Carbon dioxide lasers help to set in stone an ancient tradition

July 9, 2021
CKLASER approached Luxinar in 2012 about mani stone engraving, as they were aware of the many benefits of carbon dioxide laser sources compared with mechanical processing.

Stone engraving is one of the more unusual applications for Luxinar’s SCX and SR sealed carbon dioxide (CO2) laser sources. So, what are Tibetan mani stones and how are lasers helping to maintain, and even improve, the process of stone carving?

Mani stone carving refers to pebbles, stones, and slabs that are engraved with Buddhist mantras, sutras, Buddha images, or symbols. Carvings of different shapes are found in various locations throughout Tibet, particularly in the Yushu area where Buddhist culture is highly developed; they are often piled high to form mani stone mounds or walls. Tibetan Buddhist faith groups have used them as a spiritual stone for sacrifices and blessings for over a thousand years, also as a place of worship, to mourn the dead, and even as road signs. According to Tibetan traditions, stone is the only material on earth that does not rot, rust, or erode and, once the stones are engraved, their significance will remain with nature forever and bring happiness and protection to all living beings.

Mani stone carvings use local stone, mostly bluestone and jade, as these are widely available as well as soft and easy to dig and carve. Economic development, inheritance of religious beliefs, and the promotion of tourism have led to a growth in demand for mani stone carving by both local believers and external markets. This has in turn promoted the evolution of stone carving tools. Traditional carving tools are a combination of chisel and hand hammer. It’s a time-consuming method with a low level of production efficiency. Since 2008, mechanical toolssuch as small electric drills and grindershave been used. These have improved the speed of carving.

In 2012, several mani stone carving companies started to use laser engraving systems. Compared with the slow rhythm and low production rate of manual carving, laser processing is fast, efficient, and flexible; it is also well suited to large-scale production. The laser engraving process is simple: convert the format of the digital symbol or text, send them to the operating system of the laser, set the speed and power, and then the laser system starts to work. Compared with hand or mechanical carving, the benefits of laser engraving are numerous, including no tool wear due to contactless process; no need to pre-line or outline the slabs; precise designs and complicated patterns are possible; consistent and high-quality results are guaranteed for high-volume production requests; and it is suitable for different kinds of stones with different thicknesses or shapes.

CKLASER (Guangzhou, Guangdong, China) approached Luxinar in 2012 about this unusual stone engraving application, as they were aware of the many benefits of CO2 laser sources compared with mechanical processing. Baldwin Ding, Managing Director of Luxinar’s China office, says, “Initial demand was for our SR 25i and SCX 35 sealed CO2 lasers, but now we are also receiving requests for our higher power OEM 45iX laser source.”

Laser engraving has not only allowed Tibetan mani stone carvers to carry on an important tradition, it is also introducing new possibilities to this ancient art.

Source: Luxinar

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