Lasers and virtual reality to revolutionize watch-crystal engraving

EPFL engineers teamed up with a luxury watchmaker to develop an innovative system that uses lasers to create 3D sculptures within sapphire watch crystals.
Can crafts as old as watch-crystal engraving still be modernized, especially at traditional watchmakers? That’s the challenge engineers at EPFL’s School of Engineering Galatea Laboratory decided to tackle. They wondered how they could bring the craft into the 21st century, enabling artisans to use lasers – rather than engravers, scissors or cutters – to sculpt watch crystals. Lasers can draw fine lines within the very core of a crystal, but they have to be guided using a virtual reality headset.

The engineers at Galatea, located at Microcity in Neuchâtel, worked with this luxury watchmaker for two years to develop a high-tech approach to the age-old craft. “We wanted to use new technology to broaden the range of possibilities that craftsmen can explore, without losing their traditional know-how or the finesse of their movements,” says Prof. Yves Bellouard, who holds the Richemont chair at EPFL and heads the Galatea Lab.

Source : News EPFL

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