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What are Engraving Plastics

Peter Vasic - Tuesday, August 22, 2017


What are engraving plastics ? 



There are thousands of types of plastic made today with different chemical and physical properties.  Engraving plastics have two main characteristics. The first is that they are formulated to be easily engraved or personalized. That generally means they cut cleanly and don’t melt or chip, and they don’t present a hazard to either human health or to your equipment. 
The second characteristic is most materials are constructed with a multi-layer composition with the layers having different contrasting colours. This allows you to get a range of surface colours contrasting against a myriad of core colours.


Some plastics, e.g. traditional acrylic materials, have excellent engraving properties for both laser and rotary engraving, but for many jobs requiring colour or colour density in the graphics, colour paint filling is the best way  to get the colours required.


For many years plastics were pretty much limited to phenolic, clear acrylic and conventional “laminated” plastic engraving stock in two or three thicknesses and in a few colours and wood grains. Laminated flexible engraving stock was manufactured using a heat fusion process which produced a relatively thick “cap layer.” 
   In recent years, there has been a virtual explosion in the types of plastic available, in addition to an incredible selection of colours, patterns, finishes, gauges, etc. Acrylic, for instance, is available  in many colours and thicknesses. Plastics are now available that resemble, stone marble granite or metal, combining the look of the real thing with the ease of engraving plastic. Microsurface plastic engraving stocks, with an exceptionally thin cap layer of about 0.08mm, are available which allow you to engrave amazingly detailed designs. Reverse engravable substrates are available for projects like subsurface and backlit signage. 
 



Cast acrylic sheets are manufactured by pouring a liquid monomer into a mold made of two sheets of glass. This type of acrylic is known for its optical clarity, strength and impact resistance, and it is easier to machine than extruded acrylic. Engraved lettering and designs on clear cast acrylic will turn frosty white, providing nice contrast. Extruded acrylic, on the other hand, is manufactured by a continuous production process, which results in a more consistent gauge tolerance across the sheet. This type of acrylic is less expensive than cast acrylic and remains clear when engraved. Both cast and extruded acrylics offer UV stability, weatherability, moderate chemical resistance and will withstand heat up to  82 C or 180º F.
   Traditional acrylic sheets (the materials used for signs) are available as a single-ply sheet typically in 3mm and 6 mm thicknesses
   
Engraving Acrylics are available in a range of optical appearances (clear, opaque, translucent, mirrored, fluorescent, frosted), a variety of finishes (matte, gloss, satin, textured) and a wide range of colours, making it suitable for a variety of applications.
   Popular applications for acrylic include interior and exterior signage, badges, awards, industrial applications, channel lettering,  backlit signage is becoming popular and acrylic is an excellent material for this application. Acrylic can also be formed into many different types of products, such as tent signs, display fixtures, desk accessories and personalized gift items (trays, coasters ornaments, picture frames, etc.).
    One of the  disadvantages to traditional acrylics as an engraving stock is their uniform colour construction throughout. If you want contrasting colour in the engraved graphics, you are adding an extra step of colour filling the material using paint or another filler.




“Exterior Traffolyte “
   In addition to single-ply acrylic substrates, manufacturers have created acrylic blends containing ingredients such as fillers, pigments and additives that vary the physical properties of the material to create “modified” and “impact modified” acrylics. These acrylic blends are used to manufacture two- and three-ply materials with contrasting core and surface colours through co-extrusion, lamination or by adding a foil cap. The idea here is to utilize the advantages of traditional acrylic (weatherabiity) with the performance characteristics of multi-ply, multi-colored engraving stocks.
   Modified acrylic materials are available in an extensive number of colour combinations and finish options, and can be fabricated using many different methods, including both rotary and laser engraving. In addition, the use of modified acrylic in these two- and three-ply substrates makes most of them UV stable and weatherable so they can be used for both interior and exterior applications. 
   Suppliers also offer cast and extruded acrylic sheets specifically designed for reverse engraving. This two-ply material consists of a thick clear surface (as viewed from the front) and a thin coloured layer on the back. When the thin coloured layer is engraved with a reverse-reading design, the letters and graphics show through the clear base material which can then be colour filled or back lit for a number of unique applications, including subsurface signage.
   As mentioned, acrylic is a versatile material that can be marked using a variety of methods, including rotary engraving, laser engraving, hot stamping, screen printing, pad printing, UV-LED/direct printing and sandblasting. It can also be fabricated by sawing, routing, thermo-bending, laser vector cutting, beveling and drilling.








“Interior Traffolyte”

Is a pliable material typically made up of modified acrylic or ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene). It is usually configured as a thermoplastic consisting of two separate extruded sheets, a relatively thin cap layer and a thick core which are then “laminated” together in a large heat press. The cap layer is 0.2-0.25 mmt hick and is laminated to a contrasting coloured core material so that when you engrave through the cap you see the underlying colour. Common thicknesses include 0.8mm, 1.6mm ,  and 3mm. 


Three-ply materials are available in 1.6mm, 3mm and 6mm and there is a wide variety of colours and finishes to choose from, including satin, gloss, matte, textured, woodgrains and metallics. Reverse engravable conventional plastic is also available.
   Traditional laminated plastics are prone to variations in thickness. That’s not much of a problem for rotary engraving using a depth nose, but without a nose, you’re likely to experience cutting depth variations.
   A big advantage of this flexible material is that you can easily fabricate it by shearing, die cutting, hole punching, thermo-bending, heat fusing, solvent welding, etc. The ABS sheet materials are recommended for interior applications while the acrylic-based plastics are UV stable, meaning they will maintain colorfastness in UV conditions for a limited period time, and are able to withstand exterior weather conditions. Since ABS materials are manufactured with a slightly softer resin than acrylic, they have the features of added flexibility and excellent electrical insulation properties in addition to impact resistance and durability. 
   Conventional plastic engraving stock is primarily designed for rotary engraving with a carbide cutter. The laminated acrylic materials can be laser engraved, but the ABS materials are not recommended for laser engraving. ABS has a lower melting point which can cause it to warp and burn and, more importantly, it emits toxic fumes when engraved with a laser. Also, the relatively thick cap necessitates deeper engraving so it’s not well-suited for super fine detail or laser engraving since a relatively high power and low speed setting are required to cut through the cap which can result in melting, burning and discoloration. This material can also be marked by hot stamping, screen printing, pad printing and UV-LED/direct printing. 

Microsurface Flexible Engraving Stock
   Microsurface flexible engraving stock came onto the scene in the mid-1970s. It is very similar to conventional laminated flexible engraving stocks except that it has a very thin cap layer, typically about 0.08mm thick as opposed to .02mm- .025mm. The manufacturing process is basically a hot stamping operation which involves using heat and pressure to fuse a thin color or pattern coating to the contrasting core material, which is typically made of ABS or modified acrylic. The micro-thin cap on these plastics means you don’t need to engrave very deep (just slightly deeper than .0.08mm), which allows you to engrave more easily and achieve exceptionally fine detail. The thin cap also makes the acrylic microsurface stock very laser friendly since lower power and higher speeds can be used to penetrate the cap. As mentioned, ABS materials are only recommended for rotary engraving. In addition, the micro-surface acrylic materials are UV-stable and weatherable, but the micro-surface ABS materials are not recommended for exterior applications.
   Nowadays, there is an enormous selection of colors available in micro surface plastics, including metallics, woodgrains and geometric patterns in a variety of different finishes. New “trending” colours are continuously being introduced by manufacturers, so there is always plenty to choose from and new varieties are being introduced all the time. 
   Micro-surface plastic is available as a two-ply (.8mm, 1.6mm, 3mm) and three-ply (3mm) material. Reverse engravable micro-surface plastic is also available. In terms of fabricating and marking, you can use all of the same techniques used for conventional laminated flexible engraving stocks.
Ultra-Thin Flexible Engraving Stock
   This unique plastic is a two-ply material with a very thin impact acrylic core and a very thin cap, typically 0.08mm or less. The overall thickness of these materials is only about 0.10mm-0.8mm. Some of these products also have a pressure-sensitive self-adhesive backing. 
   Ultra-thin engraving stock is available in brass and aluminum look-alikes and several colours, woodgrains and marbles, and are mostly sold in sheets although some are available in rolls. The notable characteristic about all of these materials is that they are extremely thin, flexible and bendable so that they can be put on nearly anything, including curved and tapered surfaces like a flashlight or coffee mug. These characteristics also make these materials well-suited for labelling applications. Ultra-thin plastics are usually intended for interior use only.
   Ultra-thin plastic can be rotary engraved or lasered (as long as they are acrylic-based), and they can be fabricated like other plastics through shearing, sawing, drilling, thermo-bending, etc. Because they are so thin, they can also be cut with simple tools like scissors, a paper cutter or a scoring knife.


Sublimation Plastic

   These “plastics” are designed to withstand temperatures up to 205º C so that full-color images can be sublimated onto the material with a heat press. There are two types of sublimatable plastic available: fiber glass reinforced plastic (FRP) and Subliflex. FRP is 2.4mm thick and Subliflex is offered in 0.8mm thickness. Both are available in white with gloss and matte finishes to show off sublimation’s colors.
   FRP is rotary engravable but cannot be laser engraved due to the fiberglass content. This is a rigid material that needs to be cut with a rotary engraving machine or a saw. It is primarily intended for interior use but can be used for short-term exterior applications.
   The thin Subliflex is a flexible material similar to that used for plastic hotel key cards or plastic ID cards, but it doesn’t contain PVC. This is a more versatile material as it can be rotary engraved, laser engraved, sheared and even cut with scissors. The flexible plastic material can also be thermobent into products such as tent signs and is popular for applications such as ID cards. This material is actually two-sided, with one side having a matte finish and the other having a gloss finish.
   Sublimatable plastic in general offers many different applications. Name badges, interior design, personal identification, signage, holiday decorations, key chains and picture frames are just a few of the many sublimatable plastic product applications.




UV-LED/Direct Print Plastics

 
Printing plastics can be extremely problematic due to a variety of issues related to adhesion, ensure your supplier has proven capabilities, knowledge and experience in the printing of plastics as inks can literally fall off the surface within weeks of printing if the the surfaces are not prepared properly.
   UV-LED/direct printing is making waves in the industry as a new method for direct printing colour images on a variety of materials, including plastic. Theoretically, you can use a UV-LED/direct printer to print on any of the plastics mentioned , although you will most likely need to use an adhesion promotor to ensure that the ink adheres well.


Conclusion

The Choices available are comprehensive.  Therefore it’s recommended to check the MSDS and ask your supplier for assistance to ensure you are purchasing the right plastic for your requirements. This is stringently important when the job needs to meet specific criteria, such as , weatherability, chemical/solvent resistance, military specifications, etc. . 






































“Exterior Traffolyte “
   In addition to single-ply acrylic substrates, manufacturers have created acrylic blends containing ingredients such as fillers, pigments and additives that vary the physical properties of the material to create “modified” and “impact modified” acrylics. These acrylic blends are used to manufacture two- and three-ply materials with contrasting core and surface colours through co-extrusion, lamination or by adding a foil cap. The idea here is to utilize the advantages of traditional acrylic (weatherabiity) with the performance characteristics of multi-ply, multi-colored engraving stocks.
   Modified acrylic materials are available in an extensive number of colour combinations and finish options, and can be fabricated using many different methods, including both rotary and laser engraving. In addition, the use of modified acrylic in these two- and three-ply substrates makes most of them UV stable and weatherable so they can be used for both interior and exterior applications. 
   Suppliers also offer cast and extruded acrylic sheets specifically designed for reverse engraving. This two-ply material consists of a thick clear surface (as viewed from the front) and a thin coloured layer on the back. When the thin coloured layer is engraved with a reverse-reading design, the letters and graphics show through the clear base material which can then be colour filled or back lit for a number of unique applications, including subsurface signage.
   As mentioned, acrylic is a versatile material that can be marked using a variety of methods, including rotary engraving, laser engraving, hot stamping, screen printing, pad printing, UV-LED/direct printing and sandblasting. It can also be fabricated by sawing, routing, thermo-bending, laser vector cutting, beveling and drilling.
























 


Traditional Acrylic
   Traditional acrylic has sleek, upmarket, modern qualities that make it a very popular choice for a range of identification purposes including awards, gifts and fabrication applications. Traditional clear or single-color acrylic  is often noted as a lightweight, scratch-resistant and less expensive alternative to glass and with better optical clarity. An advantage of acrylic over some other plastics is its UV stability (meaning it’s able to withstand exposure to UV light) and weatherability (meaning it’s able to withstand the elements, such as sunshine, hot, cold, rain, snow, etc.). 
Both cast and extruded acrylic are commonly used.















Traffolyte Labels,Tags Rngraving Services Co

Peter Vasic - Tuesday, November 19, 2013
"Traffolyte or traffolite"

has now become the generic name for dual core or triple core hi impact acrylics, or engraving plastics. There are a number of manufacturers worldwide for these plastics, but the most well respected and best quality materials come from the USA, Europe and Australia. Traffolyte is available in a multitude of colour combinations, textures and finish styles including glow in the dark or photo luminescent finishes. Traffolyte is a cost effective medium extensively used in identification or manufacture of products such as control panels, traffolyte labels, door signs, interior signage , exterior signage, warning labels and identification labels. The important points to consider when ordering or purchasing traffolyte labels is their intended use. Many operators offer interior quality or inferior non premium known brands as exterior quality material. The pigment and binders in interior grade Traffolyte is totally unsuitable for exterior exposure and will fade, chalk, curl and crack quite quickly in exterior applications. There is no substitute for the correct materials for the proper applications. Always deal with reputable engravers or nameplate manufacturers and advise them of your requirements. Traffolyte can also be used for a variety of decorative signage, door name plate, honour roll applications. It is available in various thicknesses and can also be ordered in woodgrain finishes.

Industries that commonly utilize Traffolyte for labels include, Electrical, Automation, Plumbing, Electronics, Mining, Engineering, Manufacturing. Decorative Traffolyte is used extensively in Offices, Retail, Financial sectors and Medical.

Traffolyte is excellent for door name plates, desk nameplates, modular sign systems, name badges, name plates,

Quality manufacturers of "Traffolyte" or high impact dual core acrylics include, Rowmark, IPI and Gravograph.

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Exquisite Reception Signs & Signage | Engraving Services Co

Jacqui Nuske - Thursday, February 03, 2011

Brand design legend, Walter Landor once said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”. A product is simply something arranged that can be copied by a competitor, but a brand is unique and has the potential to be timeless. Creating a brand is as hard as crafting a reputation in the market, but signage like company logos, images, slogans, etc help in achieving the right atmosphere in the company. Thus, a way to start on being a brand is by acquiring the ideal reception signs.

The reception area of any company is its so-called face. It’s the place where the first meeting happens and most importantly it is where the first impression is made on the client. Everyone knows the importance of making a good first impression in the business world. Hence, the company wants to, not just make a lasting impression on its consumer, but also instil confidence in the clients mind about the company, create the desired ambience in the reception area, and make a statement. To achieve all these requirements, reception signs come extremely handy. Reception signage helps the company to showcase its image, corporate identity and brand value while also making the ambience pleasant for visitors and employees alike.

In the competitive world of today, companies no longer want to be just professional, but also stylish. Every company wants to be remembered for something extra that they have above the competition in the market. A creative office space can do the job better than any meeting. Reception signage comes in a range of designs to suit the concerned premises. From designs that display the aspired corporate image to company logos to simple directional panels, the selection is endless. Companies that make a wide range of reception signs customize it as per the client requirements of colour, design, shape and pattern. Some companies may even help in designing the signs by keeping in mind your business and target clientele.

Reception signs are your primary marketing tool as they are the first impression your clients will have in interactions with your company, business or brand. These signs can be the first opportunity that you have in relaxing or preparing your client for your interaction. A warm welcome sign can change the way your consumer views your business. It can assure him of the kind of personalised service he is signing on for. A well-designed reception area can turn an otherwise ordinary office space into a place where clients can witness the sophisticated brand image of your company. The end result leads to a comfortable, contemporary work space, where employees can feel confident and proud of their surroundings.

The end result is a more receptive and welcoming environment and the re assurance that one is dealing with a professional business.

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