Before you invest in equipment, check your housing development HOA /CCR's to see if your not violating any rules. Some don't allow you to run home based businesses out of your home.
If your going to etch glassware with names, images, and photos you should consider a photomask by Ikonics ( old Chromaline I think) or stencils by Raysist. I was using a liquid photo emulsion by Chromaline in the 80's to do large windows but it had its limitations. Since then they have come out with a photomask.
A Photo mask is daylight sensitive film (mask), so use it in red light conditions. Basically, you create a b/w transparency for artwork. Use camera-ready artwork to create a transparency or print a transparency with a laser printer. Inkjet printers don't create a dense black image suitable for transparency.
The image is transfer to the mask by means of exposing the transparency to a UV light source. Everywhere there is black, will be blocked when exposed to the UV light. Different thickness Photomasks have different exposure time, different blast depths.
Next, you washout the image (Under pressure) exposing your design and creating your sandblast resist. Where there was black does not harden under UV light; hence, it washes out of the mask. You let it dry then apply to glass via carrier sheet provided with mask. Blast it under low pressure to desired depth using 180 silicone carbide grit. (If you blast with to high pressure, you will begin to loose detail in the mask edges like small fonts and could blast the mask away ruining your glass item. Mask will develope blackish color on mask if you blast concentrate the blast in one area to long. After blasting, The photomask is removed by soaking in warm water. Don't let mask go down drain, clogged pipes after a while.
That's a rough description of the process but that's it in a nutshell. Experience with the mask is the best teacher. look online at www.Ikonics.com they offers classes and more info too. You can blast people's business card, logos, Names on wedding toasting glasses, tiles, trophies, mirrors or even a b/w photograph in dpi format for the more advanced user. Lots of uses for different substrates.
There's the good olde sandblast mask you can use to do flat glass panels, wall mirrors, glass signs. It comes in various thicknesses, depending on how deep you want to blast. The one I used years ago was like a rubberized vinyl. You apply this to the glass, draw directly on it with a pencil, pen or transfer the design by burnishing from a pencil drawing onto it. Easy to cut with X-acto knife and I used this for multi-stage blastIng. Or you can simply buy a vinyl cutter from USCutter designed to cut sandblast mask, do your design work, and cut as many as you want! ( I wish!)
Your very limited using an air eraser. I used it for subtle shading on glass. I forget what grit size I used, maybe a 400-600 grit (white) aluminum oxide. Very low, low pressure. It was almost a baby powder consistency. It frosts the surface. Very soft effect to the air eraser.
There is a solution called Armour Etch that does a surface etch on glass. But I wouldn't recommend using it. You don't get any depth on the glass like sandblasting achieves.
You can use regular contact paper to hand-cut your designs. I've been experimenting with printing images right onto the contact paper. You tape the contact paper to a carrier sheet (on all sides to prevent it jamming in printer) before printing. A heavy paper stock or thin card stock is good. Print then before releasing from card stock, cut the image out. Apply transfer tape to hold everything together, then transfering to glass just as you would transfer vinyl. (Note: on a scrape piece of glass, I suggest you experiment with depth of blast until contact paper either looses its edge or shows signs of deteriorating. The contact paper will turn blackish from the silicon carbide grit hitting the surface, in areas where you concentrate the blast. This tells you it's time to move to another area or the mask is deteriorating. This method works on flat glass, not to well on curved surfaces or for small details. Sometimes I would apply two layers of contact paper for deeper blasts. Poor man's way to achieve what a cutter could do! It's a time consuming method but cheap. Good for starter.
ALWAYS WEAR A RESPIRATOR TO PROTECT YOUR LUNGS! The dust is nasty. Read safety instructions for sandblasting.
I could go on forever, but I won't. Lol There's lots of videos on YouTube about both these methods. Look under photo etching on glass, glass etching, Raysist, photo engraved glass, sandblast cabinets for equipment info, etc. Recently saw an outstanding site that blew my mind. Karenbarnardstudio.com. Check it out, you'll be amazed. Good luck.
I'd be interested in hearing about cutting on USCutters SB mask for flat glass. Can you transfer designs easily, if you don't have a vinyl cutter, by burnishing pencil into mask or do you have to draw on mask? The mask I used was called buttercut. Can't remember who makes it? This is a close up of the detail u can achieve with a photomask. I've had it around forever, so the etch has oil on it, giving it a smudged appearance. Guess I should have cleaned it better. Oops.