Written by Anthony “Ajay” Bean – Graphic Designer
Laser Etched images are a great choice when it comes to the inscription of your memorial. They are a modern and innovative way to customise and personalise our range of memorial goods, including our plaques, headstones, and full monuments. Laser etching is a fairly new technology, having only been around for a few decades. Being something new and rather revolutionary to the memorial industry, there’s a lot of misinformation and hearsay going around about just what Laser Etching is, and how long it lasts. This short article will give you the facts about this exciting new memorialisation technology from both an Engineering and Design perspective.
What is Laser Etching?
Laser Etching is simply put, an imaging process where we use a powerful laser to etch into the top layer of a piece of rock to engrave images and text in to it. It essentially allows for photographic images to be directly fired into the stone, creating a durable and long-lasting finish that is more than just a carved date and a dot in stone.
Laser stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. In other words, light is amplified by passing it through a “Gain Medium”, which consists of a crystal or glass of some sort. This focuses the beam into a single colour of light, and amplifies its power. The upshot of which is that the light from our laser machine hits the stone with enough focus and force to punch miniature “Bullet holes” into the stone, thus creating your etching.
A simple way of looking at the process is like this, When you pass light through a magnifying glass, it can often be hot enough to burn the skin. This is because the glass intensifies and focuses the light into a small spot. Our laser takes an already powerful and focused laser beam and passes it through lenses to intensify and focus the light to a point where it can punch into Granite.
What stones can you laser etch?
One of our Signature Granite Inlaid Stainless Steel Headstones
Our laser is capable of producing photographic quality images into Premium Black Granite, White Carrara Marble and Black marble. Black stones will show up with the etching in white, whilst the white marble will be filled with a metal infused black sealant.
The laser is powerful enough to punch into Corrundum, Quartz and Feldspar, three of the hardest minerals that occur naturally in the earth, All three of which naturally occur in Granites. This is why we say that our etchings have a 500 year life expectancy, due to the fact that it takes 500 years for wind to naturally erode the a granite rock to the depth where laser-etchings can no longer be seen.
Granite is made from the slow cooling of Magma (molten rock) beneath the earth’s surface. When rock cools slowly, the slow drop in temperature means that the rock does not “Clump” or “Cluster” as quickly. Granites which are weaker and which come from cooler areas of the earth have larger, more defined grains. Our Premium Black Granite comes from the western inland regions of China, a land known for its mountainous terrain, and regarded as one of the best black granites on the market.
One of our gorgeous laser-etched headstones.
How good is your stone?
Forever Shining prides itself mostly upon the idea of engineering durability. We do all we can to ensure that our monuments stack up to the test of time, and ensure that every memorial is built to the highest standards. When we say that we sell you a premium black stone, we ensure that this stone is of the highest quality. After all, people choose us because of our care, attention to detail and most of all, our respect for engineering excellence.
We recommend using a premium black granite because it offers the greatest level of durability and image quality when it comes to producing images with the laser. Whilst we can laser-etch into White or Black marbles with a fairly consistent grain (Fine Grain White or black marble is our marble of choice), Marble’s composition contains a lot more calcium and carbonate minerals, which result in a stone that is less resistant to things such as sand erosion, acid rain and physical abuse. As for our black granite, we can ensure you that it is not dyed, or tinted in any way, unlike the granite from many other suppliers.
There’s a saying that our leading Engineer, Albert has. “If you go into a car dealer, looking for a Lamborghini, you expect to buy a Lamborghini, not a Toyota disguised as a Lamborghini.” When you buy a Black Granite memorial from us, you will get exactly what you request. The purest, finest granite that money can buy.
How long has Laser Etching been around?
Laser Etching technology was developed by engineers in the United States in the late 1980s. Back in the days when Photoshop was in its infancy, and back when computerisation was just beginning to enter high-tech markets. With the advent of these laser machines, the laser etching market in the United States exploded, with younger and more innovative memorial outlets and designers taking on the technology, leaving their older, less computer-centric competitors in the dust.
From its Inception, Forever Shining has prioritised the use of laser-etching technology due to the greater level of detail it offers when compared to carved engravings, with similar if not better durability. We always try to stay at the cutting-edge of imaging and memorial technology. For instance, with the rise of Cremations, we’ve combined our Stainless Steel expertise with our laser-etching technology to improve upon the construction of urns. This resulted in our Granite Inlaid Laser-Etched Urn. Our urns can be used both indoors and outdoors as a result, making them perfect for garden memorials or for mantelpieces.
How durable is laser etching?
Simpy put, laser-etching is as durable as the stone itself. Since it cuts directly into the top layer of the stone, The etching is as durable as the stone’s outermost layer is. Considering we choose to use fine-grade stones for our etchings, we can ensure the stones we choose to use are resistant to wind erosion, the biggest enemy of any headstone. The advantage of Laser-etching when compared to sandblast or carved engravings, is that it does not require a professional to repair the engravings if the paint used in the engraving fades. For instance, if you need to enhance the clarity of a laser-etched image, all it takes is for you to buff some white epoxy enamel paint (…or black for white marble etchings) into the image using a cotton cloth. It’s also easier to clean too, requiring the use of a bathroom cleaner such as EasyOff Bam, or a similar granite cleaning product.
With proper care your laser etched memorial will continue to Shine Forever.
Forever Shining has one of the highest resolution laser engravers on the market at its disposal.
How detailed are your laser etchings?
We in the world of printing, engraving and graphics refer to the amount of detail that is packed into an image as its “Resolution”, and we measure this in Dots Per Inch (DPI for short). The higher the DPI number, the more detailed your images are. For example, if you’re on a desktop computer or laptop, your screen uses a resolution of 72dpi. Our laser engraver works at a maximum of 200dpi, around 3 times the resolution of an average computer screen, and around the same resolution that most high-quality cameras and scanners can put out. If we are presented with an uncompressed image that comes straight off a digital camera, or a decent smartphone (Say, an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy), we can get some rather stunning results out of your photographs.
But if you specifically want an older photo to be used, Forever Shining also employs a team of Graphic Artists who specialise in working with photographs that are old and outdated. We can attempt to restore photographs in order to get them to a point where they can be laser etched. We do prefer to work with newer or better looking photographs, but if this photo is what you want to be engraved onto your stone, we will advise you of what we can do with the image.
If you’d like to learn more about how our laser etching can give you the creative power to make your loved one’s memorial truly special, or if you wish to use our laser-etching technology for a purpose that is different from the norm, don’t hesitate to let us know.