What is Subsurface Laser Engraving (SSLE)?

Subsurface laser engraving (SSLE) is a high-precision laser engraving technique used for producing three-dimensional images inside a transparent or translucent material. This advanced technology is used in various applications, including identification cards, trophies, medals, and personalized gifts, among others. In this blog, we will discuss SSLE in detail, including its working principle, applications, advantages, and limitations.

Working Principle of Subsurface Laser Engraving

Subsurface laser engraving works by using a high-intensity laser beam to focus on a specific point below the surface of a transparent or translucent material. The laser beam passes through the surface of the material and interacts with the subsurface, creating microscopic fractures or voids that form a three-dimensional image. The resulting image appears as a frosted, white or gray image when viewed from the surface of the material.

What is Subsurface Laser Engraving (SSLE)? Dig This Out

The SSLE process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Designing the image: The image to be engraved is created using specialized software, taking into account the desired depth and size of the engraving.
  2. Preparing the material: The material to be engraved must be clean and free of scratches or other blemishes that could interfere with the engraving process.
  3. Focusing the laser: The laser beam is focused on a specific point below the surface of the material, based on the desired depth and size of the engraving.
  4. Engraving the image: The laser beam is scanned across the material, creating a series of microscopic fractures or voids that form the three-dimensional image.

Applications of Subsurface Laser Engraving

Subsurface laser engraving is used in a wide range of applications, including:

  1. Identification cards: Subsurface laser engraving is used to produce high-security identification cards with embedded images and text that are nearly impossible to duplicate.
  2. Trophies and medals: SSLE is used to create three-dimensional images and text on awards and trophies, providing a unique and personalized touch.
  3. Personalized gifts: Subsurface laser engraving is used to produce personalized gifts such as keychains, jewelry, and glassware.
  4. Architectural glass: SSLE is used in architectural applications to produce decorative glass panels, signage, and artwork.

Advantages of Subsurface Laser Engraving

Subsurface laser engraving offers several advantages over traditional engraving methods:

  1. High precision: SSLE produces high-precision, three-dimensional images with crisp details and sharp edges.
  2. Durability: Engravings produced by SSLE are highly durable and resistant to wear, scratches, and fading.
  3. Flexibility: SSLE can be used to engrave a wide range of materials, including glass, acrylic, and crystal.
  4. High-security: Subsurface laser engraving is used in the production of high-security identification cards, passports, and other secure documents.

Limitations of Subsurface Laser Engraving

While SSLE offers many advantages, there are some limitations to consider:

  1. Cost: Subsurface laser engraving equipment can be expensive, making it less accessible for smaller businesses and individuals.
  2. Time-consuming: The SSLE process can be time-consuming, particularly for large or complex engravings.
  3. Limited materials: Subsurface laser engraving can only be used on transparent or translucent materials, limiting its application to certain materials.

Case Studies of Subsurface Laser Engraving

Subsurface laser engraving is widely used in the production of high-security identification cards, including passports, driver’s licenses, and access cards. For example, in 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) introduced a new passport with a unique design that included an engraved image of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Which laser machine can do Subsurface Laser Engraving?

Subsurface Laser Engraving is a specialized technique that uses a laser to create 3D images or text inside transparent materials such as crystal, glass, or acrylic. There are various types of laser machines that can be used for subsurface laser engraving, but the most common ones are fiber laser engravers and CO2 laser engravers.

Before buying a subsurface laser engraving machine, here are a few things to consider:

  • Laser power: The laser power determines the depth of the engraving and the speed at which it can be done. Higher laser power is required for thicker materials and faster engraving.
  • Laser wavelength: The wavelength of the laser determines the material it can engrave. For subsurface engraving, the laser must have a wavelength that can pass through the material without damaging it.
  • Engraving area: The size of the engraving area determines the size of the object that can be engraved.
  • Accuracy and precision: The accuracy and precision of the laser machine determine the quality of the engraving. Look for machines with high accuracy and precision for better results.
  • Software compatibility: The machine should be compatible with the software you plan to use for designing and controlling the engraving process.
  • Maintenance and support: Consider the maintenance requirements and the availability of technical support for the machine.
  • Cost: The cost of the machine is an important consideration, but it should not be the only factor. Look for machines that offer good value for money based on the features and capabilities they offer.

Overall, it is important to carefully research and compare different laser engraving machines before making a purchase, taking into account your specific needs and requirements for subsurface engraving.

Can CO2 laser engravers do SSLE?

Yes, CO2 laser engravers can be used for subsurface laser engraving, also known as “3D laser engraving” or “crystal engraving”. Subsurface laser engraving involves using a laser to etch a 3D design inside a transparent material, such as crystal or glass.

CO2 laser engravers are commonly used for this application due to their ability to produce high-quality, precise engraving results. However, the laser settings and techniques used for subsurface laser engraving may differ from those used for surface engraving.

To achieve a subsurface laser engraving, a laser beam is focused below the surface of the material, creating tiny fractures or air pockets that form the 3D design. The laser is then moved along the surface of the material, repeating the process at different depths to create the final 3D image.

Overall, CO2 laser engravers are a versatile tool that can be used for a variety of engraving applications, including subsurface laser engraving.


In the conclusion, we summarized the key points discussed in the post and emphasized the importance of Subsurface Laser Engraving as a high-precision, durable, and flexible engraving technique with various applications. We also encouraged readers to explore the possibilities of SSLE in their respective fields.

Ethan Robert
Ethan Robert

Hi, I'm Ethan.

After graduating from the University of North Dakota, I started knowing the CNC and that becomes my passion.

Earlier, I had fascination of 3d printers, Laser cutters and other CNC machines. Later on, I started analyzing those machine and started blogging on my known things by a different way.

I aim to assist you with the insights of 3d printer, laser engravers and computer printers with the help that you save your money and take the right decision before you purchase any machine.

Articles: 99

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.