How to choose an engraving machine

Engraving machines can be used to apply images, clean and polish surfaces, cut, mill and even drill a variety of materials. Engravers are suitable for working with wood, bone, metal, plastic, glass, stone, ceramics. These devices have different characteristics and different functionality. In order to successfully accomplish these tasks, when choosing an engraving machine, you need to make sure that it is suitable for the planned work.

How the engraver works
The working attachment of the engraver rotates and removes the thinnest layers of different thickness, length and width from the processed material. As a result, a relief surface is formed, on which the contours of an image, pattern or font appear. In addition, nozzles rotating at different speeds are capable of performing the functions of a miniature angle grinder and work according to a principle similar to the grinder. Some compare the engravers with a dentist’s tool, others with a miniature drill, and still others with the trimmer of manicurists. There is some truth in every such comparison.

 

Engraver device
Engravers are laser and electromechanical. For domestic needs, the second type of devices is usually used. After all, mechanical engravers are the best option for novice craftsmen. The basis of such a machine is an electric motor, from which rotational motion is transmitted through a gearbox or directly through a shaft to a chuck.

The engravers have a start button and mode switches, with which you can control the speed of rotation of the attachments and the trajectory of their movement (for percussion models). An impeller is provided to cool the engine, supplying an air stream to it. The device is extremely simple, and the engraver is somewhat structurally reminiscent of a miniature drill .

1 – speed regulator and electronics unit; 2 – brushes; 3 – engine; 4 – impeller for engine cooling; 5 – stopper; 6 – shaft with a chuck (collet).

The body of these machines has holes for exhausting hot air and is made of heat-resistant plastic, so the devices tolerate heat well during operation. The chuck (collet) is located at the end of the shaft and allows you to quickly change attachments. Additionally, engravers have a stopper – a button near the chuck, with which you can instantly stop the rotation.

 

The electronics box is an integral part of the switch (speed controller). The way to control the device depends on it. Another additional design element is a flexible removable shaft. It makes working with the engraver more convenient and allows access to areas that cannot be reached with a massive plastic case. A flexible removable shaft can be immediately included in the kit, or it will need to be purchased separately if necessary.

 

Sometimes engravers are equipped with miniature flashlights. They illuminate the place of work in a targeted manner. This is a useful feature because you can obscure the main light with your body or hand while engraving. It is important that the lighting system does not weigh down the engraving machine.

 

What to look for when choosing an engraver
It is not recommended to choose engraving machines by individual parameters. To purchase a suitable model, you need to focus on at least 10 criteria. An integrated approach will allow you to avoid mistakes and problems in the process.

Power
This is one of the main parameters, which varies between 9-500 watts. There are engravers with a power of about 2000 watts. However, such models are classified as professional equipment that is not used for domestic needs. Most models have a power rating of 100-200 watts. It is sufficient for most simple tasks.

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The capabilities of the engraving machine depend on the power. The higher this indicator, the more operations the device is capable of performing. Usually, the power is selected depending on what materials you plan to work with:

wood, plastic, bone – up to 150 W;
metal – about 200 W;
stone, glass, ceramics – over 250 W.
These are rough guidelines. After all, there are different grades of steel, types of stone and wood. Therefore, the hardness of the work surface, the depth and width of the cut must always be taken into account. For processing some metal surfaces, an engraver with a power of 135-170 W is sufficient, and in some cases 200 W is not enough.

Speed ​​control
The quality of material processing and the number of operations performed depend on the speed of rotation of the shaft. Depending on the model, the maximum number of revolutions per minute for engravers ranges from 6,000 to 40,000. For domestic purposes, it is advisable to choose models with a shaft rotation speed of 15,000–35,000 rpm. The final choice must be made depending on the type of surfaces to be treated:

wooden, plastic – up to 15,000–20,000 rpm;
metal, stone – from 20,000 rpm.

A good car should be able to smoothly adjust the number of revolutions. This will expand the list of operations and quickly adjust the device to current needs. Engravers without shaft speed control are suitable for a limited number of operations.

In fact, every such device is suitable for performing certain jobs. For example, for cutting and sharpening or grinding and polishing. Low-speed machines cannot be used for processing hard materials (stone, metal, glass). Engravers with high shaft speeds will cause wood and plastic to overheat, which can ruin these materials.

 

The rotation speed of the nozzles in the chuck is changed using a slide switch or a smooth change regulator. The second configuration makes the job easier. With the help of a rotating wheel, you can more sensitively react to changes in the process of working with different materials.

Type of food
Engravers can be mains- powered and battery-powered . Battery models are needed in two cases:

for safe handling of wet materials;
if there are no network connection points nearby.

In other situations, the use of battery models is irrational for several reasons at once:

they are heavier than networked machines with the same power;
their working hours are limited.
Most models are connected to a 220 V network. This is the best option for domestic needs if you plan to perform work without irrigating the surface to be treated.

Types of operations
This criterion directly depends on the power and rotational speed. Engraving machines are suitable for different types of work:

engraving;
sharpening;
grinding;
polishing;
stripping;
cutting;
abrasive processing.
Additionally, you need to consider what type of engraving is planned to be performed – embossed and shallow. For relief engraving, you need a machine with increased power and shaft rotation speed. The shape of the treated surface is also important, which is flat, spherical, embossed. In this case, it is important to provide for the ability to get the engraver to the place of work.

 

Maximum collet diameter
The number of operations that can be performed using the engraver also depends on this parameter. The collet diameter for different machines varies from 2.3 to 6.35 mm, and the most common size is 3.2 mm. This diameter is sufficient to hold most attachments. Oversized collet models are compatible with thick shank bits.

Complete set with nozzles
Usually, engraving machines are sold immediately with attachments . When completing the set, they are selected for the functionality of a particular device. Depending on the model, their quantity is 20–100 pieces.

 

Some engravers sell without attachments at all, as more experienced craftsmen prefer to independently select a tool for surface treatment.

Tripod Compatibility
In some cases it is more convenient to work with a tripod, which is fixed on the table and used to fix the engraver. This configuration option is considered optimal when working with a flexible shaft. On the body of the machine, manufacturers can install a ring or other fastening element that allows you to fix the device on a tripod.

Engravers do not always come with brackets or tripods. These items must be purchased separately. That is why it is important to immediately foresee the need to fix the machine in the future on vertical or horizontal racks. In this case, when choosing an engraver, it is important to consider the compatibility of the model you like with the tripod.

 

Flexible Shaft Compatibility
If in the process of work it is planned to use a flexible shaft, and it is not included immediately in the kit, you must make sure that it can be connected to the device. Not all cars are compatible with this element. And the best option is to immediately buy an engraver with a flexible shaft.

Dimensions and weight of the engraving machine
The mass of the engravers is 250–1600 grams, and their length is 130–320 mm. A novice master should choose a model with a small mass, because when working with a heavier machine, the hand will quickly get tired. In this case, it is necessary to correlate the weight with other characteristics. For example, the less the mass of the engraver, the lower its power.

Additional functionality
Some models of engravers may have additional features:

informing about the main operating parameters – devices with LCD displays most often display on the screens only the speed of rotation of the shaft (some models have added power and voltage);
increased level of protection – double insulation, which reduces the risk of electric shock during operation.

Today, engravers are produced without batteries, which are capable of operating from a 12 V automobile network. Thanks to this function, the dependence on the main power source – the electrical network – is reduced.

Which model of the engraver is better to choose
The choice of a model most often depends on two factors – what materials you plan to work with, and what you will need to do with them. The complexity of processing and the intensity of operation also matter.

If the device is purchased for a child to get basic skills, it is better to purchase a simple model with a power of about 50 W and a rotation speed of up to 12,000 rpm. The lighter the engraver in this case, the better.

 

For grinding and polishing, you need models with medium speed. Indeed, at a high speed of rotation of the shaft, the processed surface will quickly heat up. This will negatively affect the quality of work and increase the time it takes to complete them.

To cut materials and sharpen tools, on the other hand, you need engravers with rotational speeds of up to 30,000 rpm. It is at high speeds that it is best to perform the mentioned operations. If the rotation speed is low, both the material and the attachment can be damaged during the cutting process.