The fun part comes in with the creation of the Gray Scale images for the laser to use for low relief "carving. I've been playing with PhotoShop 5.5 on my old Mac G3 and Elements 6 on my newer Mac Mini. Create an oval selection, fill it with a gray scale blend then start trying FILTERS and tweeking SHARPNESS and BRIGHTNESS/CONTRAST. When you come up with something that looks interesting save it to the hard drive as a JPEG file and start another one. PhotoShop has an"Artistic" filter that has a POSTERIZE function which converts a gray scale blend into bands of individual "steps" of gray. Use DISTORT with it's POLAR COORDINATES and you produce a wrap around effect that's interesting. Here's an example of one path to an image.
And here are some other examples of other GrayScale patterns created with PhotoShop using different GRADIENT tool options anddifferent FILTERS.
Here are some close ups of samples of low relief gray scale laser "carving" As you can see, redwood was probably not the best wood to use for the test, the the harder grain pattern is interesting - though a little distracting. The image of the wood samples are right out of the laser, without any clean up.
This low relief laser "carving" is interesting - and has LOTS of possibilities.