Rotary engraving of stainless steel can be a challenging application. However, because stainless steel is durable, requires little maintenance, and is heat resistant, it is a frequently used material.
Engravers need to understand that there are numerous grades of stainless steel, only a few of which are recommended for engraving. Good quality stainless steel for engraving should possess the following qualities:
- Recommended standard stainless steel grades for engraving, in priority order are; 416, 303, 302, 304, and 431.
For best results in engraving these grades of stainless steel, the engraver should take into consideration the following:
- Use an industrial grade computerized engraving machine. If you are doing a lot of stainless steel engraving, it is recommended that you purchase an optional high RPM spindle (40,000 – 60,000 RPM), like the NSK spindle from Vision.
- Quarter round cutters are preferred over traditional half round cutters. Purchase cutters specially sharpened for engraving stainless steel, as they cut cleaner and tend to last longer.
- A coolant, silicone spray, or a light oil (such as those used in the UNIST Misting System) is advised to help minimize heat buildup, friction, and increases cutter life when applied to the area being engraved.
- Engraving in multiple passes, .004 at a time, is suggested, followed with a final clean-pass of .001 or .002. To paint-fill stainless steel, you should reach a depth of .010”-.012”.
- Cutting speeds are relative, but as a rule of thumb, the wider the tip size used, the slower XY move speed used. Start very slow, and gradually increase speed for the best results.
- Z down speed and dwell time should be very slow. This will allow the cutter to gradually penetrate the stainless steel without breaking the cutter tip.