When computerized engraving first began making its mark in the industry, it was nothing short of amazing. The amount of time one could save by letting a machine do the work vs. sitting at a pantograph and manually engraving was phenomenal. But in the early days, a computerized machine wasn’t really the best choice for everything. Most notably, there was no easy way to hold and engrave small, delicate pieces of jewelry and oddly-shaped gift items with most of the early computerized systems. As a result, a lot of engravers who had upgraded to computers also still hung on to their pantographs as a more dependable method for engraving items like watches, rings, bracelets, tankards, trays, door knockers and the like.
Today, of course, that has all changed. Not only do we have machines that are highly capable of engraving jewelry and gift items, we now have machines designed primarily for this type of engraving. Most of the major machine manufacturers have introduced systems built to meet the challenges that jewelry and gifts can sometimes present to engravers.
For example, one of the biggest challenges is holding in the machine the item to be engraved. Holding a key chain in an engraving machine, for example, is quite different than holding a ring (for inside engraving), which is quite different from holding a tankard or a door knocker, so each item dictates using a different holding technique. To remedy this, manufacturers have designed their machines with fixtures and accessories that allow you to hold a variety of items with one machine. Most of these “jewelry and gift” engraving machines have a flat table for engraving relatively flat items but they also incorporate a vise that accepts a variety of interchangeable holding jigs designed to clamp different items, such as pens and watches.
Most of these machines also have a cylindrical engraving attachment for engraving on the circumference of tankards, baby cups, vases, wine bottles, etc., and a ring-engraving fixture for engraving on both the inside and outside of rings. Some also offer glass engraving kits that typically include a rotating diamond cutter and a recirculating coolant system for engraving glass and crystal gift products.
The term “jewelry and gift” engraving machines may accurately describe the main applications for which some of these machines were specifically designed and marketed, but it is noteworthy that most of these machines are not limited to these applications alone. Really, they could be characterized as “highly-versatile” engraving equipment because many of these machines can typically hold and engrave almost anything from a tobacco humidor and a cake knife to a tapered pilsner glass, a state outline plaque, a legend plate or a stick pin. These systems go way beyond “jewelry” but because jewelry and giftware is a huge market, the manufacturers have chosen to market their equipment this way.
As mentioned, jewelry and gift engraving systems are extremely versatile pieces of equipment that can really boost your production for this type of work. In fact, this is a major area where mechanical engraving really takes the lead over other personalization methods. A CO2 laser is unquestionably versatile in many respects, but one of the tasks it can’t do is readily engrave bare metal, including gold, sterling silver, pewter, brass, bronze, etc., which are among the most popular materials for many jewelry and gift products. Lasers also have a more difficult time with irregularly-shaped items, e.g. engraving the inside and outside of a ring or bracelet. And while sublimation has the advantage of being a full-color process, it, too, cannot be used to mark on bare metal.
Mechanical engraving, on the other hand, really shines when it comes to engraving bare metal and, thanks to innovative accessories and fixtures, can hold all kinds of oddly-shaped pieces for engraving. “The jewelry and gift market is really an exciting area for rotary engraving,” says Jeff Mathias, Sales/Customer Specialist for Newing-Hall, Inc., Toledo, OH. “There’s such a wide variety of items to be engraved and over the years, we have continued to add new accessories as new items have come out. It’s actually nice to get a challenging piece to engrave from time to time!”
Today’s systems are packed with the latest and greatest features that make engraving even fine jewelry or heirloom pocket watches a nearly foolproof process. Here’s a look at the most recent systems available today that are designed especially for the jewelry/gift market.
Gravograph, Duluth, GA, has developed a highly-unusual state-of-the-art system called the M20 Pix for engraving on a wide variety of metal jewelry and gift items, such as lighters, key chains, gift boxes, pendants, etc. In addition to graphics and text, this system has the unique ability to engrave photographic images onto gold, silver, copper, platinum, aluminum, stainless steel, etc.
Utilizing the Gravostyle QuickPix software, which is standard with the system, you can import an original photo from a scanner, digital device or USB drive, position it on a template that matches the item to be engraved, add text and graphics and the software will automatically convert the image into dots for engraving.
The M20 Pix is not a “rotary” engraving machine which utilizes a rotating cutter or a diamond graver to cut or scribe lettering and vector images into the material. Instead, it utilizes a technique known as “stipple engraving” which engraves photos and text by repetitively tapping a diamond-tipped stylus into the metal using a series of tiny dots. One of the unique features of this stipple engraving system is it allows one to use computer graphic fonts and images in all standard computer formats, e.g. True-Type fonts, JPG files, etc., which allows simple reproduction of custom photos, logos, etc.
The M20 Pix is compact, requiring only one square foot of space, and features an integrated self-centering vise that accepts the company’s large selection of holding jigs. One example of its holding fixtures includes multi-purpose jigs, which feature fully adjustable gripper fingers that can be set to conform to the shape of the object. It also has jigs designed to hold Swiss Army knives, signet rings, pens, cutlery, watches, bracelets and more. A laser spotting beam is also a standard feature, allowing users to preview jobs and do accurate centering and positioning before engraving to help eliminate mistakes.
Now, moving into the traditional “rotary” engraving systems, the All-in-One M20 Jewel is an entry-level machine designed by Gravograph specifically for engraving all types of jewelry, including rings, medals, chain bracelets, pens (with an optional pen engraving device), etc. This machine is compact, weighing only 22 lbs. and measuring just 13.6" x 12.4" x 12" overall with a 4" x 4" engraving area. The M20 Jewel has a built-in cylindrical fixture for engraving on the inside and outside of rings, as well as a removable self-centering vise for holding and engraving a variety of gift items. Jewelry jigs and an extra set of three plastic ring jigs are standard with the machine.
The M20 Jewel utilizes Gravostyle QuickClick, Gravograph’s user-friendly software that was designed specifically for the needs of the jewelry market. The software offers over 20 engraving fonts, the ability to import graphics and logos, text management tools and quick and easy features that allow you to select the type of object to be engraved (e.g. a ring, medal or pen), position the image, test it and engrave. You can also upgrade to Gravograph’s QuickPix software for photo engraving on metal items.
Gravograph also sells the M40G, a mid-sized rotary engraving system designed for mugs, champagne flutes, wine bottles, jewelry, gifts, awards and signage. The machine includes accessories and Gravograph’s QuickClick software. The M40G has a 12" x 8" engraving area with an integrated workholder and a cylindrical attachment that allows you to quickly change between flat items and roundwork. The system also features a built-in coolant system for glass engraving, and a red laser pointer that simulates the engraving job.
Gravograph’s jewelry and gift engraving machines start at $4,600 and prices increase along with the system’s size, capabilities and accessories.
Newing-Hall, Inc. offers the Model 300 and Model 350 systems for jewelry and gift engraving applications such as cups, bowls, cufflinks, watches, knives, picture frames, rings, bracelets, medallions, etc. “Our equipment is well-suited for jewelry and gift engraving because with just one machine, you can hold an extremely wide range of items,” says Newing-Hall’s Mathias. The machines range in price from $12,355 to $18,950, depending on the options you choose, and include 63 Newing-Hall engraving fonts as well as 1,100 fonts in the EngraveLab, the host software that the machines run on.
The Model 300 is designed for engraving flat items up to 16.5" x 15". An optional vise attachment is available for holding items up to 11" high and a cylindrical attachment is available for engraving round objects up to 5" in diameter. The Model 350 also can accommodate flat items up to 16.5" x 15" but has a built-in vise for holding items up to 16" x 12" and a standard cylindrical attachment for objects up to 12" in diameter. An optional glass engraving kit can be purchased for the Model 350.
Newing-Hall offers a variety of holding jigs, including clamping table plates, a watch and lighter jig, a pen jig, a nameplate and jewelry jig, and the Versa-Vise, which is essentially a miniature vise that attaches to the T-slot table and can be used with or without holding jigs. A Dynagrip table is also available, which is a flat table covered with a sticky/tacky mat for holding items in place. The company can manufacture custom jigs as well if you can’t find an existing fixture that works for your application. Newing-Hall also sells a jewelry chuck for holding bracelets and rings, and an adaptor that allows the machine to engrave on the inside of rings and bracelets.
Vision Engraving Systems
Vision Engraving Systems, Phoenix, AZ, developed the MAX Pro Engraver specifically for jewelry and gift engraving. (Read EJ’s Product Review on this system in the June 2007 issue.) According to the company, the MAX Pro is the company’s most versatile engraving system and was expressly designed to engrave items of just about any shape, including flat, curved and cylindrical items, as well as a wide variety of materials such as metal, glass, crystal and ceramic. “The MAX Pro is great for the gift market!” says Natalie Whitehouse, Vision’s Marketing Manager.
The MAX Pro sells for $14,495 in the U.S. and includes the company’s proprietary Vision Pro Software. Features include an 8" x 12" aluminum T-slot table and an interchangeable, self-centering vise with a tilt feature for engraving deep, long or odd-shaped items. This machine has a built-in cylindrical feature for engraving round items and a self-contained, recirculating water pump for glass engraving.
The MAX Pro also includes Vision’s automatic surface-sensing feature that allows engraving on flat and curved surfaces on a wide range of materials such as plastic, brass, coated and noncoated metals, artificial stone, pewter, glassware, and more while maintaining the engraving depth. The auto laser layout feature allows you to use a red laser pointer to define the engraving area directly on the item and then automatically send the measurements to the software, making job setup quick and easy.
Vision has also developed many popular engraving fonts. Over 60 are standard with the Vision Pro Software in addition to clip art images and ornamental designs. You can also import images from many graphics software packages and add a fill/tool path so the design can be engraved.
The company offers a wide variety of jigs designed to hold various gift and jewelry items, including pens, watches, lighters, rings, ID bracelets, etc. One of the most popular is the Universal Pin jig which has adjustable pins to hold many irregularly shaped pens, lighters, knives, key chains, etc.
With an optional ring attachment, you can also engrave rings on both the inside and outside. A Ring Wizard in the software simplifies the process by taking you step-by-step through the entire procedure. Vision will also create custom fixtures based on your needs and has made numerous jigs over the years for all types of jewelry and giftware. “Our years of experience with engraving jewelry and gifts means that we have a holding fixture for many applications. If not, one can be made in our manufacturing facility in Phoenix,” says Whitehouse.
Xenetech Global, Inc.
Xenetech, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA, has introduced the new Viper Jewelry Engraving (JE) system designed specifically for jewelry engraving applications, including inside and outside ring engraving, watch backs, pens, pendants and more. The system sells for $12,495 in the U.S. and includes Xenetech’s XGW-32 professional engraving software, 40 engraving fonts and 2,500 TrueType fonts, the new Viper high speed/productivity electronics and a touch screen keypad for easily controlling the engraving machine.
The Viper JE comes equipped with a diamond engraving cutter, a 7" x 11" flat table and a quick-change ring engraving attachment that holds rings sized from #2 to #16. The built-in automatic surface-sensing capability allows engraving on both flat and curved surfaces. A rotary engraving spindle, a quick-change self-centering vise for holding small jewelry items and a pen and seal fixture are available as options. “The Viper JE features a new, open-format design for easy access to the engraving area and quick setup changes from ring engraving to flat engraving to engraving with a vise,” says Guy Barone, Xenetech’s President.
Xenetech has also launched the Viper Gift Engraving (GE) system ($19,995), a high-end machine designed for jewelry and gift engraving applications, including bowls, cups, mugs, inside and outside ring engraving, bracelets, pens, tags and more. “The GE is considered the one-stop engraving shop,” says Barone. “Engravers in the jewelry and gift industry want a full range of capabilities. That means they want to not only engrave the inside of a ring, they also want to engrave the end of a baseball bat and the outside of a 12" diameter bowl.” Big or small, round or flat, the GE system brings them all down to size.
Like the Viper JE, the Viper GE includes the XGW-32 software and fonts, the automatic surface-sensing feature, Viper electronics and a touch screen keypad. The Viper GE also features a 12" x 12" flat engraving table with a 26 degree tilt capability and an 8" x 8" self-centering vise for engraving tall, oddly-shaped items. Other standard features include a quick-change 12" diameter cylindrical engraving attachment with a 35 degree tilt capability, a ring engraving attachment and a recirculating coolant system for engraving glass and crystal.
In addition to engraving equipment and accessories, Xenetech now offers a large collection of engravable gifts to help expand your retail offerings. Some items include bookmarks, banks, card holders and luggage tags, Swiss Army knives, wine stoppers, cigar tubes, jewelry and keepsake boxes, desk accessories and more.
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