P8tch 2.0 Prototyping: Now With Frickin’ Lasers

I’m prototyping p8tch 2.0. I want these things to be like futuristic ranger badges, except by "futuristic" I mean like "original Star Wars futuristic", or "Syd Mead Alien futuristic", where stuff is actually heavy-duty and shows actual wear. That means incorporating industrial materials, leather, and hand stitching. Plus juxtaposing white plastic and leather, naturally.

Anyhow, here’s a piece of Rowmark Reverse LaserMark. It’s clear plastic, with a white backing. Mike from Hannah Manufacturing in Augusta, Maine took a design from me and cut away the white substrate using a laser table.

The result is a piece of plastic that’s smooth on the front. It’s white, except where it’s MOSTLY clear (the laser leaves a bit of a rough surface.) The plan is to paint the back, leaving a nice, contrast-y black and white design. You can see the original blank here, and then after I spray-painted the back:

P8tch 2.0 Prototyping: Reverse LaserMark P8tch 2.0 Prototype: Spray Paint on Reverse LaserMark

Here’s the view from the front after the back has been painted:

P8tch 2.0 Prototype: Backfilled Reverse LaserMark

In my mind, I had imagined a crisp contrast between pure white and de-e-e-e-p black. However, the laser leaves a rough surface, and so I get a kind of 70% gray showing through to the front, with some striation where the laser had passed back and forth.

I want to explore:

  • Maybe a slightly deeper engraving would reduce this? (update: Mike says “no”)
  • Maybe I need to apply the black paint with a brush, really grinding the paint into the irregular surface?
  • Maybe I need to buff the laser-engraved surface before painting?
  • Maybe I should explore engraving clear plastic, etching away the WHITE and leaving the black clear?
  • Maybe laser engraving isn’t really the way I want to go, and I should apply two layers matte vinyl to the back of clear plastic instead (first black, then white)?

Anyhow, it looks pretty cool already. My rough plan is to epoxy this to a die-cut piece of black saddle or patent leather, which Joe from Pisano & Son would have stitched to velcro. At that point, I’m thinking it’ll be the most Syd-Mead-y thing I own 🙂

By the way, the URL on this prototype is http://p8t.ch/zesil, which at the moment is configured to redirect to Tikaro Interactive’s main page. Using the p8tch system, I can change the redirect target on the fly. You can (ahem!) get your very own p8tch for the low, low price of clicking on this link! Plus money.

4 responses to “P8tch 2.0 Prototyping: Now With Frickin’ Lasers”

  1. uhhh, this looks interesting
    How about those old school signs made of layered plastics (black+white) and then the top layer is milled into, revealing the layer underneath – maybe that could be done with laser?


  2. Kenn, you’re thinking of “rotary engraving”, which does indeed seem to leave a darker, blacker surface underneath than laser engraving. But I *think* the problem is that rotary engraving can’t handle the resolution of a QRCode — it can’t make all those sharp little corners with a round bit. But I’m not 100% sure. Worth looking into more, that’s for sure.


  3. What about a piece of powder coated aluminium with the powder coat for everything except the QR and design removed by the laser engraver… I’m not 100% certain you can actually remove the powder coat with a laser though!


  4. That sounds really cool, Dan. Or enamel baked onto stainless steel. I’ve been looking through laboratory-supply catalogs for inspiration.


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