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Sub-Surface Laser Engraving or SSLE as it is being termed nowadays, is a technique “discovered” in Russia.  Originally the creation of these “dots” was a problem known as “Laser Induced Damage” and was exhaustingly studied.  At the time, the idea was to avoid these problems by selecting specific material compositions and laser optics to improve laboratory use.

In the process, a list of material compositions was created that provided good transparency with minimal heat absorption.  There was also another list which didn’t and it was somewhere in there, that laser technicians found it “cool” to write their name in these materials.

Needless to say, someone decided there might be some commercial applications for this and began writing dissertations about the controlled placement of these dots inside of the crystal.

Over the years, the science of this process has become more of an art form that balances the technical aspects of high-powered lasers and delicate balance of image design within them.

So how is it done – the somewhat technical explanation is:

“The creation of our 3D laser crystals utilize high-energy laser beams to produce a phenomena known as “Multi-photon Absorption” within optically perfect crystal. This phenomena which use the electromagnetic wave of the laser beam known as coherent light creates an electric field greater than 10 million volts per centimeter.

When the laser beam is focused within the interior of the subject crystal the energy creates unattached electrons also known as “free” electrons. These “free” electrons, accelerated by the electric field created by the laser beam causes the high energy electrons to collide with atoms and ions in the focus area.

As the process continues it causes a chain reaction and produces about 1 million trillion free electrons per cubic centimeter in about 1 trillionth of a second. The laser then emits a short pulse beam of a few billionths per second and produces a tiny micro crack. The laser head then align and position tens of thousands of additional micro cracks to create 2 or 3 dimensional images.  Each of these micro cracks is unstable if positioned in too close a proximity to one another – in effect the entire cluster of these micro cracks are held together through the internal stress of the crystal itself.

Although, the laser generates power densities of 10 billion watts per square centimeter, the surface of the crystal is not damaged due to the highly transparent nature of optically perfect crystal. The resulting images appear to float within the crystal. “

actually, we prefer the simpler explanation:

“A big sophisticated machine called a high powered laser generates an ittsy-bitsy spot of heat inside the crystal. This heat creates a teeny-weeny dot.

The machine moves across the crystal a little at a time and creates another teeny-weeny dot. Each of these teeny-weeny dots is far enough apart to not touch the other teeny-weeny dots (which wouldn’t be a good thing). The machine does this again and again to create a really really (really) lot of teeny-weeny dots.

When the machine is done, we see all the teeny-weeny dots as a complete shape floating in the crystal. We see these teeny-weeny dots as an object because of a process that takes place in our heads known as “Perception” and “Pattern Recognition”.  It is these cognitive skills which allow us the ability to visualize objects in our mind, based on a interpretation of visual patterns, their structure and symmetry but, that’s an entirely different story…”

No matter how you come to understanding of how they are produced, we feel that the results speak louder than words.