The Atlantic has published an interesting article written by Alexis C. Madridal about a new technology that has almost revolutionized the tombstone industry in recent years: lasers.
In 1989, Vytek, a small Fitchburg, Massachusetts, company, began to sell laser systems specifically to the monument industry that could take a photograph or drawing and reproduce it on granite. The laser works almost like a printer, but instead of putting dark ink on white paper, the laser blasts away the polished surface of the granite to reveal the lighter rock underneath. Then, a worker goes over the lasered parts with a razor blade, scraping very lightly to remove any debris. The process produces a high-resolution grayscale image on the stone, a far cry from the thick line drawings that chiseling and sandblasting had allowed before. A name could have a face.
You can read a lot more about this new technology in Alexis C. Madridal's article in The Atlantic at http://goo.gl/tuDQUa.
I didn't realize it at the time, but apparently I was at the leading edge of this technology when I purchased a laser-etched tombstone for a recently-deceased family member in 1994. I hope to have something similar as my tombstone some day: