Awards & Engraving

January '20

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62 • A&E JANUARY 2020 FLX bits, meaning they are meant to be used on soft, flexible materials. FLX bits are among the most common types of bits used on plastics. The width of the tool tip determines how wide a line or path the tool will engrave. Common tip sizes range from .005 to .125 of an inch widths. The most common shank (shaft) sizes are 1/8-, 11/64-, and 1/4-inch diameters. The rotary engraver user manual will specify which shank size fits the spindle on your machine. Choosing the best tip width to use for the engraving job depends on the artwork design. Wider tip widths cut wider paths, which is useful for large, bold lettering where precise corners on serif fonts may not be required. The larger cut paths also help reduce production time by removing more material per tool pass. Conversely, smaller tip widths produce more precise detailed engraved lettering and graphics where small sharp edges and corners are important to produce accu- rately. (Figure 1) CRUCIAL COMPONENTS There are two components that are important to rotary engraving success. The first component is a vacuum system. The vacuum system is imperative for high- quality engraving and must adequately remove all of the chips produced during engraving. The system must be purpose- built for rotary engraving or CNC routers and must be properly attached to the nose cone of the engraver. The vacuum system should be cleaned, emptied, and checked regularly to ensure optimum performance. General pur- pose vacuums or shop-vacs are not recommended. The second important component is a solid holding system for the engraving sub- strate. High-quality engraving results are impossible to achieve if the substrate is not held down straight, level, and strong to the engraver bed. There are numerous options for this task, including purpose-built jigs, double-sided tapes, and tacky mats. Tacky mats are one of the most popular methods for securing engraving substrates because they hold a strong grip on the sub- strate, they last a long time if taken care of, and can easily be cleaned and reused over and over again. Some mats are double-sided, so they can adhere straight onto the engraving bed, and the substrate then adheres directly to the top surface of the mat. ROTARY ENGRAVING TUTORIAL To round out our introductory journey into rotary engraving, let's walk through a basic engraving job: completing a sign. Step One: Set up the engraver for the engraving job. Select the proper tool and install it into the spindle. Once the tool is installed, a process known as "zeroing" the tool must be done. Zeroing is matching the depth of the engraving tool to the surface of the nose cone. Before zeroing the tool, make sure the micrometer is set to "0" to ensure the depth settings will read accurately when adjusted. (Figure 2) Step Two: Next, set up the artwork for engraving. In most engraving software, the Fig 2 Fig 1 ALL FIGURES COURTESY CHRIS WEST Fig 3 Fig 4 Fig 5

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