Can a CNC Plasma Table Engrave?

can a CNC plasma table engrave

The subject of CNC plasma is primarily associated with cutting. Many people wonder if they can engrave with a CNC plasma table because performing that task would take their business to the next level. So, can a CNC plasma table engrave?

CNC plasma tables are famous for their effectiveness in cutting metal sheets, but you can use them in other ways. They are versatile and precise machines enabling you to produce various products for your business.

So, in this article, you will discover whether a CNC plasma table can engrave and much more!

Can a CNC Plasma Table Engrave?

CNC plasma engraving is a method that utilizes the precision of computer control and the power of CNC plasma machinery to do engravings, such as decorating, drawing, or writing. 

You can use the same plasma torch for marking, scoring, or scribing on metal to create logos and signs.

By replacing the plasma torch with an engraving attachment, you can turn your CNC table into a precise engraving tool capable of performing intricate design patterns.

To adapt the CNC plasma table for this type of duty, it must undergo some other changes, such as replacing the CNC plasma cutting software with one designed for engraving.

Ensure you have the best possible CNC plasma table to perform the highest quality engravings. We provide many CNC cutting options to meet your business’s and customers’ demands.

How to Prepare Your CNC Table for Engraving

Toolpath generation

The toolpath generation is drawing a map and giving a set of instructions to the CNC plasma table for where it should move the torch. You can design the toolpath yourself or import it from elsewhere using the software.

The toolpath strategy refers to the patterns of movement the machine will use when performing the engravings. You could choose for it to move in straight lines, curves, or specific patterns. 

Finally, you can simulate the toolpath and get an idea of how it would look. This will enable you to see if any parameters need changing. When you’re happy with the toolpath, you can export it to use on your CNC plasma table.

Engraving software

Engraving projects need software that can help the CNC plasma table perform accurately. They can be complete software solutions or add-ons to help your old software do the job.

Here are the software options you can use for engraving:

CAD/CAM software

You can use CAD/CAM software primarily for cutting and also engraving. CAD and CAM software machining capabilities can perform high-quality engraving tasks by implementing the appropriate settings and toolpath configurations.

Some of the most popular CAD/CAM software solutions for engraving are AutoCAD, Fusion360, SolidWorks, DraftSight, Rhino CAM, etc.

CAD/CAM software
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: genkur

Vector graphics software

Software solutions that provide vector-based design and execution are suitable for engraving tasks with CNC tables. There’s usually a wealth of features to choose from, like drawing tools for shapes, line tools for paths, and text.

Vector-based software works with layers, allowing better visibility of the elements and focusing on specific parts without the others getting in the way. This approach makes it easier to manage complex designs.

Popular software solutions for vector graphics include Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, Inkscape, Affinity Designer, etc.

Engraving-specific software

There are software options designed for engraving projects. They offer better design and performance features since they specialize in engraving tasks.

Engraving-specific software gives you more precise control over the parameters such as depth, width, and speed. Some more advanced software options include automatic serialization and variable data engraving.

The most popular software options are Vision Pro Engraving, LaserGRBL(available for CNC), CADlink’s EngraveLab, Gravostyle, etc.

Height control system

Adapting the height control system of the CNC plasma table is one of its most necessary aspects and it is used to perform engraving with it. This component of the CNC plasma table ensures that there’s always the correct distance between the plasma torch and the material.

The HCS ensures that the torch achieves the correct depth of the engraving. You must first identify the engraving requirements like desired depth and precision, to put in place the adjustments. Then you must choose from the adaptations, like a floating head or sensing mechanism, and decide what suits your project best. 

The floating head moves the torch vertically and adjusts to any irregularities in height, while the sensing mechanism uses sensors that measure the surface and discover irregularities.

Once the adaptation has been implemented, what remains is to do the calibration and testing. Calibration refers to setting the desired parameters for depth and tolerance levels. Finally, you can test the HCS, which will also help you get familiarized with the method.

Surface Preparation

While engraving is distinguishable from cutting, some preparation steps are the same. Like with cutting, you must ensure the surface is clean of any residue or contaminants.

This helps with better adhesion and improves the quality of the engraving. Having residue on the material surface during the engraving sequences can cause inconsistent depth and poor product quality.

surface preparation cnc table
Source: shutterstock.com / Photo Contributor: Andriy Dovzhykov

Feed rate

The feed rate is the speed at which the CNC tool executes the engraving. It is measured in inches per minute, and having optimal speed is vital for good-quality engravings, otherwise the incorrect cut speed can lead to dross.

Torch vs. engraving attachment

A CNC plasma table has a cutting torch that releases plasma onto the metal. While cutting is the primary use of the torch, you can also use it for engraving. The way to do it is by adjusting the settings to match the requirements for the specific task.

You can also replace the torch with an engraving attachment. The tool can perform engraving movements with precision and adequate depth. 

Engraving with torch

The torch is suitable for shallower engraving and is better for more robust materials. It’s limited when it comes to complex designs and is less precise. Yet, it’s the most cost-effective option because you wouldn’t have to buy additional parts.

Engraving with an attachment

A specialized engraving attachment enables better control and precision. Features like diamond tips can produce fine lines and help create intricate designs.

It is usually made out of aluminum or steel, and the characteristics of those materials will determine its best application. Aluminum is lighter, so it puts less stress on the machine, and its heat-dissipating qualities are beneficial when engraving in metal.

Steel is more rigid and durable. Engraving more stubborn materials with stability and precision requires a solid metal because you must apply more force.

Application of CNC Plasma Engraving

Not only can a CNC plasma table engrave, but it has found various commercial, industrial, artistic, and aesthetic applications. CNC plasma engraving is so versatile that it is used for marking robust materials and parts in heavy industries while, at the same time, it is used to make intricate artwork.

Here are some of the ways CNC plasma engraving is used:

  • Making signs
  • Metal artwork
  • Industrial marking
  • Architectural ornaments
  • Jewelry and accessories 
  • Engraved tags, keychains, and nameplates
  • Marking parts, etc.

There are endless ways you can use plasma engraving. Choosing what to focus on will depend on your interests or the target group of your business. It will also depend on the type of CNC plasma table at your disposal.

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes when performing CNC plasma engraving relate to the preparation process, like engraving on dirty material and generating an incorrect toolpath. 

It is vital to perform all the necessary preparations before starting the process because once the machine performs a cut, there’s no turning back. Executing bad marks will cause unnecessary expenditures of material.

Another common mistake in the preparation process is choosing an incompatible material for the tools at our disposal. This can cause excessive heat generation and poor quality of the engraving.

One of the most common mistakes relates to the speed of the engraving. Like with cutting, executing the task too fast can lead to inaccurate engravings with inappropriate depth. Performing the engravings too slowly can cause too much heat and deformation of the material.

Conclusion

Using a CNC plasma is an effective way to perform engraving on metal or other materials. It has many advantages compared to other engraving methods. It is a versatile, fast, and efficient process.

If you already have a plasma table, you can use it for engraving; all you need to do is make certain adjustments in the settings and software. But can a CNC plasma table engrave using the same torch used for cutting? With the correct modifications, you can make your CNC plasma perform various engravings that have applications in many industries.

You need to get the proper software for engraving and adjust the height control system to ensure the proper distance between the torch and the material.

Furthermore, you need to perform the basic adjustments and preparations necessary when performing cuts with the CNC plasma table. Those include toolpath, cutting speed, and surface preparation.

 Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson is the owner and founder of Squickmon's Engineering & Engineering. With over 15 years of fabrication and manufacturing experience, alongside a mechanical engineering degree, he knows exactly what it takes to create a quality product for small fabrication shops as well as large industrial manufacturing companies. He set out to create a company that stands by their products with confidence as well as integrity. His goal was to build a company with a strong foundation, quality product, satisfied customers, and a product that is 100 percent designed and built in the USA.

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