After a great deal of deliberation and numerous sketches and ideas, I finally threw down the cash and got my MacBook Pro etched this week.
Phillip Torrone (Of Make: Magazine fame) and Limor Fried (ladyada, electronics guru) do laser etching in NYC as Adafruit Industries, which was local to me. Since Phillip was the first person I'd heard of ever doing this, it was good to be able to go to someone with a lot of experience. There's a big difference between putting a $200 ipod under a laser and a $2000 MBP, at least in my mind.
One of the Make: Blog articles about the process is here.
I knew from the start that I wanted to make my own artwork for it, which required me learning at least the basics of Illustrator. In just a few nights I'd worked up 3 or 4 concepts and printed a few out and started holding them up to the laptop in different sizes and orientations. Adafruit is by appointment only and requires that you submit the artwork well in advance to eliminate any issues with the files before you get to their location. I sent mine in and after only minor tweaking I had my date and time scheduled.
My friend Rich, another Make reader, came into NYC with me for the trip.
The setup process isn't very complicated; the 'kinks' of the process were all worked out a while back. Phil and Limor explained the who procedure start to finish before beginning, just so that I understood how it'd work.
After alignment, the laptop is 'etched' once with a sheet of paper taped to it -- and a 'burned' image is left on the paper to illustrate the size and location of the graphic. Once this is located in a spot that you like the paper is removed, the power is turned up, and it's time to let it rip!
The actual metal etching part probably took.... 7 minutes? It's fascinating to watch as the laser head zips back and forth and you see the design forming just a tiny bit at time.
Both Phillip and myself took pictures of the process and the 'before' and 'after' stages.
The whole process was great and Phillip and Limor were both very helpful and fun to chat with. I'm already making plans to head back with my ipod and planning the artwork for a different project.