How do Etch Glow Light Displays work?

Before you try to ‘dial in’ your laser with the proper settings, it’s important to understand how our Etch Glow Light Displays work. 

For this tutorial we will be using the Firemen Logo Kit Design.

Etch Glow Light Displays consist of 3 Clear Cast Acrylic panels that sit on of 3 rows of LED lights. 

Diagram of the LED board, clear acrylic with labels pointing to components

The LED Lights are integrated into a printed circuit board and are programmable for Color, Motion, and Speed using the online customizer that is built into our website.

With NO engravings on the Acrylic panels, the light from the LED will flow freely from the bottom all the way to the edges. This is similar to the way fiber optics work through cables.

Same basic diagram as above showing components, but this iteration shows the LED colors flowing up through the clear acrylic

The color of each Acrylic panel comes from the color of the LED Lights in the row the panel is sitting on.

When the surface of the Acrylic panel is Scratched / Engraved / Etched and then set on the light board, the light will continue to the edges but also exit out though the engraved areas creating the Etch Glow Effect.

Component diagram demonstrating the lighting effect of etching or engraving a scratch on the red-lit clear acrylic layer

The Scratch will be the same color as the edges of the panel it was made on.

When the surface of all 3 acrylic panels is scratched and then set on the light board – you get the Etch Glow Effect across all 3 panels creating a 3D look. Each panel’s edges and the scratches on that panel maintain the same color as the LED lights it is sitting on. Since all the panels are CLEAR (besides the scratches) the scratches from all 3 panels are all visible from the front.

Three layers of clear acrylic shown to be scratched to create a 3D effect when lit with red, green, and blue

With lasers, precision scratches (or Designs) can be engraved in the Acrylic panels causing the light to exit only though those areas.

Engraved area of the firemen logo design's first layer, outlined and labeled

Engrave 3 Acrylic panels, stack them together with the other pieces, and insert the light board and you get an Etch Glow Light Display!

Firemen Logo engraved layer designs and final sign with lighting effect

Now that you know how the Etch Glow Light Displays work let’s discuss Laser Settings.

Engraving on the Acrylic panels is all about the depth of cut. We control the depth by using a few shades of Gray and Black in our designs. Black will engrave deeper, and the Grays will engrave progressively shallower. Most lasers will interpret the darkness of the color and adjust the engraving depth accordingly. 

This approach allows you to configure your laser once with Base Settings and then let the laser do the work.

 Relative engraving depths with design shade compared between layers of firemen logo design and an exaggerated key for engraving depths

Remember: We are just trying to Scratch the acrylic panels, not Carve them. Engraving too deep will cause too much light to escape through the engravings which will cause the light to weaken as it travels towards the top. In fact, the very lightest engraving (light gray) may be hard to see with the eye until the LED lights are applied.

Our Settings - EPILOG Helix 60 Watt Laser (1/8” Acrylic Panels)

  • Resolution = 300 DPI
  • Engraving Speed = 100%
  • Engraving Power = 35%
  • Cutting Speed = 20%
  • Cutting Power = 100%
  • Piece Size = 6 Horizontal x 8 Vertical

Most 60 Watt laser settings will be close to these. Some may vary based on machine specific items. You may want to contact your laser distributor and ask what the equivalent settings for your laser would be.