Mechanical engravers use a model, or template, to transfer the design onto the material that will be engraved. A cutter on the machine then marks the material with a design or description. Traditionally, mechanical engravers have been an essential part of the printing process.
Laser engravers are a more modern invention and they have become a popular type of engraver. Unlike mechanical machines, in a laser engraver, a cutting tool such as a drill or a rotary cutter does not mark the material; instead, a laser does the work. A computer is required to operate a laser engraving machine, as the technology behind the machine is often more complex. Software to operate your laser engraving machine may be provided with the machine or purchased separately.
Most jewelry engravers are actually a subset of laser engravers. These machines are specially designed to handle the delicate work of jewelry engraving. Engraving jewelry is not a new practice, but laser machines are more precise than older models of engravers. Precise lasers can handle engraving on both flat and curved surfaces. Jewelry engravers are also getting smaller, so they can now easily fit into smaller stores and even kiosks, where customers can request personalized engravings on rings, watches, picture frames and other keepsakes. Other common uses for engravers are nameplates on trophies; identification labels for tools, pets, and medical equipment; and serial number plates.
Another subset of laser engraving machines includes photo engravers. With the help of specialized software, these machines can carve photographic images into metal, not just text or simple designs. These engravings may appear on pet tags, watch backs, and paperweights. Sometimes these machines are built into self-service kiosks where users can select the desired product and design, insert a payment method, and wait for the product to emerge from the slot.