Traditional and computerised engraving methods

Engraving Methods

A number of different engraving methods can be used to mark different materials and achieve different finishes. We have a number of engravers to achieve good results across a range of materials. Some materials and objects are harder to engrave than others, one of our team can help you decide which will be best suited for your application.

Router engraving

This method uses a spinning cutter to physically cut into the surface of the material. It can achieve the deepest engraving into the surface and is suitable for almost all materials. Most commonly it is used to engrave metals.

The finish achieved is dependent on the material itself. On coated or plated metals the engraver will remove the top coating leaving whatever is exposed underneath. On solid metals the engraving will come through the same colour, so sometimes paint fills are used to create more contrast.

The process involves first securing the item to be engraved in the machine. For oddly shaped items this can be be difficult and some shapes cannot be engraved, as the engraving cutter cannot follow the shape of the surface. Next the design is setup in a program and the cutting parameters are set. Being a digital process a large range of fonts can be used as well as simple images such as logos. Next the artwork is sent to the engraver to mark the material, followed by clean up and any filling processes.

It is generally the slowest method of engraving as moving the cutter too fast through the material will result in an undesirable finish. Engraving is not a reversible process so things must be setup correctly. Sometimes a test piece is required to ensure a desired outcome. On coated or plated materials there is a danger that after engraving the rest of the plating begins to peel away. This is not something that can be determined beforehand as it depends on the quality and processes used by the manufacturer, again a text piece is always best especially for expensive items.

Brass engraving

Laser engraving

The laser engraver uses a concentrated beam of light to vaporise the surface of the material. It is suitable for marking wood, glass, acrylic, leather, granite, stone and some metals.

On wood the engraving comes out differently depending on the type of wood. Some will go a darker burnt colour while others will be a light brown. On glass thousands of tiny shatters marks are created which leaves a frosted white look. Acrylic and stone also engraves in a white colour.

The laser engraver works off digital outputs so artwork is created in design software. Any fonts and logos can be used. The resolution achievable is higher than router engraving so images can be used. As engraving only comes out in one colour some adjustments must be made to images before engraving.

Laser engraving

Diamond drag engraving

This method is similar to the router method but instead of the rotating cutter it uses a diamond tip which is dragged against the surface of the material leaving an engraved mark. It can be used to mark most materials, but generally is used on metals such as cups.

The process can be done manually using stencil lettering or on a computer controlled engraver. As the diamond tip is very narrow only a thin line is, achieved. Cross hatch or fill patterns can be used on larger fonts or logos.

Engraved hammer

Colour engraving

If a material can be engraved deep enough then colour can be applied by filling it in with paint. This is a slow process due to the application and clean up required. With deep engraving resolution is not very high, so detailed or small text and logos aren’t suitable with this method.

Other options for colour are pad printing, screen printing and direct to substrate printing. They all involve applying an ink to the surface of the material. The first two processes involve considerable setup, so are best used for large runs. Direct to substrate printing can be done on smaller quantities.

Colour printing is not as permanent as engraving but can achieve great looking results. As long as it is not scratched with sharp edges it will stand the test of time. Keeping printed items out of direct sunlight will reduce fading which is a result of UV light degrading the ink.

Red plaque