Laser Etching Machine Recommendation

Hey all!

Wanted to see if there was anyone who was an expert in laser etching (the process, the equipment, etc) that would be willing to offer us some advice on what to purchase and/or learn.

We’d like to start offering etching as a service for our 5-Button Switch: Z-Wave 5-Button Scene Controller + Dimmer Switch | Project Rock Out

I’m honestly not sure where to start, so any help will be appreciated!

Here are my questions:

  1. What machine would you recommend for etching switch paddles (plastic) – preference would be not to break the bank, but if it’s truly a, “get what you pay for” type machine, that’s ok
  2. Is the process easy to learn? In other words, would we be in over our head if we try to take this on? I imagine, it’s just drop in the plastic, load up your computer and go, but I could be wrong.

Thanks again and I’ll look forward to learning about etching lol!

Do you plan to expand the service to other switches? ie if you come out with a standalone fan switch can you put it on that?

Edit: Will the button controller be back lit such that it will glow through the etched parts?

Yes for sure :slight_smile:

I don’t believe so – we were shooting for that, but it was ultimately shot down as this was a special project between two companies and the manufacturer. I’ll have to defer to @anon14959390 on this one as he’s been closer to the project and other company than me.

One place to start would be Glowforge.

Although they talk a lot about laser cutting, with lower power, it also engraves:

Glowforge can cut wood, fabric, leather, paper, Plexiglas (acrylic), Delrin (acetal), mylar, rubber, Corian, foods, and more. Glowforge can also engrave all of the above plus glass, coated metal, marble, anodized aluminum, titanium, and more laser safe materials.

There is an interesting hobby where people build their own DIY 3D printers, CNC machines, etchers, etc. Not that I would ever suggest going the DIY route, because it would probably turn into another product line… :rofl:

You can buy an assemble it yourself 3d etcher kit. Look up Creality and SainSmart (the same guys who sell the excellent Ender 3 series of 3d printers).

That said, virtually all of these are horrifically dangerous and don’t comply with US law for one simple reason- the laser is exposed. While the laser is pointing down, laser energy can reflect off the item being cut or engraved, with sufficient intensity to cause permanent eye damage. Even if you wear laser-blocking goggles (and even if they’re appropriate for the type of laser you’re using), that doesn’t help bystanders, pets, people outside the window, etc.

A legal, safe laser cutter has a solid enclosure around the entire laser path and cutting area, designed so that the only windows are made of laser-blocking material, and no cracks or holes or vents that would allow exposure to laser light. Any vents must have baffles or ductwork so laser light cannot escape. The enclosure must have an interlock switch, so if you open it while the machine is in operation the power to the laser is killed instantly and it’s totally impossible to generate laser light while the case is open.

Anyway Eric I’d suggest start with Glowforge and Epilog Laser. Those are two reputable manufacturers of safe, legal commercial laser cutters that won’t blind you or get you sued by your newly-blind employees :slight_smile:

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Do you have the ability to vent a laser engraver outside the office? I don’t have much experience with laser engravers, but I do know they tend to require exterior venting

Would you be willing to contract with a 3rd party for this service? Asking for a friend (ok it’s me) who is experimenting with a similar side hustle…

Looks interesting - thanks for the link!

Lol – I’d probably laser off a finger or something with my luck!

I’m back in! I’ll take a look, thank you!

Anything is possible in this place – there’s a bar on one side and a Popeye’s on the other with a State Farm downstairs!

Kidding aside, I think we would be able to – I’ll check with the landlord. Great catch!

Could be, sure! I think it would add to the cost on the customer’s end as we’d have to ship you the product and you’d ship it out, but it may work. Let’s connect around it and brainstorm!

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Could you opt for “blanks” that would reside at the third party premise? e.g. a customer orders a custom paddle, the order is sent to @kreene1987, he or she prints it, packages it up, sends out via your USPS code?

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For what it’s worth, Glowforge does offer a filter so you can safely use their products indoors. (BTW, I’m not affiliated or associated with Glowforge in any way, just would love to have one!)

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The Glowforge is an amazing machine. We have etched everything from chocolate to marble. Are you attempting to etch the plastic on the switch? I tried modifying a switch plate cover with my Glowforge but it kinda just melted and I was not successful. That being said, I was on full power and trying to cut through the material rather than etch or engrave. I’d love to hear which way you decide to go with this as we are looking to expand our side hustle and get a second Glowforge to help keep up with orders.

Gen 1 of this device won’t be backlit. We briefly discussed this but for timeline purposes, it didn’t make it this time.

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Yeah this could be something! We’ll have to work out the logistics as well with the partner company who also requested the etching to be a feature and how they want to go about it, but this is a good solution for sure.

Awesome, glad to hear some first hand experience. Yeah we would be etching the plastic of the switch. The one thing (and I likely just couldn’t figure it out based on the site) I was curious on is how do you get that small piece of plastic in there and it etch accurately? Is there something that would hold it in place? All the videos I was watching show a large sheet of something, so I wasn’t sure if there was a way to work with smaller pieces. I was going to reach out to a rep when the time came and the project was progressing, but it’s nice to know there are other Glowforge users here.

The machine will fit anything up to 12” x 20”. In theory you could do about 72 rockers at the same time with a good jig.

I grabbed a rocker from an old dumb switch to try it out. This engraving took 45 seconds. The laser burned the plastic a little but with some adjustments, I think it will come out much better.


My OCD says need to find Centerline.

That’s not a bad first attempt though. Little less power.


Ha! I was thinking the same thing. The laser is going to be difficult on this because the white plastic turns brown right away from the heat. I will adjust settings and hopefully get it centered better next time. :slight_smile:

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Yea that’s going to be hard.

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Oh nice, that’s great to know!

Nice, that looks awesome actually!

I can’t tell from the pic, but is the logo recessed or risen? Ultimately, I’d like to find something similar to how the Fan/Light switch was done where if you run your finger over the fan or light icon, it’s smooth and you can’t tell there’s an indentation there. Is that possible?

Contact the guys at FSLASER in Vegas. They will tell you exactly what you need and set you up so you can just rinse and repeat…