Awards & Engraving

2018 Laser Engraving Report

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Page 30 of 32

30 n LER 2018 ciated with laser processing, and no tool wear similar to what occurs when pro- cessing hard metals such as stainless steel by mechanical engraving methods. The increased etch depth makes color infilling straightforward, allowing for the reproduction of logos and insignias. Another advantage with working with real metal is the variety of materials and finishes available, ranging from mirror- finished stainless steel to aged and dis- tressed brass. Etching has many varied uses within the sign and awards industry including outdoor and indoor signage, memorial plaques, industrial nameplates, offshore and oil signage, awards, medals, custom gifts, jewelry, and much more. The quality and permanency of etched metal make it an ideal solution for a wealth of applica- tions. Chemical etching is also widely used in the production of printed circuit boards and the production of precision thin metal components for use in the electronics, automotive, and aerospace industries. DRY FILM METHOD The most common method of etching is called photochemical etching. In this process, the material is cleaned and then laminated with a UV-sensitive photoresist. A photomask is created by printing the artwork as a negative onto a clear piece of film. The photomask is placed on top of the material in an exposure unit, and a vacuum is drawn to ensure contact between the phototool and the metal plate. The plate is then exposed under UV light that allows the areas of resist that are in the clear sections of the film to be hardened. After exposure, the plate is "developed," washing away the unexposed resist and leaving the areas to be etched unprotected. Photochemical etching is a process that has stood the test of time and consistently delivers excellent results. It can reproduce extremely fine detail. However, it can require a big commitment of space and additional equipment to get started. One way around this is to use your existing equipment to handle the artwork portion of the process. LASER METHOD Using a laser to create the mask is one of the simplest and easiest ways to get into chemical etching. This process has become more refined over recent years, and it's now possible to achieve results on par with dry film, crucially matching both the level of depth and detail. The material is spray-coated with a laser engravable etch resist, which is then cured in an oven for 15 minutes at 150 F. Once dry, the material is ready to engrave. The laser removes the resist layer, exposing the bare metal underneath, to create the mask. The material is then ready to etch. This process is compatible with both CO 2 and fiber laser wavelengths, although settings will vary from system to system. This process is a good option for short- to It's often said that etching is more of an art than a science and is a great way to increase your range of products and services while utilizing the skill and equipment you already have. IMAGES COURTESY METAL PHOTO SERVICE IN WALL, PENNSYLVANIA

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