3-D Engraving: Process where the Z-axis can have variable settings of depth during a tool pass. Depth is controlled through software to create more of a handcrafted look. Requires unique software and electronics.
Acrylic: Thermoplastic-resin-based plastic substrate. Molecular structure of acrylic provides increased protection from sunlight’s ultraviolet (UV) rays; material is noted for outdoor durability and colorfastness. Marketed under trade names such as PlexiGlass and Lucite.
Advertising Specialty: A product imprinted with an advertising message that is given away to promote a business name, product etc.
Anodized: Metal (usually aluminum) with oxide-film coating, put on by an electric charge. Coating can be removed by engraving processes to reveal color of original metal substrate.
Arc: For engraving, tool path that deflects by a certain number of degrees (such as 45°, or 90°) to create a curve. Also, the curved baseline for placing characters in circular layouts.
ASCII: (American Standard Code for Information Exchange): A standard method for storing and representing data. Using the ASCII standard allows the operator to create and use text from a wide variety of programs, and is the computer standard for text.
Autolayout: Software feature that automatically calculates baselines, margins, and letter heights for a layout.
Award: An item given to a person or persons for accomplishment or achievement.
Axis: (X, Y, Z): Directions that tools are sent with any engraving machine to create an image. Generally, the X axis is the tool’s movement from left to right from the origin point; the Y axis movement is towards and away from the origin; and the Z axis is the tool’s up-and-down (perpendicular) movement into and out of the engraving substrate.
Ball Holder: A trophy component designed with prong-like fingers to hold a football, baseball, or similar item on a trophy.
Bar Pin: A decorative medal accessory consisting of a small bar (usually engravable), with a fastener on the back, to which a medal can be attached which allows an individual to wear the medal.
Base, Trophy: A trophy component that is the foundation of the trophy. May be wood, plastic, metal etc.
Baseline: The distance from the bottom of a character(s) or the imaginary line that the characters “rest on”, to the top of the plate. The height of the character can never exceed the baseline measurement.
Beveler: Tool bit with cutter angles (usually 30° or 45°) to create deep incised cutting for a beveled look. Also the accessory machine used to create beveled edges on badges, signs, etc.
Beveling engraving: Cutting that removes material to leave wide, V-shaped troughs with sharply angled bottoms and ends.
Bitmap: See Raster.
Brass: A semi-soft alloy of copper and zinc, it is a very popular material for engraving. Often painted with a thin layer of color, the color layer can be burnished or diamond drag can be used to remove the coating and let the brass show through.
Burnisher: Tool used with rotary engraving systems to remove top layer of coated metals or for engraving on glass. Works on the same principle as diamond drag, but with a rotating tool and light pressure. May be carbide or diamond tipped.
Calligraphy: The art of beautiful handwriting, often used to letter award certificates.
Cap Layers: Laminated top piece in materials with multi-ply layers. See Two-ply.
Carbide: An extremely hard, wear resistant metal made from tungsten and carbon, used in the manufacture of cutting tools.
Climb Cutting and Conventional Cutting: When cutting material using a fluted bit, the bit usually rotates clockwise. When the clockwise-rotating bit cuts an outline on an object using a counter-clockwise path, the teeth bite the material without rubbing against it – as it would if it was running clockwise. This is called climb cutting; the teeth look like they are climbing into the material edge. The opposite of climb cutting is conventional cutting. Using climb cutting can help extend the life of your cutters.
CNC (Computer Numerical Control): Communications language used in some robotics and larger machine-controlled cutting devices such as industrial mills and lathes.
Collet: Device used to hold engraving tools at the bottom of the spindle. Can prevent tool drift and shake due to vibration; particularly effective when using a rotary spindle to work with harder substrates, such as stainless steel.
Column, Trophy: A generic term used to describe the central vertical component of a trophy.
Columnar Copy: The arrangement of award copy such as a list of names into a column and row fashion.
Columnizing: Software feature allowing the automatic creation of text columns.
Condense: Fitting text to a specified measurement of length in a line. Action may require the equal reduction of space between characters (see kerning) and width reduction in characters.
Contrasting Cutter: Tool bit with a formed, nosecone-like end for cutting deeper paths; usually used for glass engraving.
Corner Notcher: A punch like device used to remove an arc-shaped indentation from a trophy or plaque plate to provide a decorative look.
Corner Rounder: A small piece of equipment that rounds or notches the corners of an engraving plate. Some models allow the punching of a hole in conjunction with the notch or corner. Less expensive models work with plastic only, while more expensive models will work with plastic and metal.
Cutout: Action of engraving tools going completely through substrate and separating substrate into pieces. Most often used for cutting apart multiple jobs that were engraved on one substrate or for cut-out letters (for signage such as ADA). (See step-and-repeat).
Cutter Grinder: A piece of equipment used to sharpen or tip-off engraving cutters.
Cutter Knob: Knurled holder for engraving tool bits. Nearly always brass; screws into the top of the spindle in a counter-clockwise motion. The cutter is held in place by a setscrew.
Cutting Fluids: A fluid added during the rotary engraving process that lubricates the work surface and cutting tool to make it possible to achieve higher cutting speeds; greater depths of cut, lengthen tool life and decrease surface roughness.
Depth Nose: Cone on bottom end of spindle to regulate extent of engraving depth. Often used for engraving irregular surfaces. Can also be protective cone to prevent marking of substrate by spindle.
Descenders: A term used to describe some upper or lower case letters such as g, j, or y where part of the letter may appear or be engraved below the baseline.
Diamond Drag: Action of using a non-rotating cone-shaped tool dragged with pressure through metal leaving an impression to form characters, logos, etc. Tool includes diamond tip for sharpness and greater longevity.
Diamond Graver: A non-rotating diamond tool consisting of a steel shank with an embedded diamond chip.
Die: Outline patterns of characters or logos; most often used with a pantograph.
Drag: See Diamond Drag.
DXF (Auto CAD Exchange Format): Computer file type containing vector images. Associated with IBM-type computer programs and a few Macintosh. There are separate 2D and 3D DXF formats.
End Mill: Tool with a drill-like end to cut into harder metallic materials; also can drill holes directly into substrate along the Z-axis. Generally used in machining applications.
Engraving: The art or technique of carving, cutting or etching into a material.
EPROM (Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory): Computer chip programmed with certain information, such as fonts and logos. Chips retain information until erased by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Often used by older proprietary engraving systems.
Feed Rate: The rate of speed at which the tool bit travels through substrates. Feed rate can affect quality of cuts in different materials.
Fills: Tool-path directions and methods for traveling through substrate to remove, or rout, material. Sweep or hatch fills remove material in consecutive, side-by- side lines. Spiral fills remove material in consecutive, side-by-side lines. Spiral fills trace the edge of area of material to be removed, then work inward to center, in one path. Island fills trace the edge, then work inward in separate, concentric paths.
First Cut & Second Cut: First cut is the first cut made in double-cutting-the first pass. Second cut is the second or final pass in, double cutting. Cutting in two passes allows the bits to cut better, last longer, and provide higher quality products.
Font: A set of characters in a typeface, such as Helvetica, Times, Optima, or Palatino. Most sets consist of upper and lowercase letters, numerals, punctuation marks, and extended characters.
Gantry: Bridge on which the engraving spindle assembly travels with certain types of engravers. Spindle usually travels along the length of the gantry for X-axis movement. Gantry may also be mounted on rails for movement along the Y-axis; with other engraving tables, gantry is stationary and the engraving table itself moves along the Y-axis.
Hand Engraving: The process of engraving using hand held tools.
Home: The position to which the machine goes to at the start of engraving, consisting of an X/Y position on the engraving surface (usually one corner) and a Z position above the table surface.
HPGL (Hewlett-Packard Graphics Language): Communications method between computer and an output device for drawing or cutting vectors of lines and arcs to create images. This is the most popular method for communicating with vinyl plotters and is widely used in engraving.
Italicization: Software feature allowing text to be skewed left or right at a specific angle, giving an effect similar to a true italic font.
Jig: Form or vise for holding non-flat or irregular-shaped objects for engraving. Jigs can be created in a wide variety of shapes, designed to hold cylindrical objects, items with various surface levels, etc.
Justification: Software feature that permits text to be aligned to the left margin, right margin, or centered.
Kerning: Space between characters in a line of text. Spacing is varied to compensate for shapes of letters, making for easier reading. Specific spacing between two specific characters is called a kerning pair. See condense.
Lacquer Stick: A color filling device that is similar to a crayon used to add color to an engraved area.
Lead Screw: A lead screw is a long threaded screw connected to a stepper motor that provides X, Y, or Z-axis motions.
Leading: Space between lines of text. Often expressed as a percentage of the vertical height of characters, it separates two baselines in text. For example, leading between two lines of 1” high characters, where baselines are 1-1/4” apart is 125%. This means you have a 25% space between your lines, adding readability to your text.
Logo: Artistic image rendered for use in an engraving program. Can be any symbol, shape, character, or company trademark. The image must be contained in a vector format for engraving.
Long Plate: Software feature that allows engraving on substrates larger than the production area.
Margins: The distance from the edge of the engraving plate or imaginary point to the edge of the area allocated for text or copy.
Melamine: See phenolic.
Micro Surfaced: A plastic engraving material with a cap, or top layer, around 1 to 2 thousandths of an inch, compared to a standard cap depth of ten thousandths of an inch or greater. The cap is foil material applied through a heat process, similar to hot stamping.
Micrometer: Adjustment gauge near nose of engraving spindle. Allows for precise alignment of cutting tool depth for engraving, usually in .001” increments. (1 revolution = .025″).
Mirror: Reversal of images along the horizontal axis. Done mainly for reverse engraving where dark material is removed from the back of the engraved material, allowing light to shine through to the surface of the clear material.
Monogram: A stylized arrangement of initials (usually 3), often using two different character sizes without periods. In monograms the first name initial is placed first, followed by the last name initial usually made larger, followed by the middle initial made the same size as the first character.
Multi-Processing: Software feature allowing multiple jobs to be in memory. This may also permit engraving and working on a job at the same time.
Nose Insert: See Depth nose.
Nose Riding and Non-Nose Riding: Nose riding utilizes a spring pressing the nosecone down onto the surface of the material, and the nose will gently touch the material surface throughout the engraving process. By riding the nose against the material it is simple to keep the cutter in the material at an exact depth, even if the material is not completely flat. Non-nose riding does not use the nosecone to regulate depth, and can lead to a variable depth of cut, depending on how flat your material is.
Offset: Distance that engraving hardware/ software will move the point of the tool to compensate for a tool’s cutting action. Movement insures accuracy of images; for example, if the tool cuts a 1/4″ path, offset would be 1/8″. Offsets can also be to remove material inside or outside the shape of an object. Offsets noted as on-line actually provide no offset.
Origin: Point at which engraving starts, or starting point of engraving area. Includes the 0 points of the X- and Y-axis. Can be found at the upper-left comer of the engraving area, or rarely, at the center of the engraving table.
Ornamental: A decorative design or artwork element used when engraving or lettering awards and gifts. Adds interest or emphasizes and balances a layout.
Overage: Material cut too big to allow for “hold-down” clamps, waste.
Oxidizing: Process of using an acid oxidation solution to blacken the engraved areas on a metal plate to provide contrast.
Paint Filling: Color decorating of engraved areas, usually by acrylic-based paints. Most commonly used on reverse engraved plastics or panels.
Pantograph: Manual engraving machine allowing for tracing along dies or patterns with non-engraving stylus; connected by arm mechanism to engraving spindle for creating a duplicate image of die/pattern. Adjustment of mechanism allows for engraving enlargement/reduction from size of the pattern or die.
Parallel Cutter: Tool bit with head to create square, uniform trough while cutting. Produces a 90° sidewall.
Pass (Single/Multiple): Route of travel taken by engraving tool across or into substrate. Single pass is one trip, multiple pass along same path can increase depth of cut and clean up burrs, uneven surfaces, and create sharper edges.
Phenolic: Heat- and chemical-resistant plastic engraving substrate. Hard, tough material; usually needs carbide tools for cutting/ engraving. Also known as melamine.
Production Area: Space on the engraving table where the engraving tool can touch the substrate and engrave. Some engraving tables may have non-production areas (or margins) for setting of clamps, etc. Also called usable engraving area, or usable area.
Profiling: Cutting out the shape (or profile) of a piece of material. The most common example of profiling is cutting out name badges in the shape of a logo.
Radius Cutter: Tool bit with rounded head. Often used for single-line font marking and reverse engraving.
Radius: Measurement is one-half of the diameter of a circle; for engraving, sets severity of curve when putting text along arc baseline.
Raster: Dot-like computer image designed to display on computer screens and is printed in ink. Collections of dots make up raster images, which do not have vector outlines, and therefore cannot be engraved without vectorizing. A computer scanner creates raster images, as well as most paint-type computer programs. Also called Bitmap images, and in printing are called halftones. See Scanning and Vectorization. Raster is also the name given to the small plastic balls that are inserted into drilled holes on ADA signs to produce raised Braille letters for the blind.
Rout: Digging into a substrate by tool head to remove material. Usually involves removal of material in large areas (also called clean out, roughing out, and hog-out), often leaving only raised character and logo images.
Sacrificial Sheet: Material is placed between table and the substrate being cut. Sacrificial prevents accidental engraving into the table by providing a margin for error, as well as allowing better edges when cutting out shapes.
Scanning: Process of capturing an already printed image with an optical device called a scanner, then transferring the information into a raster image for computer storage and use by a graphics programs. See raster.
Script: A type face or letter style consisting of curing lines and designed so as to simulate human handwriting.
Second Surface: Material under a laminated or extruded top layer; as top is engraved or routed, second surface (usually a contrasting, or complementary color) is exposed. Also, the process of marking a clear substrate with a mirrored (reverse) image and mounting a substrate with unmarked surface facing out. See Mirror.
Serialization: Software-controlled process of using step-and-repeat to create sequential engraved materials with slightly different information on each. Some examples include room numbers and sequential serial numbers. See step-and-repeat.
Shear: A machine that cuts various materials through the closure of two blades.
Speed and Delay: Software options allowing for specific control of engraving speeds in the X, Y, and Z-axis. Delay is generally reserved for the time it takes the Z-axis from a down stroke command to complete plunging. Long delays allow for cutter rpm to regain max speed after plunging. Also reduces cutter breakage and wear.
Spindle: Device that holds the cutters during the engraving process. Consisting of a pulley, shaft, micrometer, and a nosecone. The cutter is inserted into the spindle, the engraver holds the spindle and (in rotary engraving) a belt rotates the pulley, rotating the cutter contained within while the rest of the spindle is moved by the engraver to produce engraved characters.
Spool: Process where the computer takes files being sent to output devices, such as an engraver, and puts it in an electronic queue, or waiting area, to be produced in turn. File is transferred from main production into the background, allowing the program to handle working on another file. See multiprocessing.
Step-and-Repeat: Action where engraving tool completes a job and moves to a new starting point (step), and duplicates the job (repeat). If controlled by software, function usually calculates the number of step and repeats possible for the sheet of substrate being used, as well as counting the number of step and repeats performed. See serialization.
Sublines: Software feature that allows a change in a line of text without creating a new line. Possible subline changes include font styles, baselines, character condensation, line height, italicization, or logo insertion.
System Defaults: Software productivity tool that allows presetting of most common parameters. Parameters can include English/Metric measuring, plate size, pre-loaded fonts and other common options.
Table: Surface on engraving machine where substrate is placed for engraving. Can refer to entire surface, or only to area where engraving tool can work (see production area). Tables can be stationary or move along the Y-axis. See gantry.
Thompson Rail: Metal shaft on which engraving machine’s gantry or engraving table moves. Rail construction and design for holding gantry allows for less vibration and more accurate work. See table and gantry.
Tool Direction: Course that tool takes in a job. Since the tool bit’s actual rotary spin is clockwise, direction that the spindle travels can be set to clockwise or counter-clockwise for type of cut (with or against the bit’s spin) desired. See climb cutting and conventional cutting.
Tool In/Out: Position and speed at which tool enters substrate. Control of variables such as placement and velocity of the Z-axis movement of tool into material can affect accuracy of tool path and vibration, especially with harder substrates.
T-slot: “T” -shaped channels in the engraving table surface that hold special clamps for securing engraving work.
Two-ply and Three-ply: Substrate with thin top layers of contrasting colors. As top surface is removed, substrates of different colors are exposed, giving look of fill. Two-ply denotes one different colored layer on a substrate; three-ply denotes two different layers. Some three-ply substrates have only the core as a different color, so the only way for an observer to see the core color is to look at the engraved area.
Typeface: A family of fonts that define the overall similarity of the style. Typefaces (typeface families) include all fonts of a specific design and identifying name, such as Helvetica, Times, Garamond, Universe, Futura, etc. Fonts commonly included in a typeface are the original book-weight or designed weight, a bold version, italic version, and may also include light, medium, extra-bold or single-line versions. Single-line, double-line or any line quantity variant of a typeface still fall into the same typeface family as the original.
Vacuum Pump: Device that creates a vacuum in a small chamber. Since air always attempts to create an even pressure, the air intake is connected to devices such as vacuum tables, and the air must move towards the vacuum chamber. Sometimes vacuums are connected to chip-removal systems.
Vacuum Table: Surface where hold-down of substrate is done by air suction, as opposed to clamping or using a T-slot table. Suction is usually provided by a vacuum pump.
Vector: Line designated by beginning and end X/Y coordinates. Combinations of vectors make up the images understood by output devices such as engraving tables, vinyl-cutting plotters, etc.
Vectorization: Process of taking raster-based images and drawing (or automatically tracing) outlines closely conforming to the shapes of those images. Outlines become vector-based images and, for engraving, tool paths. Vectorization is the process used for taking images brought into a computer through scanning, and making such art engravable.
Zeroing the Cutter: Method of setting the starting point of the micrometer ring to allow accurate depth adjustment.
Z-Home: Perpendicular position on the Z-axis that engraving tool returns to after finishing any engraving action in a job.
The Engraver’s Bible
By: Rich Zydonik