For the creation of customized faceplates, logos and other similar labels we use a modern laser engraving system. This allows us effective order processing and a high build quality at the same time. The only thing the customer must to do is to deliver their artwork with correct data for the laser processing. At first this sounds complicated, but it really is not.
To "create" the artwork a vector drawing program such as CorelDraw (commercial) or Inkscape (open source, free) must be used.
Basically two modes are distinguished by the laser:
material is vaporized through the laser beam and structures like fonts or graphics made visible
the material gets cut along the lines defined in the data, in addition to the labeling, necessary cutouts are present on the faceplate
The distinction between cutting and engraving is realized through the thickness of the lines. All lines with a thickness less than 0,15 mm are cut, and all lines with a thickness of more than 0,20 mm are engraved. Fonts are automatically engraved.
Let’s go into the details
The picture shows an example of a faceplate.
The word "power" is included in the data as a font, so it is engraved exactly where the letters are. This might sound logical, but in practice it is a problem for many people to understand it correctly because if they want a black faceplate with white labels they must choose the black/white engraving material. The black layer on the top of the material will vaporize at the corresponding places, for example where the letters are, and left will be a white label on a black faceplate. After the processing of the shown example there will be a white "power" label on the black faceplate but the font color in the data must be black or, more accurately it must be RGB color mode (0;0;0) black, otherwise it won't be completely engraved.
The thick black line with the rounded corners in the example has a thickness of 2 mm and is engraved. It would be a problem if the line thickness would be less than 0,15 mm, because than the laser would cut the line and not engrave it.
The places where we want cut-outs for potentiometers and screws are the two holes under the "power" label, the two holes on the side and of course finaly the whole faceplate. In the example the objects that should get cut out are colored red. It is not a must to color them red, but is a good visual help while designing a faceplate or logo. The red lines all have a thickness of 0.1 mm (in Inkscape) or are marked as hairlines (in CorelDraw) and so they instruct the laser to cut and not not engrave.
And these are all the secrets.
Of course there are also some pitfalls, otherwise it would be too easy. Take a look at the example with the two stars.
At first glance it looks like that both stars will get engraved and the plate will be cut out along the red line. But in fact the right star will first be engraved, and than cut out of the plate.
If you look closely at the star you can see there is a thin red line around it, whith a thickness of less than 0,15 mm. The line is red only for visual clarity; it could also be black and hard to see but the result will be the same: this line instructs the laser
to cut along the line and not to engrave. Therefore it is important to check all objects if there is a outline present next to the filled area. If so and you forget the remove the line, the object will be cut out after being engraved.
For those who have problems working with Inkscape or CorelDraw and do not know anybody who can help them, there are many useful video tutorials available on You Tube which provide quick and easy first steps into the software.