Laser Engraving 101: My Dids, Shouldn’t  Have Dids, and More. Laser Engraving a Photo Into a Wood Plaque!

NS4Y Blog: 2-06-2022

So I have been busy learning how to code the firmware of my 3D printer, flash my 3D Printer firmware to update it, use my 3D Printer, and now how to use an Ortur laser engraver.That is why I have not been posting on the blog. I have gotten out of the group home I was in so I am studying hands on more. 

 I did some upgrades to my 3D printer which I will talk about in future blog posts. I will even show some of the things I have printed. I paid $60 for the Lightburn software for my laser engraver. Lightburn is a GRBL program that sends the XYZ coordinates into the axis stepper motors, and the on/off signal to the extruder or laser telling it to send more plastic or make the laser burn into the surface of your material. Lightburn turns images into G-Code that the laser and motors at X  axis motor and Y axis Motor. 

I will try to cover as much as I can to help you understand the hardware of a laser engraver as well as how the software works in the hardware. There is a little math in 3D printing and laser engraving. Knowing the basics will save you time and money when you send a part into the software to scale it to fit your machine.

Here is a picture of my great grandparents that I have uploaded into the Lightburn software  to laser engrave this image of them on a plaque. Below is the picture of the laser burn I did into a piece of Walnut Hollow Basswood  at 3100mm/s with a 40% max power. I needed to increase the max power percentage to create a darker black in the picture as you can see below. Well honestly this is only my second burn on this type of wood plaque. I got three of these Walnut Hollow Basswood plaques on Amazon for $12 each.  As I said, I should have raised the power of the laser but I will know now for the next two I do. 

I have shown you pictures of the software while the laser engraver was running and the finished project as above. Here is the picture I took of a photograph to create this plaque. This large photograph of my  great grandparents below.

In taking the above photo of this portrait of my great grandparents, I used my Samsung Galaxy Note 5. It is old and was given to me by my niece. I am working on getting a camera to do these shots. But for now, the camera phone will have to show how I did that laser engraving of this portrait. Now it is time to start another project where I will have to join and edit out two photos to make a 8×10 inch plaque. Stay with me and learn how!

Above, you can see that I have a colored photo of my great grandmother and a black and white of my great grandpa. After discussing this with my mom, she wants the pictures one over the other. Let us walk our way through how to do just that.

Below I have edited out part of the photo and resized it to use on the plaques I bought. Here is a screenshot of me doing so. 

Pictured above, you will find my photo opened in Microsoft Paint on a Windows computer. Below you will find the saved PNG file after editing and resizing. It is ready for the engraver! 

Next I am going to show you the picture of my great grandmother quilting.

Now that I have the first run of editing done to the photos, I will begin to join or merge the photos for the 8×10 inch plaque layout 8 inches wide and 10 inches high. 

Here is the photo merge I did for the project. 

This next step involves getting ready to edit the photo for the best burn picture. This is beyond the scope of this blog post. It would not do much good to tell you how to dial it in unless you use the same Ortur Laser Engraver, the same plaque style and wood. Before I go any further, let me say I would pick a solid piece of wood, not the Basswood plaque that is made of three pieces of wood pressed and glued together. There are differences in how the pieces of wood burn at the glue point. If you have these glued together wood plaques, it will look better to turn the glue lines vertical most times.

 Also, on the burn for the pictures above, I saved the  picture in black and white before uploading into the LightBurn software. I am currently in the process of burning it actually and will show a picture of the finished product later. I am going to show you a picture of a laser engraver in action. 

Below is a picture of the product plaque finishing up. 

Well I have taken you through the journey to burn a picture in a plaque of wood. This custom item sales for about $45 on Etsy.  I will most likely be  sanding the first burns off the plaques and start over now that I see what is going on with this type of wood.

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