How Does an Engraving Machine Work?

by Timothy Sexton; Updated September 26, 2017

Image Creation

The first step in the engraving process is the creation of the image that is to be engraved. Most engraving machines today are high tech instruments using laser technology. An image can be captured using a standard two-dimension digital camera, a special 3-D camera, or an image that has been pre-designed. The image is scanned into a computer before being transferred to the laser engraving machine.

Tracing the Pattern

Once the image is transferred to the machine, the laser begins tracing the pattern of the image. The movement of the laser is controlled through computerized programming. The laser must be set up to remove the same amount from the material the image is being engraved upon. An X-Y table is used for the most precise kind of engraving. The laser reflects from a mirror placed on the opposite side and tilted at a 45 degree angle. The beam is then directed perpendicular to the axis by use of another mirror. The use of mirrors serves the purpose of engraving horizontally and vertically in tandem.

Engraving on a Flat Surface

Another type of engraving machine uses a flat table method so that the laser's energy is directed primarily toward maintaining the correct depth. This kind of engraving machine is used for creating a uniform result. The material on which the engraving is done with a flat table tends to have a thinner, flatter surface. When the surface does possess a variances in shape, a system is used in which the parameters of the laser's movement can be changed in real time. This allows the beam of the laser to become more adaptable to even minute modifications in the dimensions of the surface to be engraved.

About the Author

Timothy Sexton's more than 10,000 articles have been published on sites ranging from USA Today to CareerAddict, from PopEater to His writing has been referenced in books ranging from "The Reckless Life...of Marlon Brando" to "Brand New China: Advertising, Media and Commercial and from Scarface Nation to Incentive!"