in use around the world. These include excimer lasers, gas lasers, dye lasers, fibre lasers, diode lasers and solid-state lasers. In the manufacturing industry, lasers are utilised for many different applications and processes such as cutting, drilling, engraving, and adding identifying marks to an extensive array of materials.
What benefits can glass etching offer?
Just like engraving, etching is designed to add designs and text to a range of different glassware. Laser etching is often referred to as a subset of engraving via laser. The process takes place when heat emitting from the beam results in the surface of the glass melting. However, the depth of the laser etch is typically no greater than 0.001 inches.
As a rule, etching is often seen as a more viable option for exceptionally thin materials or small projects like jewellery. The benefits associated with etching include extreme precision and material savings and high speed of realisation and its ability to provide speed, durability, ultimate repeatability, and cost efficiency.
What are the advantages of engraving glass?
There are multiple benefits of engraving that can help take a design project or product to a whole new level. For example, the laser creates extreme heat while the engraving process takes place, essentially causing the material to vaporise.
It is an exceptionally swift process, with the material vaporised with each individual pulse. The cavity is then created, which is noticeable to both the eye and to touch. Exceptionally agile, deeper marks can be cut using a laser engraver, simply by completing multiple passes. Like etching, glass engraving provides durability, cost-efficiency, speed, and ultimate repeatability.
Offering greater depth than etching, the process can deliver cuts varying between 0.02 inches and in 0.125 inches. Finally, engraving is possible on almost every kind of material.