2004 Trends in Computerized Engraving Machines

Copyright © 2004 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in June 2004, Volume 29, No. 12 of The Engravers Journal.
By Jackie Zack
    When computerized engraving first came on the scene, it dramatically changed the way engravers did their work. By parking their pantographs (or at least reserving them for specialized jobs like jewelry and roundwork) and revving up their computers, production was much, much faster, the quality was much, much better and the capabilities continued to evolve over more than two decades. (Some of you may remember how complicated it used to be to engrave a simple logo!) Today, new trends are developing in the industry and new features and systems are being designed to meet those trends. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the world of computerized engraving.
Can Lasers & Mechanical Engravers Cohabit?
     The advent of laser engraving machines and their continued popularity has certainly affected the mechanical engraving end of the industry, albeit in different ways. Industry experts agree that the rise of laser engraving technology, and the subsequent rise in the number of laser machines retailers are purchasing is not necessarily a bad thing for the computerized engraving machine market. “Many shops are now using both rotary and laser engraving machines,” says Diane Clancy, Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth, GA. “While there are applications that can be both laser or rotary engraved, it really depends on the type of mark the customer needs,” she adds.
     Chris Parent, president of Signature Engraving Systems, Holyoke, MA, also believes that rotary engravers and laser engravers both have their place. “Laser engraving machines have helped increase our sales because they have brought about the realization that computerized engravers are needed for one-up jobs. There is no question that laser engravers burn wood great—but you have to consider the negative environmental impact,” he says. “You sacrifice some quality with laser engravers, but the high-speed aspect for large runs is the tradeoff. Computerized engraving machines excel, on the other hand, on single-piece jobs.”
     Jimmy DuBose, Xenetech Global, Baton Rouge, LA, also agrees that rotary engraving equipment and lasers can coexist in the same industry. “Laser engraving machines have been strong in the trophy and award sales market, but we’re also seeing increased, renewed interest in mechanical equipment. The improved vector speeds with rotary systems have driven more sales. The industrial and identification markets have remained very interested in rotary engraving machines.”
The State of Computerized Engraving Today
     Several engraving machine manufacturers report that sales of computerized rotary engraving machines are definitely on an upswing, in some cases, significantly so. “Sales are definitely up,” says Chris Parent. “Store owners realize that economic conditions are tenuous. If their business shows a downward trend, they need to expand their business to include personalization and giftware.” This renewed interest in mechanical engraving can be attributed, at least in part, to several new trends in the industry and manufacturers’ responses to those trends. Here’s a look at some of the biggest trends in the industry, along with some specific machines and machine features designed to meet those trends.

    One area of the industry that appears to be booming, and growing at a fast rate, is jewelry and gift engraving. This has caused manufacturers to take note and introduce new tools for retailers to produce this type of work faster and easier than they ever have before. Jobs that, not too long ago, used to be relegated to manual pantographs are now being accomplished better and faster with computerized systems. Manufacturers are now offering complete machines dedicated to jewelry engraving; small units that can be transported to fairs, shows, mall kiosks, etc.; more accessories to hold odd-shaped engravable items; inside ring engraving attachments; and, overall, easier-to-use, more versatile systems.
“Jewelry and gift retailers are moving personalization in-house and are looking for the easiest machine with the most capabilities,” says Chris Parent. “Small, even large, jewelry, gift, trophy and award shops are seeing increased competition every day from discounters. Successful shops recognize the positive sales results to be achieved by the addition of personalization in their stores.”
    Following is a look at some of the new machines available designed with the jewelry/gift trend in mind.

  Gravograph-New Hermes: IM4
    Gravograph-New Hermes offers the IM4, an affordable, easy-to-operate system designed to replace your manual pantograph. The IM4 is quiet and compact with a footprint of only 20" x 10.25", making it ideal for retail or even office settings. The system features a 4.72" x 3.15" engraving area and a self-centering vise to hold and engrave a variety of jewelry/gift items, such as watches, bracelets and ID badges. The complete system includes the engraving table, software, tools and accessories.

Gravograph-New Hermes:
IS200/IS 200 TX

    The IS200 from Gravograph-New Hermes is a modular machine de-signed for engraving small objects, signs and industrial parts. It features a self-centering vise with a 3" x 8.9" engraving area and a quiet spindle motor, and can be used with any HPGL-compatible software. The IS200 can be upgraded to the IS200 TX, a version which features a depth-adjustable vise capable of engraving both flat and cylindrical objects. With the optional cylindrical attachment, the IS200 TX can engrave 360 degrees around both small and large cylindrically shaped items.

  Gravograph-New Hermes: IS400
    Gravograph-New Hermes’ most popular computerized engraving machine, the IS400, is designed for the professional engraver involved in gifts, trophies, plaques, small signage, industrial parts and light machining. The unit has a 12" x 8" engraving area, open architecture software compatibility and enhanced electronics that result in optimized processing times. An alternate version of the IS400 is the IS400 Volume. This version of the IS400 is specifically designed to meet the rigorous requirements of industrial marking plus engraving large gift items like bowls and wine buckets. Its base allows engraving heavy items of all kinds of shapes (cubic, cylindrical, conical) and switching from engraving on flat materials straight to cylinder objects in less than 30 seconds.

Graphic & Engraving Solutions: Dahlgren Rotation
     As part of its “Magnificent Seven” line of newly designed computerized engraving machines, Dahlgren introduces the Rotation, a machine that can handle both flat work (9" x 6" engraving area) and cylindrical engraving (up to 10" diameter). The Rotation is a retail machine designed for personalization markets such as jewelers, shoe repair shops, trophy and gift shops, etc. You can easily convert the unit from cylindrical to flat engraving in a matter of seconds without disconnecting cables or removing the vise. Holding devices, a T-slot table, a self-centering vise, a cylindrical attachment and an auto Z reference that alleviates the need to continually reset cutters are all standard components. (Graphic & Engraving Solutions, Norcross, GA, is the main factory-backed U.S. dealer for Dahlgren.)

  Mastergrave: GEM Computerized Engraver
    Mastergrave, Bedford, England, recently introduced the little GEM, a versatile, small, low-priced computerized engraving machine designed for jewelry and gift engraving. The GEM comes complete with a self-centering vise and various “push-fit” workholding jigs to hold items such as trophy plates, lighters, compact mirrors, medals, pet tags, watches, rings, bracelets, clocks, pendants, picture frames, flasks, business card holders and more. The cylindrical attachment allows engraving 360 degrees around items such as a pen or a miniature flashlight. Other features include microstepping motor control for increased accuracy and smooth operation, a 6" x 3" flat engraving area and 20mm cylindrical capability. You also receive the latest version of GEM engraving software, a user-friendly program that includes preprogrammed templates for perfect results every time. When linked to a laptop computer, the entire system is easy to transport, making it an ideal option for on-site engraving at markets, craft fairs and shopping centers.

Xenetech Global: Viper JE
     Xenetech will release a new system this summer, the Viper JE that was made specifically for the jewelry market. The new system adds inside ring engraving to the company’s product line. “We feel that this market has a lot of potential for our equipment,” says Xenetech’s Jimmy DuBose. Xenetech’s Viper JE was specifically designed for jewelry applications, including inside and outside ring engraving. It also comes with the Xenetech Graphic Workstation software and Viper electronics.

  Vision Engraving Systems: New Ring Attachment
     Vision Engraving Systems, Phoenix, AZ, introduces a ring engraver attachment for its MAX Multi-Axis engraving system. This fixture allows you to engrave around the outer circumference as well as the inside of most rings. Capable of both diamond drag and rotary cutting, this system is ideal for any full-service engraving shop and, coupled with this new attachment, is well-suited for high-volume jewelry and gift manufacturers or distributors. With the MAX, you can engrave cylindrical items up to 10" in diameter as well as flat items using the interchangeable T-slot table. The system includes the Vision Software package and the Vision Serial Controller.

Signature Engraving Systems:
Mini Computerized Engraving Systems

    “We have four new models dedicated to the jewelry market, a direct result of the success of our first model,” explains Parent. “We offer a computerized engraving system to fit every need and every budget, with all the ‘bells and whistles!’”
    Signature Engraving Systems has introduced its new line of Mini Engravers to its successful Signature 8080 Plus and Super engraving systems, making its line of computerized engraving systems one of the most complete in the world. The latest technology is now available to every engraver, regardless of budget or use. Signature 8080 Mini computerized engraving systems come with one additional feature: They can be traded in for upgrades to the 8080 Plus, Signature’s flagship engraver, at tremendous rates.
    •The Signature 8080 Mini Basic engraves pens, watches, lighters, key chains, ID bracelets, charms, money clips, cufflinks, medical alert bracelets and metal plates.
    •The Signature 8080 Mini Standard adds the capability of engraving plastic and wood signs, picture frames and plaques.
    •The Signature 8080 Mini Advanced has all of the features of the Basic and Standard plus a cylindrical attachment for engraving on cups and mugs.
    •The Signature 8080 Mini Pro comes complete with the inside ring and bangle bracelet engraving attachment and the company’s unique foil transfer system. It also adds glass to your product line so you can engrave on delicate crystal, glass mugs, frames, toasting glasses and vases.
    •The Signature 8080 Plus and Super are the company’s flagship engravers, adding size and dimension to their engraving capabilities. These complete systems also include one of the best warranty and service programs in the business.

  Venture srl: BlackStone
    BlackStone, from Venture srl, Limena (PD), Italy, is the most compact, cost effective and versatile five-axis milling machine available today for the jewelry, educational, reverse engineering, rapid prototyping and mold making sectors of the industry. The system features a structure made of South African granite that guarantees thermal stability, high rigidity and vibration-free movement on all three linear axes as well as the two-axes tilting rotary table. The accuracy needed for achieving the quality necessary even on the most demanding jobs is supplied by Pulse DSP, the new brushless motion controller embedded in the cabinet. The servo motor controller dramatically increases feed rates while the 1.6 kW, 60,000 rpm ATC spindle performs at high speeds.

Newing-Hall: Computerized Engraving Machines
    Newing-Hall, Toledo, OH, has been setting the standards in the engraving industry by offering the most advanced and reliable production equipment available. The company’s 350, 450 and 650 models are not only dedicated to the jewelry market, but also to the fast-growing glass engraving market. Having seen a trend of customers wanting to engrave on jewelry, such as rings and bracelets, the company has created new jigs for Newing-Hall models that can be used on new and older model machines as well, so that customers are not limited to buying a new machine or one designated to this form of engraving. In addition, Newing-Hall’s redesigned glass kit meets the needs of professionals and provides versatility and longevity for all types of applications. In addition to the 350, 450 and 650, Newing-Hall rounds out its line of computerized engraving machines with the Model 240 DS, Model 300, Model 400, Model 460 and Model 600.

    “It is important that a customer can continue to use his machine if his existing controller is outdated and reached the end of its useful life,” says Ted Cousins, Mastergrave, indicating a feature that many engravers offer that allows you to keep your existing table but update it with modern technology, even from a company other than the original manufacturer. In addition to having the latest and greatest technology, this feature will allow you to drive multiple tables from one controller.

  Xenetech Global
    According to Jimmy DuBose, “Xenetech has been retrofitting other manufacturer’s tables with our electronics from 1986 until the present day. In addition, and most important, we’ve given our existing customers an upgrade path to use the very latest technology. Xenetech customers who purchased a Xenetech engraver eight years ago can upgrade their electronics to our Viper technology and drive their system up to three times faster. This is a low-cost upgrade relative to replacing the entire machine all with a very high production benefit.” According to Xenetech, Viper retrofit customers receive improved engraving performance and a reliable controller that allows interfacing with Xenetech’s Graphic Workstation software. An Ethernet connection to the host computer is provided and the touchscreen on Xenetech’s controller will interface with your table.

Mastergrave Ltd.: Vismec
     Mastergrave is able to offer its Vismec microstepping 32-bit controller for upgrading most makes of machines such as Gravograph-New Hermes, Dahlgren, etc. The Vismec controller can operate three or four axes and is fully interpolating with no axis switching required. The software provided with the controller is open architecture with many unique features such as seamless scanning, auto vectorizing, digitizing, set reference and over 900 fonts. Freehand is the latest software function that allows your customer to use an electronic pen to write their own message or draw a picture, which can then immediately be engraved onto any item the machine can hold.

  Quality One Engravers
    “We at Quality One Engravers, Rancho Cucamonga, CA, utilize our controller, pendant and software to retrofit existing engravers,” explains Fred Schwartz. “All engravers are basically leadscrews, limit switches and a spindle motor. We have made our controller easily configurable to virtually any configuration. We also know the original equipment, making it easier to upgrade.”

    Today, some engraving shops are looking for one simple solution: A system that is easy to use and accomplishes the job at hand. First-time engravers as well as veteran engravers may want to add another system, but don’t want a complicated system that results in a lot of employee training time. Many manufacturers have at least one machine that fits this bill in their line. Here is a look at a few.

  Graphic & Engraving Solutions:
Dahlgren Compact, Wizzard ST

    Dahlgren recently introduced the Compact and the Wizzard ST, two computerized engraving machines that are part of the company’s new line named the “Magnificent Seven.” The Compact, as its name describes, has a small 5" x 3" engraving area and is designed for use by all types of engravers, e.g. funeral directors, electrical contractors, etc. The Wizzard ST (Smart Table), the latest version in a long line of successful Wizzard tables, has a 12" x 12" table designed for general purpose, light-duty engraving. The Wizzard ST offers greater Z clearance, allowing bulkier objects to be engraved, a larger 1/4" cutter, which means larger character sizes are more easily achieved, plus a unique, radio-controlled wireless handset that allows 360 degree operation of the machine without the nuisance of a cord.

Roland DGA Corp.:EGX-20
    The EGX-20 is perfect for first-time engravers. This do-it-all desktop device uses an “Active Surface Tracking” system to prevent scratches and maintain a constant engraving depth, even on bowed or non-uniform surfaces. This makes it easy to engrave a wide variety of items, such as name tags, medallions, awards and control panels. The EGX-20 has an 8" x 6" x 1.25" (Z) work area. A joystick on the control panel makes it easy to control the X, Y and Z axes for smooth, accurate engraving. You can engrave a wide variety of materials, including plastic, acrylics and even metals such as brass and aluminum.

  Xenetech Global
    Xenetech’s new touchscreen is menu-driven and easy to navigate. This feature allows you to control several aspects of your engraving job, including: jog and set your home position without interfacing with the computer; save fixture offsets and initiate the offsets at the table; pause and move by character, line or plate increments; recall jobs from the hard drive; built-in diagnostics and more.

    “We’re seeing more and more demand for cylindrical glass engraving,” says Ted Cousins, Mastergrave. In keeping with the trend towards jewelry and giftware engraving capabilities, manufacturers report an increased desire among customers to engrave roundwork (vases, mugs, bowls, etc.) and glass items (wine glasses, wine bottles, mugs, etc.). Many manufacturers are incorporating roundwork/glass engraving capabilities into their systems or are creating units designed specifically for this purpose.  

  Xenetech Global: Cylindrical Attachment
    According to Xenetech, the same cylindrical attachment can be used for both Xenetech’s rotary and laser engraving systems. This attachment can hold and engrave items up to 6.75" in diameter.

Universal Computerized Engraving Machine

    The Universal represents the ultimate retail engraving system, featuring all-around access that allows holding even large, bulky items like a ceremonial shovel or fireman’s axe. With a large 10" cylindrical capacity, bells and glass bowls can also be held with ease. The deep vise will hold a bowling ball or even a case, and the 20" vise opening accommodates items such as large trays. On the other end of the spectrum, the Universal will accept interchangeable holding jigs which can be used to clamp small items such as pens, watch backs, bracelets and badges. The motorized spindle allows deep engraving into brass and with the foil printing attachment, leather items, velvet pen pouches and cardboard gift boxes can all be foiled. The software provided is open architecture with many unique features, such as seamless scanning, automatic vectorizing, digitizing and set reference.

  Vision Engraving Systems:
Vision Cylindrical Engraver

    Vision Engraving Systems offers its Cylindrical Engraver as an affordable, easy-to-use glassware engraver. In addition to glasses and bottles, this compact unit can diamond drag text and artwork on ceramic mugs and cups, as well as beer steins
and cups made of pewter, stainless steel or silver. The Vision Cylindrical Engraver is available as a stand-alone system or as an add-on to the Phoenix 1212 En-graver.

Gravograph-New Hermes:

    Gravograph-New Hermes offers the IS400G computerized engraving machine, an economically priced marking system that is quiet, fast and easy to operate, making it ideal for a retail gift shop. The system features a red pointer beam for dry run engraving; quick and easy setup between flat and cylindrical engraving; a self-centering motorized vise for fast clamping; a red LED “point-and-shoot” function that automatically determines the size of the material and the engravable area; a self-contained coolant system for glass engraving; and automatic Z-reference adjustment. The system, combined with Gravograph-New Hermes’ GravoStyle Gift software, is ideally suited for engraving gift items such as glassware, as well as flat and odd-shaped products, including plates, picture frames, corporate awards, jewelry boxes, compacts, cigarette lighters, pens and pencils and more.

Compact Computerized Engraving Machine

    The Compact, with a footprint of 23" x 16", has been designed for retail outlets where space is at a premium; the unit can easily fit onto a shop counter. The Compact has a 41/2" cylindrical capacity ideal for pewter tankards and glassware, and the self-centering vise is deep enough to hold a carriage clock or jewelry box. When used with interchangeable workholding jigs, the Compact also easily holds items such as pens, watch backs and bracelets, and the flat table will hold an 11" x 8" plaque or multiple trophy plates or badges. The motorized spindle allows deep engraving into brass and a special foil printing attachment allows you to foil images onto wooden plaques, leather items, velvet pen pouches, cardboard gift boxes and more. The open architecture software provided with the Compact offers many features, including seamless scanning, automatic vectorizing, digitizing and set reference.

    It sounds like a tall order: Engravers want more for less. But manufacturers have listened to this desire and are responding. “Customers want to reduce operational costs and they want to expand their business. Because of this, we are seeing a trend of people buying large tables to increase their productivity, engraving a whole matrix of tags or badges, for example, and using the large table to get into new markets like ADA signage,” explains Diane Clancy, Gravograph-New Hermes. “Also relating to increasing productivity and reducing operational costs, our customers are looking to simplify their shop. One great way to do this is reduce training times by using one software to run both their rotary machines and laser machines,” she continues.
    This open-architecture approach can be implemented throughout your business. You may prefer CADlink’s EngraveLab software but Dahlgren’s tables; or CorelDRAW and Xenetech tables; etc., etc. Many manufacturers have designed their systems to work with many different graphics and engraving programs. This can save money in terms of training time and the investment in the software itself, which can be pricey. Plus, you get to use the software and hardware that you want to. It’s a win-win situation.

  Xenetech Global:
EngraveLab and SignLab Rotary Print Driver

    Xenetech’s EngraveLab and SignLab Rotary Print Driver allows direct download to Xenetech systems from these software packages. Standard speed and position controls that Xenetech users are familiar with are still available with this driver. “Multiple Pass” and “Pause based on character, line or plate” increments are just a few of the Xenetech features still available when using these programs. CADlink Technology Corporation is the developer of EngraveLab and SignLab software.

Gravograph-New Hermes:
GravoStyle 5

    Gravograph-New Hermes introduces GravoStyle 5, a single solution software for both laser and rotary engraving machines. Designed to increase productivity and save time, GravoStyle 5 allows you to switch between engraving technologies without switching software programs. The software features three levels of capabilities, ranging from basic to graphic-oriented to advanced technologies like 3D engraving, allowing you to choose the level that is right for you and your applications.

  Vision Engraving Systems:
Vision TrophyPro Engravers

    Vision Engraving Systems offers the TrophyPro Engraving Systems to the awards and recognition marketplace. Available with a 16" x 12" or 16" x 24" T-slot table, these heavy-duty systems were developed as a less expensive option for cost-conscious engravers needing a large-format machine. The TrophyPro Engraving Systems come standard with the Vision Serial Controller and Vision-Pro LT Engraving Software, which carry on the open architecture capabilities of the entire line of Vision rotary engravers.

Xenetech Global:
Xenetech Graphic Workstation

    Xenetech’s 32-bit Graphic Work-station software can import many compatible standard file types through the “file import” or “copy” and “paste” commands. This software was made specifically to increase the production and capability of engraving applications. Parameters like power, speed and home location can be saved and recalled with individual jobs.

  Quality One Engravers:
2004 Quest Engraver

    Quality One Engravers introduces their 2004 Quest family of rotary engravers. These redesigned engraving machines are even more heavy-duty than their predecessor and are designed for the demanding user who does not want equipment to limit imagination. The 2004 Quest has several new features, including: dual LM rails with four bearings on all axes; belted spindle; built-in coolant recovery trough; and an Optical Material Sensor. Additional options now include an ER11 Collet Spindle, 1 hp router motor with speed control and a lubrication-with-recovery system. Several table sizes are now available: 12" x 24", 24" x 24", 24" x 48" and, the newest addition, 48" x 48". These machines are able to handle a wide range of jobs from burnishing trophy brass and rotary engraving plastic to engraving and cutting stainless steel. The redesigned controller and LCD pendant has a single-board compact design—no components need to be installed in the host computer. It is also packed with many new features, e.g. semi-automatic raster Braille installation, quick key and more.

Xenetech Global:
32-Bit Laser Print Driver

    Xenetech’s 32-bit laser print driver allows laser owners to output directly to their system from third-party Windows-compatible programs such as CorelDRAW. Power, speed and PPI settings can be saved and recalled by material type. These same settings can be assigned to different colors in the job. This driver can also dither color and gray-scale images upon output.

  Roland DGA:

    The EGX-30 provides the most cost-effective computerized engraving solution available. With a convenient 12" x 8" work area, the EGX-30 engraves badges, nameplates, key rings and luggage tags. It can also be used to engrave a wide variety of light-duty materials, including coated brass (diamond drag) for great-looking trophy plates as well as microsurface plastic engraving stock for professional-looking badges, nameplates, key rings and luggage tags.

    Some engravers looking to expand their in-house capabilities are looking for specialized applications. “Customers are asking for advanced training on subjects like lasering photos, 3D engraving and ADA signage,” says Diane Clancy. “Customers are looking for ways to expand their business and they realize that they need to have both the skills and the equipment to expand.”

  Xenetech Global
The Xenetech Graphic Workstation can generate and engrave shoulders with the company’s rotary and laser engraving systems. Xenetech lasers can engrave 3D grayscale photos into software materials like wood and acrylic, and each gray level is fired at a different power setting.

Roland DGA Corp.:

In less than half the time of conventional engravers, the RX-50 engraves 3D reliefs with crisp text and vivid graphics. The heavy-duty desktop device engraves .78" to 2" diameter objects in gold, platinum, silver, titanium, brass, aluminum, acrylic and PVC. The RX-50 utilizes a spinning worktable that works in conjunction with a powerful 50,000 rpm spindle. Like a record player, the spindle works from the outside to the middle with 4-micron precision. This machine is perfect for engraving medals, awards and corporate seals. The RX-50 uses a custom .125" tool to produce incredibly detailed graphics, and finishes .78" diameter objects in just ten minutes.