Engraving is the art of cutting, carving, or etching into a material. Different engraving machines exist to work on different materials or through different methods of marking. Materials which can be engraved include wood, metal, gemstones, leather, plastic, and stone. A few common types of engraving machines are the mechanical engraving machine, the laser engraver, the jewelry engraver, and the photo engraver.
A mechanical engraving machine uses a model or stencil to transfer a design to the material that will be engraved. The cutter on the machine then marks the material with the design or description. Mechanical engravers have traditionally been a big part of the printing process. The desired image or lettering is engraved onto wood or metal plates, which is inked and stamped on the pages with the help of a printing press.
A laser engraver is a more modern invention, and they have become popular types of engraving machines. Unlike the mechanical machines, in a laser engraver, a cutting tool such as a bit or rotary cutter does not mark the material; instead, a laser does the work. A computer is necessary to operate a laser engraver because the technology behind this machine tends to be more complicated. The software that operates a laser engraving machine may come packaged with the machine, or it may be available for separate purchase.
Most jewelry engravers are actually a subset of laser engravers. These machines are specially designed to handle the delicate work of engraving jewelry. Engraving jewelry is not a new practice, but laser machines are more precise than older models of engraving machines. The precise laser can handle engraving of both flat and curved surfaces. The jewelry engravers have also grown increasingly smaller, so they can now easily fit into small shops or even kiosks where customers may request personalized engraving on rings, watches, photo frames, and other keepsakes. Other common uses for engraving machines are plates on trophies; identification tags for tools, pets, and medical equipment; and serial number plates.
Another subset of laser engravers includes photo engraving machines. With the help of specialized software, these machines engrave photographic images, as opposed to just text or simple designs, into metal. These engravings may appear on pet tags, the backs of watches, and paperweights. Sometimes these machines are built into self-service kiosks, where the user selects the desired product and design, inserts a form of payment, and waits for product to emerge from a slot.