After seeing a video on powder-coat-filled laser engraves, I decided to try to adapt the technique for use with the studio Glowforge.

I temporarily blocked the air assist to keep it from blowing the fine powder around, which you can read more about by following the link.

The studio laser has a pretty potent external exhaust fan, which kept smoke from being an issue with the air assist restricted.

I wore a dust mask and gloves while working with the powder. I don’t think it is particularly toxic but, I’m sure I don’t need it in my lungs.

I did quite a few experiments on pre-finished 3mm maple plywood and clear acrylic. Initial results with normal initial engrave depth and, settings optimized to melt the powder coat were kind of a bubbly, uneven mess.

Initial powder coat laser engrave fill experiments on Celtic key square samples

A pretty low power level will fuse the powder coat. A little more than that completely vaporizes it.

Increasing the resolution of the fusing pass helps a little, up to a point. Higher resolution delivers more energy to the fill and, also requires adjusting the power to compensate.

Giving the material a shallower channel improved things some. I switched to using half the standard power for the initial engrave, resulting in engraves about .4mm deep. The final result still had a lot of texture.

Powder-coat-filled laser engraved test square with shallower initial engrave, no defocus.

I finally hit on defocusing the laser for the fusing pass. While there is still some texture in the completed fill, it is a lot smoother.

Powder coat laser engrave fill test square, purple in maple plywood

The general technique is:

  • Pin the material down so it won’t move
  • Do the initial engrave (at half-power for the normal material engrave)
  • Dump some powder coat over the engrave
  • Tap the powder into the engrave with a square-end paint brush
  • Scrape the excess powder level with the surface of the material using something like an aluminum business card
  • Run the engrave again with the poweder coat settings

Using masked material simplified clean up on the test pieces. The un-fused powder wipes off fairly easily or, comes off of the ply with a light sanding, though.

This produces a nice opaque saturated fill and, is available in a rainbow of colors and metallics.  It also works great on acrylic.

Settings for Glowforge

Half-depth initial engrave (~.4mm)

1000 / 15 / 340 LPI
Focus for 1/8” stock: .2”

One-minute demo video:

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