cnc engravers

Has anyone had luck with these tabletop engravers on magnesium or brass for making printing or foil stamping plates. They seem to be getting less expensive. If these work well it opens up a lot of letterpress possibilities.

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I’m interested in this as well, I’ve been thinking about it for a couple years, but I was told these don’t have enough “power” to engrave the depth needed in metal for foil stamping.
What do you know Mike?

Not in one pass. But if you take the same path, multiple passes of the same path, you can cut through something.
It just takes more time.

CNC machining is complex stuff and it is like, it’s own full time job really. I think once you look into the amount of time it takes to put the work in on a desktop machine, you’ll find that- unless you want a new hobby or you’re in some distant place and you don’t have access to mail order dies- you’re looking at more time than it is worth in the long run vs having access to the excellent mail order photo-engravers we have in the USA.

You really don’t want to machine magnesium at home the shavings and dust are quite dangerous.

Brass is much easier to work with, but I suspect you would want a higher end water cooled end mill, as well as a fluid bath to clear chips and to cool the working material.

I have actually had one of the Chinese cnc 3040 desktop engravers for about 2 years, and can say they work reasonably well for the price. That being said we only use ours for wood.

the control mechanism for a CNC router / engraver is very similar to that of a Laser….. and I have had excellent results with a laser used to make printing blocks. (I posted an complete description of the laser process I use here on Briar Press several years ago.)

I don’t see any reason why a CNC Router / Engraver would not work well, too….. as long as you work within the machine’s limit of resolution.

I don’t think I’d bother with making metal blocks that way, though. A good hardwood block will print many thousands of impressions, and is far more user friendly. I routinely get 5000+ impressions from maple blocks.

But a good hardwood block is useless for foil stamping, the OP’s alternate use for such plates- I think the thing to keep in mind is time.

It takes many hours to CNC a single small block with great detail or complexity at the low speeds desktop engravers allow.
It may not take long to make basic blocks, but it depends on the detail level and complexity of the work you want to do.

Modern high end CNC machines are capable of high speed, torque, and repeatable resolutions in the ten-thousandth of an inch. They really are marvelous.
Desktop machines are probably nice, depending which one you have, but having first hand seen what a higher end FADAL VMC can do, as well as several other ‘low end’ machines like the Tormach (a small lower end machine) can do, I wonder what a desktop machine would have to offer to a real professional workflow.

I just don’t see how it would benefit you VS buying the photoengravings. It’s a service that exists for a reason…. It isn’t like Photopolymer (which is sort of a snap with the right equipment), this is more difficult in my opinion.

for Foil… you are right. Wood doesn’t work for foil unless you use glaire…. which is an old / odd process nowadays. I can do it, but it’s not economical or easy… and certainly not something one could offer for sale at a reasonable price. (It does look good with gold leaf, though)

as far as time goes, I don’t know since I’ve not used one. I do know that lasers wok fairly quickly at the lower depths used on blocks.

Now… as far as the economics go, you are probably right. buying a CNC machine may not be feasible unless you are doing a lot of blocks, AND the machine can produce enough blocks per day to pay for itself.

This is one area where technology is evolving fast; making the discussion we’re having about the benefits/limitations of CNC Engravers likely out-of-date within a year or maybe months! One thing that’s not likely to change anytime soon is a machine like this will not be cheap so you may want to “wait and see” for now. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with crowd-sourcing sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo yet, I’d start there. Kickstarter in particular has a pretty consistent pipeline of new CNC related machines launching on their site with pricing for prosumers/makers in mind.

Had some limited success with cnc’d aluminum for foil stamping. Takes a fair bit of time to make the plate though.

My cnc setup:

Thanks Ivan. This is the kind of info I’m looking for. It will only get easier in the future.

This popped up the other day on my youtube feed. It looks like a fairly good parallel to the effort needed to make a foil stamping plate on a cnc mill.

Good one Sean. I will am sure this is in the future for me.
In Canada we do not have very may suppliers for foil and embossing dies and it is expensive and time consuming to buy from the US