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Engraving Nameplates

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Andy Carlson31/10/2020 16:55:40
311 forum posts
124 photos

My wife asked me this afternoon if I can engrave some name tags - nothing too big, the sort of size you'd put on a key ring.

Once I have the 'Z' axis stepper mount finished for my Proxxon MF70 then I think the answer ought to be 'yes' (X and Y are already done).

I've been looking around the Interweb for the raw material - the coloured multi-layer plastic stuff that you mill through to reveal the white layer. Maybe I'm not searching for the right words because I have not turned much up... doesn't seem like it should be hard to find but I'm not finding it.

I expect with the wealth of experience on here there will be plenty of folks who have done this either on plastic or brass, so are there any particular difficulties that I should know about?

Will a 1mm stub cutter do the business or should I be looking for a different cutter?

Thanks

Andy

Nigel Bennett31/10/2020 16:58:38
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369 forum posts
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We used to call it Traffolite at work. Traffolyte comes up on Google.

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 17:09:27
311 forum posts
124 photos
Posted by Nigel Bennett on 31/10/2020 16:58:38:

We used to call it Traffolite at work. Traffolyte comes up on Google.

Excellent - much easier to find when you know the right name

I couldn't find a whole heap of suppliers but there is a vendor in Elland on eBay so I've ordered a sheet from them to play with.

Thanks!

Andrew Johnston31/10/2020 17:11:51
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5733 forum posts
661 photos

Just search for engraving supplies - should bring up a number of companies.

In my experience proper engraving cutters (tapered and single lip) need to run fast to work. Preferably 18 to 24000rpm . Likewise I've done a fair amount of CNC machining with 1mm and 0.5mm endmills in brass, bronze and steel but again they like to run fast. I run at 24000rpm. You might get away with a slower speed in plastic and possibly brass but not steel. The key factor is the minimum step size on the mill - that becomes the chip load. Chip loads for the small cutters need to be a few microns. The step size needs to be consistent. It's no good if the table drive steps away without moving and then the table suddenly moves the equivalent of several steps.

Andrew

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 17:23:35
311 forum posts
124 photos
Posted by Andrew Johnston on 31/10/2020 17:11:51:

Just search for engraving supplies - should bring up a number of companies.

In my experience proper engraving cutters (tapered and single lip) need to run fast to work. Preferably 18 to 24000rpm . Likewise I've done a fair amount of CNC machining with 1mm and 0.5mm endmills in brass, bronze and steel but again they like to run fast. I run at 24000rpm. You might get away with a slower speed in plastic and possibly brass but not steel. The key factor is the minimum step size on the mill - that becomes the chip load. Chip loads for the small cutters need to be a few microns. The step size needs to be consistent. It's no good if the table drive steps away without moving and then the table suddenly moves the equivalent of several steps.

Andrew

Thanks, the Proxxon spindle runs between 8K and 20K. Normally this is a pain (the noise particularly so) but it sounds like it could be just the ticket for this job. I'm currently running without microstepping so that's 200 steps per rev (=1mm) or .005mm per step. The firmware does backlash compensation. It has managed to do plenty of curvy profiling jobs on brass so hopefully I'm in known territory with brass at least.

Plastics are more of an unknown for me - I've heard tell of some types melting at high spindle speeds but we shall see.

I don't have any requests for steel name plates so I won't worry about that one for now.

Roderick Jenkins31/10/2020 17:53:18
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1971 forum posts
510 photos

Another source of the blank material is for guitar pick guards, for example:

**LINK**

Rod

Edited By Roderick Jenkins on 31/10/2020 18:01:28

Mike Crossfield31/10/2020 18:09:12
239 forum posts
34 photos

Andy

Pantograph Services are the go-to company for everything engraving related. Wide range of equipment and materials, including the laminates you are interested in.

Best regards

Mike

JasonB31/10/2020 18:41:01
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I was engraving some plastic in the week and used a drill mill which is a bit more sturdy than the more slender engraving cutters having a 90deg point which mat save you a breakage. I was running at 5000rpm and feed rate was 200mm/min so with the 2-flutes that was a chip load of 0.02mm. I can't show it all but I'm happy with the cut.

engrave1.jpg

John Haine31/10/2020 19:20:58
3425 forum posts
184 photos

I have engraved some loco nameplates from 3mm brass using 1mm cutter running at 5000 rpm. Description on here somewhere.

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 19:22:38
311 forum posts
124 photos

Thanks for the supplier suggestions. I'll see how things go with the 1ft square that I've ordered from the eBay seller but handy for future reference.

The drill mill could be interesting for some jobs but 3mm seems to be the smallest and I really need 1mm or smaller for the sort of tags I want to do - maybe 12mm wide with perhaps 8mm high text in a single stroke font. Even a 1mm cutter may be a tad on the thick side. If it looks terrible then I can make the tags a bit bigger. The specification from my customer wife is not very precise

JasonB31/10/2020 19:58:56
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These are 8mm high numbers with a 6mm shank version of the same type of cutter, I did some 6mm lettering on that clear acrylic that had the V on it no problem.

You can get 1/8 shank Vee cutters with various width ends which would allow you to get slightly further down into the second colour while keeping the font thin, I recently got some of these but not tried them yet.
Adam Mara31/10/2020 20:00:35
124 forum posts
8 photos

Here's an imperial chart for text height/cutter size that might help.

http://blog.visionengravers.com/archives/2012/12/selecting-the-right-cutter-size

There is a readabilty chart some where on the internet, listing the font size and distance it can be read at, but don't have a link for it!

There are several type of engraving laminates, including Traffolite, a very hard material normally cut with a tc cutter, I avoided in my day as an engraver. Most of the plastics now are acrylic, as these can be laser engraved, some of the older materials cannot . You also get different surface film thickneses, use a 'micro' surface for small fine lettering, needing around a 0.2mm point, a sharp cutter is essential for good results!

Althouigh I am retired, I still take an interest in engraving, At work we still have a small pantograph engraver, used for silver plates, an A4 size computer controlled rotary engraver, and a Trotec 400 laser engraver. For brass and aluminium signs a 1993 CNC router with Persk high speed motor.

Missing the work, I have a 3020 CNC router which I use occasionally for lettering using a single line font, the only problem is that the film thickness of engraving materials can vary, leading a difference in thickness of the strokes, which is avoided on 'proper' engraving machines with a floating head and nose depth adjustment.

By the way, I just use the 3.17mm cutters used on the small CNC machines

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 20:15:31
311 forum posts
124 photos
Posted by JasonB on 31/10/2020 19:58:56:

These are 8mm high numbers with a 6mm shank version of the same type of cutter, I did some 6mm lettering on that clear acrylic that had the V on it no problem.

You can get 1/8 shank Vee cutters with various width ends which would allow you to get slightly further down into the second colour while keeping the font thin, I recently got some of these but not tried them yet.

Ah - a tool organiser. Nice. My ER16s live in their little blue boxes that they came in from Arc Euro... all lined up in a little fancy box that had some chocolate ginger in. Sadly the 1/4 in collet is an odd one out that came in a round see through box. I see you have a similar issue there.

I was thinking from your 'V' picture earlier that the mill drill was varying its depth to do thin bits like the serifs. Or am I reading too much into it? Anyway I don't think I have clever enough software to do that at the moment.

I think you have correctly deduced that I need thinner cutters (1/8 in max) for the Proxxon. Those German ones look like a 'D' bit... which perhaps suggests a low cost option that would avoid any risk of breaking a milling cutter.

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 20:22:20
311 forum posts
124 photos
Posted by Adam Mara on 31/10/2020 20:00:35:

Here's an imperial chart for text height/cutter size that might help.

<snip>

Thanks Adam. Interesting to read your thoughts and it's great to have input from a professional. The material I've ordered is acrylic and almost certainly not the same stuff as the real 'Traffolite'... in spite of the headline in the eBay listing.

I'm hoping to keep things as simple as possible to begin with and gain some valuable brownie points to trade off against future tooling purchases. Time will tell.

JasonB31/10/2020 20:25:23
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Yes, F360 will lift the pointed end of the cutter to give "square ends" to the font and also vary the depth where one part of the character is wider than the other. I set the ones in the clear to have more rounded ends as they ar efor a pattern but this shows the tool path for the collet rack

The Sorotec are a more traditional cutter similar to what would have been used on pantographs etc and probably a bit more robust than a 1mm 2-flute milling cutter. With the added bonus that one cutter will do several width fonts just by playing with depth.
John Paton 131/10/2020 22:41:36
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285 forum posts
17 photos

The other option is chemical etching brass using Letraset type lettering and ferric chloride to etch ( as for printed circuit boards) I have used this also for name plaques on models. It gives raised lettering which polishes up nicely against a matt finish background and the effect is especially good if the background is chemically blacked before buffing the lettering.

Andy Carlson31/10/2020 22:58:55
311 forum posts
124 photos
Posted by John Paton 1 on 31/10/2020 22:41:36:

The other option is chemical etching brass using Letraset type lettering and ferric chloride to etch ( as for printed circuit boards) I have used this also for name plaques on models. It gives raised lettering which polishes up nicely against a matt finish background and the effect is especially good if the background is chemically blacked before buffing the lettering.

Thanks. I'm familiar with etching but have always done it by sending computer artwork to be etched by PPD in Scotland. It works very well but it's something that I do maybe once a year because I need to batch up enough things to fill up a worthwhile sheet. I can't honestly say that I've ever been tempted into DIY etching.I did do some custom PCB stuff with Letraset and tape a looong time ago but my efforts were never very neat.

Andy Carlson05/11/2020 21:59:12
311 forum posts
124 photos

smiley

Thank you for all of the advice.

p1070743.jpg

Crude in comparison to Jason's work and took 3 attempts to get one that didn't mess up but I'm happy.

1mm 2 flute stub cutter from Arc Euro, 5K RPM feed rate 40. 0.25mm DOC on lettering, 0.5mm DOC to cut out.

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