Laser Etching Painted Plastic


Yes, I tried vector at the lowest power and highest speed but it was even worse. However, I didn’t see any “vector current” settings. I’ll look for that setting and give “vector” another try at 100% speed, 1% power AND 1% vector current.



I believe vector current is on a slider below the controls for the individual layers.


Try using the coarse focus lens. The energy will be spread over a larger area. Based on the focal length of the lenses, the power density (watts/mm^2) should be about 2.8 x lower. The spot diameter with the coarse lens still should be small enough to give you good results.


Tried playing with the Vector Current setting this time. That worked way better. I still need to fine tune things a bit. It appears that I “do” need more layers of White paint and then use Raster only for the lettering. I also set the DPI down to 250 and that seemed to work better. I used Vector Current (which does appear to affect Raster even though it says “Vector Current”) of 12% [±2.5%], Speed 100% and Power at 1% [±2.0%] for the Raster and that did a pretty good job on the Characters. The scale marks didn’t look as good. I think I’ll etch those using Vector as when I tried Vector, they came out much nicer but the Characters were only Etched around the Edges and didn’t expose the White underneath completely in the center.

I may also try the Coarse (Rough???) Lens. (I think it is marked “Rough” not “Coarse” but I suspect it is what you meant.) I may be able to use that Lens and Vector as I suspect the larger spot diameter will also allow me to use Vector on the Characters and have them come out all White.

2 Steps Forward, 1 Step Back. (Getting there.) I’ll also be contacting my Professional contacts and see if they will tell me what Laser they use and what technique.


I’ve always wanted a pit for falcon bms…


Glad the vector settings help. It sounds like you need a “single line” font and then you can vector your characters. Most fonts are outlines around an area, as I’m sure you can see from your tests.


You cOuld try using a light tack paper mask over the entire dial and etch through paper and paint. Then paint the whole thing white using the paper as the mask. Ive done wood this way.


Yes, if all else fails, I’m going to try the mask approach.

I’m now waiting on the arrival of the correct thickness (1/16") plastic and then I’ll paint a sheet up with a lot thicker White paint layer and try again. Hope to also discuss how the Pro’s do this with their Laser on Wednesday. That may provide even more useful tips.


Have you looked into using “dual layer” acrylic? This is specifically made for etching, where the second layer (a different color than the main layer) is very thin and can be etched away on the FSL using raster mode at 2.5% power. One such example is:


Thanks for the suggestion Eric, but the finished thickness needs to be 1/16" with a clear back to transmit light from a back-light system. What you suggested looks great for signs or badges but it won’t meet the needs.

The heavier White paint layers + tweaked Laser power and Vector Current looks like it will do the trick. My 1/16" plastic sheets will be arriving in a day or so and I’ll give them several really heavy coats of White before the top layer of Black paint.


Talked to the Pros today. They said about 4 heavy coats of White (I like the Krylon 2X primer as it covers better), followed by 2 Coats of Clear Flat Matte (helps avoid burn through and bleeding), followed by 2 Coats of Black (Krylon Flat Black in my case.)

Then use Raster mode for lettering at 50-100% Speed and “fiddle” with the power at low settings. (Their Laser is a different model so they couldn’t give me FSL specific settings.) As for DPI, they tend to go as high as possible. Next, use Vector mode for the Scale tick marks at “low power”.

Bottom line is that even with all of the above, the Pro’s have to fiddle a bit to get things set just right to get good results.

My 1/16" plastic should come tonight and I can get started with all the painting.


Please make sure your paint is completely dry before rastering while doing your testing


EUREKA!!! Success!

I was finally able to hit on the right combination of paint, Raster DPI/Speed/Power to Etch the lettering into my F16 dial faces. Here’s what I did.


  • 6 - Coats Rustoleum 2x White Primer
  • 2 - Coats Rustoleum Flat White
  • 2 - Coats Krylon Clear Matte
  • 2 - Coats Rustoleum Flat Black

Note: You’ll want to make sure you have really thick coats on all but the Flat Black.

Printing to FS Laser Driver

  • Set the Raster DPI to 1000 DPI (that’s not the exact value but select the highest DPI)
  • Then print your artwork to the FS Laser Printer Driver

Raster Etching

  • Reset Raster DPI to 500 (or the middle value close to 500. 529?)
  • Set Raster Power to 0.1%
  • Set Raster Speed to 100%
  • Set Contrast slider (I forget the name but it’s under Raster Speed) as high as you can without going to black screen.

Vector Cutting

  • Make sure the inner cuts are in one color and outer cuts in another so you can do the inner cuts first.
  • For this thin plastic, I used Speed = 100%, Power=50%, Passes=2, Vector Current = 100%

The only problem I still have is that there is a white residue that is left on the dial. I am able to wipe most of it off as you can see but you can still see just a hint of it at the lower right corner of the rectangular hole. I’m wondering if I can set the Raster Power below .1% and still get the laser to fire.

Of course now that I have it figured out, the FS Laser is going away and I’ll have to figure out Raster etching in the new laser. I’ve downloaded the manual and I’m trying to figure it out in advanced. If we can’t do Raster on the new machine, then we need to keep the FS Laser. Or for these small Etch jobs, that new small unit will work. However, I know nothing about it.




As a pilot, I can safely say you’ve nailed the “steam gauge” look dead on. :slight_smile:


The new machine can raster much faster and at higher dpi. You’ll just have to tweak your settings a ton because the new machine has almost twice the power in the tube.


This could also probably be done on the Zing, with only 30 watts and high speed raster, you can probably fine tune the power more precisely.


How many watts is the new laser?


130watt tube. Fsl was 120 but had mostly been running at 80 since you started the project


You might be able to lightly wet sand and remove the residue.


I spoke with the “Pros” today and found out that they use the 30W Universal VLS3.60 laser to do similar engraving. They also said to use a bit of 409 to clean off the white smoke residue.

As for the new 130W laser, I’m thinking that I probably won’t be able to dial down the power precisely enough to get good results. I’m just barely able to get the FSL which is running about 80W low enough using 0.01% Raster power. Once you get below a certain percentage power value the laser just wont fire. Given the Pros use a 30W laser, I think you are right that the 30W Zing is what I need to use. I’m also thinking that I can get the power down much lower with the Zing and maybe that will help with the white smoke residue. It might also allow me to use less coats of White Paint undercoat to achieve the same results.

I found the Zing 16/24 User Manual online. Can someone tell me which model we have; the Zing-16 or the Zing-24? I’m thinking it is the 24 from the pictures online and what I remember seeing of the Zing at DMS.

I also just finished reading the User Guide of that VLS3.60 30W laser. It seems to have a lot more settings that can be manipulated to get the results you want. However, I’ll bet they cost way more than what we would want to spend.

Next stop . . . try out the Zing.