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Troubleshooting can take on many faces since equipment, technique and knowledge all play a part in the problems and solutions associated with engraving. Discussions on troubleshooting a specific piece of hardware or software must be left to the specific equipment manufacturer. I've focused on the typical culprits that affect engraving techniques, set-up and quality. These problems can often leave you scratching your head and asking yourself, "How did I ever miss this?"
Poor letter quality can be defined as any undesirable look or appearance caused by poor materials, poor workmanship, or improper set-up. Given that we can control these items, many problems can be solved and there's no reason to be ashamed of the engraving we produce. People will pay for quality and respect you for providing it. Basic letter quality problems are caused by several factors that can be addressed by recognizing the cause. Take corrective action and the problems will disappear. On the other hand, ignore them, and you’ll be pummeled by your competitor while he laughs all the way to the bank.
Problem #1: The letters simply look ragged. Us are not round and smooth. Line segments do not meet up properly on letters such as E, F and T.
Hint: Whenever you start to use a new diamond cutter, engrave a little sample in brass or aluminum. Later, when you think that you have cutter wear, you can compare a recent sample to the original.
Problem #2: The quality of cut is ragged or exhibits steps.
Problem #3: Poor letter quality, "The really bizarre."
Problem #4: While burnishing aluminum you have voids or non-engraved areas.
Problem #5: I've checked everything known to man and I still have letter quality problems.
Problem #6: Engraving on the plate is "slanted".
Hint: Always inspect your job before removing your plate from the system. You may be able to salvage it by re-engraving the job, or at a minimum, you may be able to analyze the problem and prevent repeating it. Perhaps the plate moved during engraving. Removing it without inspection would prevent you from detecting this problem.
Problem #7: You are using a nosecone, but your engraving is "shallow" across the top or left margin of your plate. It engraves properly when the spindle is away from the edge.
Problem #8: You are using a nosecone and you are getting uneven engraving.
Problem #9: While engraving certain materials "Shadowing" occurs.
Switch to another type of material. Satin finishes are especially prone to shadowing problems.
Problem #10: You are not using a nosecone and you have uneven engraving.
Hint: Stop trying to do something that the engraving machine was not intended to do. While it's true that you can do non-nose riding engraving on virtually any system, it's not easy to hold any controlled accuracy on the depth. This takes flat material, a very flat bed, and some degree of skill and confidence. It also takes an application where some amount of uneven engraving may be tolerated. Tread carefully.
Problem #11: I'm getting "tails" or "swirls" in the corners of my engraving.
Problem #12: I'm getting "fuzz", "fur" or can see lines in the bottom of my cut showing each cutter path. I can even see steps in the bottom of my cut when I rout out a large area or cut a multi-line font.
If you cannot find the reason for poor letter quality on your own, take the time to make several samples and provide them to your local sales representative or the equipment manufacturer. They are going to want some specific information to help diagnose the problem. Let them know what model of equipment and whose font you are using, what cutter was used, how fast the spindle rpm was set, X and Y speed, etc. You can add additional information that is sometimes helpful. Tell them if it's a gradual deterioration or recent change in quality, old or new cutter, you are using an unusual or new engraving technique, etc. All of these details can come into play.
My best advice:
Always try to solve the problems yourself before seeking help. A little patient analysis goes a long way.
Never work on any problem that gets you so frustrated that you become irritated at the machine, the service technician, or the salesman. It's only a machine; don't let it get the best of you.
Last but not least, experiment. The more you try new methods or techniques, the more you will learn. Don't be afraid of your engraving machine.