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Metal Engraving Machines Provide Lasting, Attractive Engraving


Metal engraving machine technology has come a long way, thanks to recent innovations by Gravograph. With computerized engraving machines and additives like CERDEC – a chemical that when applied to uncoated metal using a CO2 laser engraver, creates a permanent black mark – you can engrave tough materials such as Stainless Steel and other metals. Your engraving now lasts longer even while adding unique visual appeal to your metal pieces. Below we have detailed a few types of metal engravings.


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CERDEC Marking on Stainless Steel Scissors

CERDEC and other additives make it possible to generate contrasting marks on many carbon based metals. The photo below shows a semi-polished, stainless steel scissors blade that has been marked using the CERDEC additive.

Click for larger view

This part was sprayed with the chemical, allowed to dry and then lasered using a 40 watt unit. The power setting was approximately 20 watts and the speed was 10"/sec. Various tests showed that DPI settings of either 400 or 500 helped create the smooth image shown. It appears that raster marking is the preferred method of processing with CERDEC, though on finer images vector marking may have advantages.

The keys to processing successfully is a smooth consistent application of the chemical, and a DPI setting that overlaps the pulses of the laser, such that a cleaner line is developed. When completed, the excess chemical is easily removed by water and a soft cloth.

CERDEC Marking on Chromed Steel Wrenches

Tool and knife blade personalization has become more prevalent in recent years. The laser, with the help of CERDEC, is an ideal tool for this process. The photo below shows chrome plated wrenches that have been personalized.


The reflective nature of chrome requires that the part be processed using at least 40 watts and at speeds not much more than about 12"/sec. DPI settings in the 300 to 400 range seem to aid in the final appearance of the mark. Note: These setting are for reasonably fast, raster mode marking (7 to 10 seconds). If cycle time is not an issue, less power and slower speeds can produce the same marking.

The mark is very permanent and testing has proven that it will hold up to acid baths, abrasive environments, and heavy impact. However, it is important to keep in mind that chrome scratches fairly easily. When cleaning the excess CERDEC material off the lasered part, use a soft cloth not an abrasive pad.

CERDEC Marking on Stainless Steel Charms

The jewelry below is commonly referred to as an "Italian Charm". Typically, they become a bracelet. Personalization of these charm bracelets has become a mainstay in the jewelry business recently. Many shops offer the service as part of their business.

Click for larger view. The size of the charms are hard to discern but the text heights shown are .030" high!

The individual charms are very small, and the clarity of the marking becomes an issue. After some experiments, it has been determined that the new 1.5" focal length lens is ideal for processing these parts. The small beam diameter (about .0045") allows for very detailed marking in the small area. The parts shown were processed in raster mode at about 20 watts. The speed was 23" per/sec and the DPI setting was 400 and 500.

The contrasting mark was again achieved by applying the CERDEC chemical to the surface of the part, processing with the above parameters and cleaning with water and a soft cloth.

The addition of the 1.5" lens was the key to this process.

How to Mark Painted Brass

Lasing painted brass with the laser is a very forgiving process. Basically processing a fairly low power (25 watts to 35 watt) at high speeds 50" to 60" per/sec produces a very attractive result. A dpi setting of 400 seems to help create quality images.

The material lends itself better to graphics and text, rather than photographs, but you can achieve some level of grey scale also. When the painted brass is lasered, there is no significant residue left over, and the brass can be polished without removing the paint. Given the large variety of patterns and colors available, this material is very attractive to the customer.

Note: To protect the image, it is suggested that a clear coat be applied after lasering. This helps minimize scratches on the paint of the brass.

Engraving On Stainless Steel

Rotary engraving in stainless is an extremely difficult application. However, because stainless is durable, requires little maintenance, is heat resistant and inert, it is a frequently specified engraving medium for industrial panels and parts applications.

One aspect of stainless that engravers need to understand is that there are numerous grades of which only a few are recommended for engraving. Good quality stainless for engraving should possess the following qualities:

  1. Less than .15% of carbon content.
  2. The addition of manganese, chromium and sulfur alloys are preferred.
  3. Recommended standard stainless grades for engraving, in priority order are: 416, 430F, 303, 420F, 430, 304 and 420.

For best results in engraving these grades of stainless, the engraver should take into consideration the following:

  1. Use an industrial computerized engraving machine such as the Gravograph IS6000 with a collet spindle or better yet, the XP with the standard collet spindle.
  2. Traditionally, high-speed steel cutters are preferred over carbide, because carbide cutters have a tendency to "fracture". However, the newer "micro-grain" carbide cutters are much less prone to fracture than the older type of carbides.
  3. Quarter round cutters are preferred over traditional half round cutters. Tip sizes in the .020-.040 range. Cutting angles should be in the 40-45 degree range. Thus, wider cutting angles are preferred.
  4. A "coolant" such as Engravolube (part # 32819) or a light oil (such as 3 in 1) is advised to help minimize heat buildup and friction when applied on the steel being engraved.
  5. Engraving in multiple passes, .004 at a time is suggested. To paint-fill stainless, you should reach a depth of .010" - .012".
  6. Cutting speeds are relative, but as a rule of thumb, the wider tip size used, the slower R.P.M. used. For example:
    - .020 tip size should be engraved at 20,000-30,000 R.P.M.
    - .030 tip size should be engraved at 12,000-20,000 R.P.M.
    - .040 tip size should be engraved at 8,000-12,000 R.P.M.
  7. "Down feed" or "dwell time" should be very slow. This will allow the cutter to gradually penetrate the stainless.

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