If you want to engrave multiple parts in one process and save additional time, using jigs are an extremely useful tool. There are a few things to concider when creating a jig, these are explored below:
As a general rule of thumb, any material that can be laser cut can be used for creating jigs. TroLase is a particularly cost-effective option. It is dimensionally stable, easy to process and available in many forms including TroLase Lights, TroLase Thins and TroLase ADA Signage.
One important item to consider when creating jigs is the thickness of parts which will be engraved. For thin objects such as aluminum tags, use a thin material for the jig, this will make it easier to remove the parts later. For thicker workpieces such as pens, a thicker material can be used to provide additional support for the jig pieces.
The jig can be any size you require it to be. Depending on the quantity of items that require marking, you can either create a series of small jigs for the specific tasks required, or for large runs, you can create a jig layout that uses the entire working area of your Trotec laser.
For large order volumes, it would be more economical to produce multiple jigs. Ensure the jig has a solid base, this will allow you to easily and quickly remove and replace the jig and associated items, allowing you to keep up a high level of productivity. You can then begin unloading and reloading a jig whilst the laser is engraving the current jig.
Getting the exact size and contour shape of your workpiece are essential for creating a jig layout. Fortunately, there are a few ways to achieve this:
Idea #1: Measure
If the outline of your workpiece is a simple, geometric shape, it is a good idea to measure the shape and trace it in your graphics program.
Idea #2: Scan the workpiece and trace it
If your workpiece consists of complex angles and radii, such as a heart shaped pendant for instance, try scanning the workpiece into the computer and then, import the scanned image into your graphics program and trace the contours.
For items too large or bulky to scan, transfer the contours to pen and paper - or try taking a top-down photo of the workpiece.
Once the image is in your graphics program, trace around the workpiece and adjust the scale accordingly to ensure accurate size representation of your workpiece.
Now that you have your contour shape for your workpiece, you need to duplicate the contour and form a layout for the jig. Always ensure that you align the workpiece contour in a way that future engravings can run straight and don't have to be rotated. This makes it easier to align graphics and text fields on your workpiece.
It is helpful to include any inside contours that may represent holes (e.g. holes for bead chains, etc.) this will help with aligning your workpeice more accurately each time you populate the jig and also give you obvious 'no engrave' zones.
Tip: Once your initial workpiece contour is created, try cutting out the contour on a test piece of material and try inserting your workpiece. If necessary, make any necessary adjustments and tweaks to the contour and repeat the output until you get a perfect fit. It is also a good idea to test your contour cut out on multiple workpieces, as these can also be subject to production-related tolerances you will need to take into consideration.
It is very helpful to add an additional cut-out in the shape of a semicircle. This makes it easier to remove the finished engraved parts.
In general, we recommend using the smallest possible lens (1.5" or 2") in order to keep the cutting gap as small as possible.
- If you use multiple templates, engrave the name of the template onto the jig and ensure your files that relate to the jig are also named accordingly. This will make it easier to source the corresponding work files for the jig when you need to use it.
- Mark the corner of the unit in the zero point on the template so that you can quickly and easily insert it.
- For smaller jigs, it may be a good idea to store or file the jig in a folder. Thus, your templates are kept safe and are quickly at hand.
- When you send your future engraving jobs to the laser, always send the entire graphic including the outer contour of the template. Before engraving your workpieces, set the colour "red" to "positioning" in the parameters in the material database. This makes it easy for you to check whether the template is properly positioned in the machine.
- In order to quickly and reliably determine the desired position for laser processing read our tips and tricks for positioning aids.