Computers & Mobile
Laser-etched Powerbook!

EtchedI didn’t really plan using a $20,000 laser cutter on my 17″ Powerbook to etch a 19th-century engraving of a tarsier, a nocturnal mammal related to the lemur (also a book cover image, from O’Reilly), but it seemed like it had to be done. The results are stunning – photos and more…We visited MAKE pals Squid Labs in Emeryville, CA last night. They were recently profile in Wired as a ” design firm that does differential equations, making solar panel driveways, swarming parachutes, a SourceForge for hardware and a comic book series for kid engineers.” We’ll post the video tour we did shortly, but here’s one of the fun things we did: laser-cut a 19th-century engraving (book cover image, from O’Reilly) on to a 17″ Powerbook. The results were stunning.
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The O’Reilly books have these wonderful creatures on all the covers, and for a while, I thought they might make interesting tattoos and Second Life avatars, but since I don’t plan on getting inked, a laser cutter looked like the next best thing.

Tar
Here’s what the image looks like (low res).

Tarsier

The animal featured on the cover of Learning the vi Editor is a tarsier, a nocturnal mammal related to the lemur. Its generic name, Tarsius, is derived from the animal’s very long ankle bone, the tarsus. The tarsier is a native of the East Indies jungles from Sumatra to the Philippines and Sulawesi, where it lives in the trees, leaping from branch to branch with extreme agility and speed. A small animal, the tarsier’s body is only six inches long, followed by a ten-inch tufted tail. It is covered in soft, brown or grey silky fur, has a round face, and huge eyes. Its arms and legs are long and slender, as are its digits, which are tipped with rounded, fleshy pads to improve the tarsier’s grip on trees. Tarsiers are active only at night, hiding during the day in tangles of vines or in the tops of tall trees. They subsist mainly on insects, and, though very curious animals, tend to be loners. Edie Freedman designed the cover of this book, using a 19th-century engraving from the Dover Pictorial Archive.

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Saul from Squid Labs enters the dimensions of the PowerBook and imports the image. The laser cutter uses Corel Draw, which is kinda cute.

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We filmed the process and will post a video soon; the laser is from Epilog.

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Lining up the PowerBook.

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It took about 10 minutes and it turned out great. The metal on the PowerBook reflects light in different ways; depending on the angle, the image looks solid or reversed out.
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Etched Powerbook!

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With the flash or lighting at an angle, the little guy looks like a snowy version and glows.

104 thoughts on “Laser-etched Powerbook!

  1. That Is the Slickest thing I’ve ever seen for a power book!!!!!!
    Very nice…

    Now the bigger question is how do I get mine done, I’m a DJ and I would love to get an Image of a turntable on my 15″ powerbook!

    Any information you could provide would be greateful!!

    newkangol

  2. SquidLabs should consider getting a booth at MacWorld SF. I’m sure they’d be a hit (I’d bring in my PBs!) if the prices were reasonable.

  3. The etching looks really nice and detailed. I have access to a laser etcher/cutter here at GA-Tech and if I get brave enough, I may do something similar to my PowerBook (or a number of other products I have around…) How rough is the etched AL surface? Is it not comfortable to touch or hold in the etched area now? I would also be curious to find out later on, how much dirt and grime collects in the etched areas and how easy it is to clean. Hope to hear a follow-up on these questions! Thanks.

  4. bizarobot – the surface is not rough, you can barely tell it was etched. no far no dirt or anything, it’s so nicely etched, it appears that it came like this.

  5. Brilliant work!

    What settings did you use on the laser cutter? I have access to one and would like to try this. Specifically, what depth are you cutting?

    mcwresearch (at) gmail (dot) com

  6. There’s a company that can do something like this for you for a modest fee. I think it’s called etchamac, they do iPods and Powerbooks. Not iBooks tho, so I feel left out.

  7. I’d like to see more details on how this was done.
    According to the Epilog Laser FAQ you cannot etch metal, the laser bounces off. Unless you coat it and then it seems to weld the coating onto the metal, leaving black marks where the laser hits. Not what was done here.

  8. Oh wow. I have to have that done on my PowerBook. Wow. What would the cost be for folks walking in off the street I wonder?

  9. Oh wow. I have to have that done on my PowerBook. Wow. What would the cost be for folks walking in off the street I wonder?

  10. Very cool – I’ve had some great experience with the Versalaser in getting weird things engraved with stuff, but a PowerBook is definitely pushing it there.

    Though you’re of course now obliged to do a full-size mural on the system cover of the HT : P

  11. I can’t believe that no one has asked yet: How much will it cost to get mine done with my own picture?

    (Either that, or I can’t believe I can figure out how to see the question and answers to this question :-)

  12. I can’t believe that no one has asked yet: How much will it cost to get mine done with my own picture?

    (Either that, or I can’t believe I can’t figure out how to see the question and answers to this question :-)

  13. That is very cool. And if someone steals your laptop, well… it may be very obvious.

    Where else can we get stuff like this etched – ie: what kind of company are you working in, and where should we look.

    Thanks for the article.

  14. this looks great , i have done some work with a laser cutter (i have one in the shop i work in) and have dared to think about my 12″ PB a few times.
    Questions:
    any concern over heat so close to your screen, did you disassemble any parts?
    what depth did you go? how did it deal with the paint on the metal?

    good going!

    Rivka

  15. Great Idea. I have a bunch of scratches on mine and hadn’t even considered doing this. We have a printer at school and my friends and I use it extensively, and always seem to forget about these types of applications. Did you have any problems with the laser reflecting back into itself? We were under the impression that metal was a no-no. What speed and power setting did you use?

    Later

  16. hello i’m a “froggy” interested about laser engraving …
    I’m very impressed by your “little guy ”
    see the video soon ???

    a bientot

  17. hello i’m a “froggy” interested about laser engraving …
    I’m very impressed by your “little guy ”
    see the video soon ???

    a bientot

  18. hello i’m a “froggy” interested about laser engraving …
    I’m very impressed by your “little guy ”
    see the video soon ???

    a bientot

  19. hey thats awesome! i’m a proud powerbook owner myself and would love to know what settings you used as far as power and speed on the laser cutter so that i can do the same on my laser cutter.

  20. awesome! what were the settings you used for power and speed of the laser cutter (fematt@mit.edu)?

  21. Hi.

    What a wonderful example of the laser engraving technique! Modern technology alows to make this kind of art pieces in your everyday tools as your laptop. I write about this industrial technique at:

    Laser engraving website

    Just my 2 cents.

    Frank

  22. Hi.

    What a wonderful example of the laser engraving technique! Modern technology alows to make this kind of art pieces in your everyday tools as your laptop. I write about this industrial technique at:

    Laser engraving website

    Just my 2 cents.

    Frank

  23. For those readers out there wondering where they could access such a Laser etcher, try looking around for trophy engravers that do either a) engraving on glasses (beer or wine) or b) black or clear acrylic trophies – these are typically done using lasers. If you have the design already done up in CorelDraw, and ask them nicely, they should be able to help.

    I used to work in an engravers operating an older model ‘Summit’ machine from Epilog – very cool machine!! (http://www.trophy.co.nz/laser.htm – old workplace, showing photos of the old one at the bottom, and a new one which they’ve got since I was there which appears to be exactly the same model)

  24. Wow that is awesome! I am amazed how cool that looks. You could start your own business doing that you know. Believe it or not the engraving market is fairly large with few competition these days. I bet you can make money for the most part, instantly, with your expertise and creativity.

  25. Wow that is awesome! I am amazed how cool that looks. You could start your own business doing that you know. Believe it or not the engraving market is fairly large with few competition these days. I bet you can make money for the most part, instantly, with your expertise and creativity.

  26. Can you talk about how you prepared the artwork to get the right kind of results? (rmann AT latencyzero DOT com).

    Thanks!

  27. We can do it for you in the Portland Metro area .
    Just be able to prove it is your notebook.( must be 18 for insurance reasons too)

    We have thousands of stock clip art images, or you can bring your own art and we will make your a one-of-a-kind!
    What else you need etched?

    email for info

    mobilelaserworks@yahoo.com

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