Specifically designed engraving equipment has been available to those wishing to mark special gifts or possessions since the 1930s. From that decade until the early 1980s, the only method available to engrave projects was a manual engraving machine called a pantograph. Modern technology and advances in computer science has provided modern day engravers a wider selection of equipment with which to make something special.
One type of engraving machine available today is the rotary engraving machine. This type of equipment uses a stationary tool attached to a computer guided spindle. One advantage to using the rotary engraver is the ability to engrave many different types of materials. By carefully selecting the cutting method, not cutting too deeply on the first pass and using lubrication where appropriate, a rotary engraving machine can be a versatile tool in the engraving shop. One disadvantage to utilizing a rotary engraver is the need to replace cutting heads when they become worn or break.
Another type of engraving machine is the laser engraver. This piece of equipment uses a series of mirrors and a carbon dioxide powered laser light to engrave any non-metallic piece. Laser engravers can be used to etch metallic pieces, but only with the addition of special chemicals applied to the metal surface. Laser engraving equipment can be used to etch intricate images onto a project without any part of the machine coming into contact with the work to be engraved. A disadvantage to the laser engraver is the heat produced by the process. In some cases, plastic and glass can be adversely affected by the heat of the laser light.
Both types of equipment have their advantages and disadvantages. Price is often a factor when selecting which type of equipment to purchase. Naturally, laser engraving equipment is going to require a larger initial investment than a rotary engraving system. The type of material to be engraved is also a factor. Many modern jewelry engraving shops use a laser engraving system, whereas most award and trophy engravers still utilize the rotary engraving system. Another industry utilizing laser engraving equipment is the large industrial packaging plant. Stationary laser engraving machines can be used to quickly engrave expiration dates, lot numbers and production dates on packaging. These stationary laser machines have the ability to quickly make their mark as packages move through a production line.
There are many choices when it comes to selecting an engraving system, either rotary or laser. There is a large selection of available equipment that should be reviewed for size, pricing and ease of use, depending on the type of engraving to be done. A small trophy and award shop would probably want to select a smaller rotary engraving machine, while a large production plant may want to invest in a much more expensive laser engraving machine for their packaging line. No matter which type of engraving equipment is chosen, the equipment should be appropriate for the size of the projects and the type of material to be engraved.