CNC Engraving: Process, Types and Applications

The CNC machine can do numerous things, but one of the most exciting is CNC engraving. Creating fine details on wood, metals, or any other materials using the CNC is satisfying. On top of that, it is much easier to achieve those results by the machine than manually.

Just like the old days, much of today’s engraving processes are for decorative purposes. However, the engraving process today is much more efficient, thanks to technological advances. In this article, we delve into the details of the CNC engraving process, identifying its varieties and applications in the industry.

What is CNC Engraving?

CNC engraving

CNC engraving is the use of a computer-controlled machine to impart designs and logos on materials. This process may work both for artistic purposes and in the industrial setting to mark parts. Manufacturers dealing in signs and jewelry may also use CNC engraving with a CNC router.

Most CNC machines can support engraving. However, some machines, for instance a CNC router, have extra features that can make the engraving process simpler and more applicable. However, there are a few standard features you can expect to find in any CNC engraving machine. For instance, the machine should have a high-speed spindle.

How Dose CNC Engraving Works?

The CNC engraving process follows the following basic steps, more or less:

Step 1: Prepare the Design

The CNC machine relies on computer control to engrave the surface. For the cutting tool to carve out the surface as desired, the CNC machine must have a program. Getting the program to the machine starts with having a design.

There are many CAD software options out there for this. Examples are CorelDRAW and AutoCAD. As you design the engraving details on the software, be sure to optimize the design. It is also essential to use the right scale.

You need to import the engraving design to the CNC machine. The CNC machine should have a manual on how to do this importation.

Step 2: Set up the CNC Machines

Now that the design is ready and you have imported it to the CNC machine, you are almost ready to start engraving. However, that’s not before you ensure that everything on the machine is all set.

Ensure that the workpiece is tightly and correctly sitting on the machine.

Step 3: Run a Test Engraving

Test the program to ensure it is okay and that the CNC machine is in working condition. Run this test on a separate workpiece but with similar properties to see the results to expect.

Step 4: Execute the Engraving Process

If the test engraving is good, you can perform the real engraving process now. As the machining process proceeds, you want to monitor it closely. Potential problems that may occur during the engraving process are:

  • Loss of accuracy

  • Too shallow or too deep engraving

  • Dull or broken tools

You might need to change the settings on the CNC machine based on how the workpiece or cutting tools respond.

Step 5: Finish the Process

The engraving action may not be complete until the engraved part undergoes surface finishing and quality checks. A quality brush is enough to remove debris from the surface. For enhanced aesthetics and durability of the piece, polishing the engraved part may be necessary.

Quality control is usually the last stage in the CNC engraving method. Here, you will be looking at particular aspects of the item that relate to the set standards. These checks are for elements such as surface quality, depth of cut, and accuracy of engraved features.

Types Of CNC Engraving Process

The CNC engraving process follows the following basic steps, more or less:

CNC Diamond Drag Engraving

CNC Diamond Drag Engraving

The main feature of this type of CNC engraving machine is a diamond tip. Through scratching, the extremely tough diamond easily engraves the material. Due to the toughness of diamonds, this method can engrave virtually any material.

CNC Laser Engraving

In the CNC laser engraving technology, a powerful laser beam strikes the material to cause sublimation. This results in marks on the surface. The CNC technology controls the movement of a laser head.

CNC Rotary Engraving

CNC Rotary Engraving

This machine features a rotating cutting tool. The tool has flute-like edges that help it cut through the materials. The tool can be rounded or V-shaped at the tip. To actualize this tool rotation, the machine comes with a unique spindle design. The CNC rotary engraving machine is very versatile.

What Materials Can Be CNC Engraving?

As a versatile machining method, CNC engraving applies to a wide range of materials. Of course, the first category of materials on the list is metals. Popular metals for CNC engraving include copper, aluminum, and stainless steel.

You can also engrave various types of plastics including polystyrene, polyethylene, and ABS.

Wood can also be CNC engraved. Engravable types of wood are cork, hardwood, and softwood.

Advantages and Disadvantages Of CNC Engraving

Advantages of CNC Engraving

Accurate – One of the many benefits of CNC engraving machines is high precision. They can produce numerous parts and designs without losing the original level of detail. This high precision is critical in aerospace and other sensitive applications.

Versatile – To add to precision, CNC machines for engraving are applied for different materials and designs. Apart from metals such as aluminum, you can engrave wood, plastic, and other materials and attain complex designs.

Fast – CNC engraving combines accuracy with speed. Provided you have the CNC program right, you can produce many parts quickly.

Reproduction – Where you want to produce several identical parts, CNC engraving is a suitable process.

Disadvantages of CNC Engraving

High Capital – CNC engraving machines are relatively expensive. However, the consequent production costs are manageable.

Machine maintenance – CNC machines are high-tech and need proper maintenance, which can be complicated and expensive.

Skilled Operation – As for maintenance, the level of technology in the CNC engraving machine demands advanced technical skills for operation.

Applications Of CNC Engraving

The CNC engraving technology is highly useful in the following areas:

Markings in Industries – Markings from CNC engraving are extremely wear-resistant. They perform better than markings from chemical etching, inking, and adhesive labeling.

Jewelry-making – CNC machine engraving has revolutionized the jewelry industry through laser engraving, deep engraving, and other methods. The results are reliable and of a high degree.

Sign-Making – With a CNC engraving machine, you can easily make 3D cutouts. With the invention of this CNC machining method, sign-making has never been the same again.

In Conclusion

As is evident from this article, CNC engraving is an interesting and important manufacturing process. Armed with the right CNC equipment and skills, you can achieve a lot with this method. But if in doubt, there is a trusted CNC machining partner in Aria Manufacturing.


Gavin Leo is a technical writer at Aria with 8 years of experience in Engineering, He proficient in machining characteristics and surface finish process of various materials. and participated in the development of more than 100complex injection molding and CNC machining projects. He is passionate about sharing his knowledge and experience.