Relief Engraving

Tips and tricks for three-dimensional laser engraving

relief engraving colour change wood
This tutorial will provide an overview of some of the information to consider when processing relief engraving with a laser machine, as well as recommendations for achieving the best results.

What is a relief engraving?

A relief engraving means a deep engraving with differing heights, which are created by gray shades in the graphic. The Trotec laser automatically regulates its performance using these grayscales and thus generates different heights in only one pass. Relief engravings are a real eye-catcher and make any application more attractive. They are ideal for gift items, promotional items, jewelry or as add-ons for goblets and trophies.

Data preparation considerations before sending it to the laser

Data can be generated by using gradients and grayscale fillings, which are communicated to the laser by the process type “relief.” Any shade of gray ranging from 0% all the way up to 100% black is compatible and will produce variations of height within the material. Furthermore, grayscale gradients will create flowing transitions between differences in height.

You can add a new material effect to relief engraving which can either have its own layer or you add the layer used in your graphic as soon as you want to do the relief engraving. The accompanying screenshot illustrates examples of what a relief engraving will look like, and our test files can be downloaded here.

Graphic files for relief engravings

Recommendation for high-quality photo presentations or data

If you are looking for high-quality photo or data representations for relief engravings, use a 3D program for this complex process because they can produce extremely fine gradations at gray steps. Many companies will offer this type of individual data creation, ex. www.gantryco.com

Suitable materials for relief engraving

Relief engraving can be produced into many types of materials if the composition has the same layer structure throughout, or is completely permeated with color offering a uniform appearance. Some suitable materials include:

Relief engraving wood

The engraving process

When relief engraving into wood, we suggest the following method to create the desired depth of your relief (details are based on the use of the Speedy360, 80 watt laser): Engrave the desired graphic using 3-4 passes with low speed and high performance (v-30%, p-100%). Next, process 1-2 rounds using high speed and low power (v-100%, p-60%) to engrave away any smoke residue. If you are looking to produce and even deeper engraving, we suggest engraving the cutting contour first followed by the deep engraving after. For additional information and assistance with laser settings or parameters, visit Trotec Laser parameters

Cleaning

You will want to clean the laser engraved relief to remove any excess residue, dirt or debris, but do so delicately to ensure the wood does not lose its shape. We recommend using a toothbrush with minimal amounts of water and mild soap or detergent, and gently scrub over the relief to remove any traces of powder. The workpiece should also be thoroughly dried, and we recommend using compressed air if available.

TIP: Creating a wood relief engraving with color change

You can also produce a relief engrave into wood to create a color change. With this intention, we suggest thoroughly cleaning the workpiece once processing is completed, as outlined in the previous step. In doing so, any smoke traces that would otherwise impair the subsequent engraving results will be removed. Next, once the workpiece has been cleaned and is fully dry, place it back into your Trotec laser and engrave with the standard values Solid Wood "black" from JobControl®. The integrated z-offset value of +6mm is important for achieving a nicely discolored engraving result, and if the effect is too low consider increasing the z-offset value.

Relief engraving acrylic

Relief engraving on acrylic creates a high-end and elegant effect on trophies and other applications. To avoid cloudiness or producing a milky-white discoloration when relief engraving acrylic, make sure to work with the additional Air Assist switched off and with a z-offset value.

Engraving process

This data is based on the use of a Speedy360, 80 watt laser machine: Use a combination of high power (v=10%) with slow engraving speed (p=90%), and switch the Air Assist to off when engraving. In doing so, this provides the material sufficient time to melt and produces excellent texture in the first pass, depending on the performance of your Trotec laser. Using additional passes will produce an even deeper 3-dimensional effect. To preserve the transparency of the acrylic, use a z-offset value of +2mm to +4mm.

Cleaning

Once laser processing is completed, clean any dust remaining on the finished acrylic by using running water and a toothbrush.


Examples of relief engraving applications

This following video located on our YouTube channel shows a relief engraving into wood.

An application example for a relief application engraved into wood can be located here:
DIY sample Balloon Trophy

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