Introduction: Metal Marking Control Panels With a C02 Laser (using CerMark)


This quick project is to demonstrate the use of CerMark in a production application for metal marking bare metals, in this case stainless steel Control Panels without having access to a YAG or Fiber Mark Laser.

First off there are a few things you will need to get started:

A) A laser engraver with a bed large enough to handle the panel you want to engrave.
The higher the wattage the better. CerMark supplies you with guidelines on settings for specific wattages.
B) Stainless Steel Control Panel or a scrap piece of bare metal to do your test on.
If you use a scrap, it must be cleaned and prepared before engraving. (no dirt, rust or oils)
C) CerMark , either in the ready to use Spray (which I will be using) or in the paste or tape form.
D) 3-in-One Oil (or sewing machine oil)
E) Isopropyl Alcohol (to clean any oils off of newly cut panel)
F) Cleaning Rags or Cheese Cloth
E) Steel Wool (if your metal has stains on the surface)

COST:
CerMark is the most expensive thing in this project (if you already have your panel(s).
It's $70 per can and 1 can covers 1,100 sq/in.  Note: Length x Width = Square Inches

This can also be done on raw (not coated) aluminum stock as well to cut down your costs on small
DIY projects which you can cut out on a bandsaw and drill or carefully with a dremel.


If you are careful, you can spread out the life of the can by only spraying the areas you need to engrave.
Not the entire project.

Step 1: Designing Your Control Panel

I was supplied a .DWG file (AutoCAD) from the client. If you are designing your own panel you will want
to start by figuring out the size of your panel and components first. Then laying out all of the components to scale
and marking them. A vector file can be given to any sheet metal shop to have the panel cut out of the material of choice.
You will just want to supply them with the 'outline and knockout' potion of your design. For instance this would be the red areas in
the design below. (excluding the project information in lower right off the board)

This can be accomplished in programs like AutoCAD, Illustrator, Corel Draw or Freehand.
Vector applications are the best to use when working with text and lines as the finished
product will be sharp with crisp lines.

When converting a file from .DWG to use it on a laser you will want to import it into your program of choice
and fine-tune anything that may have changed in the import process. Such as fonts or line width. Then take
any of your layout lines that are merely there for positioning and copy them to a guide layer or a non-printable
layer. In my case I chose the first and added them to the guide layer, locking the printing and editing out and
made them red. Now the only items that will print are what is in black.

Step 2: Preparing the Panel for Engraving


You will want to clean off the metal with Alcohol to remove any dirt and oils. If their are any stains on the metal those should also be remove with a little 3-in-one oil as a lubricant and some fine steel wool working with the grain of the metal. (then clean with alcohol)

After you have cleaned the panel thoroughly, mask off any areas you don't want sprayed or avoid them while spraying. (CerMark washes
off with water)

Take the panel into a well ventilated area, such as outdoors in the weather permits or a garage or spray booth.
Apply an even thin coat over the areas to be engraved. (making sure to not cause thick areas or under covered areas)
Let the panel dry. It should go from it's original light army green to a more pale version of it. A hair dryer or heat gun can
be used to speed up the process keeping the end of the gun at a reasonable distance from the material.

Step 3: Engraving Your Panel

While your panel is drying you can take that time to double check your panel design.
1) make sure all lines you don't want to print are set not to print.
2) check your measurements and positions and check them twice.
3) look over the panel for spelling mistakes.
4) lastly, any lines you want to print should be set to at least .5pt or higher
(anything lower is considered a vector cut and will not print unless you have vector cutting turned on.
Vector cutting is used to di-cut materials such as acrylic, wood, plastic, rubber and other soft materials.
Low wattage lasers can not cut metal so it will only mark it if a vector cut was used on it.)

Now that the panel is completely dry you will want to start by placing your panel into the engraving machine. Make sure
your engraver is large enough to handle the panel in question otherwise you will need to seek out someone with a large
enough laser to engrave your work.

Load your file into your chosen application and set the job up to engrave.
I was working with an Epilog Profile 10watt laser. Because of this my settings are as follows:
Print Size: Set to your file size. Mine was 9.5" x 20", the size of the panel.
Speed: 15
Power: 100
Quality(dpi): 1200x1200
Type: Raster (if you turn on combined: Raster and Vector, any lines set to hairline or below .5pt will print.)

Run the Job...

Step 4: Romoving the Excess CerMark

One of the easiest steps in the process.
Take the plate to a large enough sink to wash off the remaining CerMark.
A spray nozzle works best for this process as you can wet the entire panel
and spray off the material to reveal the engraving left behind.

If you did not hit the material with enough heat to make a bond with the metal
you will find out during this process. When you use your hand to wipe off any
remaining residue, working in small circle motions then rinse thoroughly.

Dray with a rag or towel completely.

Step 5: Finishing Your Panel


You may notice once the panel is dry the engraved black areas look chalky or dull in appearance.
This can be fixed in one of two ways.
1) 3-in-one oil
2) Clear Coat Spray

It all depends on how you want to finish your panel.
I chose the first since the client did not want the panels clear coated but left raw.

You will want to follow the directions on the can of spray when clear coating a panel applying nice thin
layers holding the nozzle no closer than 10" from the material and spraying in nice even flowing strokes
from side to side.

When applying an oil coat put a dab of oil on each of the engraved areas (you can add more if needed).
Rub the oil into the metal and over the engraving. You will need to coat the entire front of the panel with
the oil since this process will most likely change the appearance of the metal to look more like a light
gun metal.

Let the oil dry nearly completely... it will get a little tacky to the touch. Roughly 10 mins.

Take a clean rag or cheese cloth and buff the panel removing any excess oil.

Step 6: Panel Complete


You have completed your panel. And if all went accordingly you now have a finished product that looks as good
and is as durable as if it were silk screened.

Now all that is left to do is build your control panel, or return the item to your client.

I hope this broke down the process well enough for people that have yet to use CerMark.
It is an amazing product with countless applications (this being one) such as
tool, electrical plates and ipod (metal back) marking, tile and glass (with Cermark for glass/tile) just to name a few.

Enjoy! Enjoy!

Step 7: Entry Into 4th Epilog Challenge

Dear Challenge Judges and fellow peers...

I am an artist and engraver. I work with Epilog Lasers at work all day. I would love to win a Zing so I could do some of the cool stuff
I work on at our shop at home and get more involved on instructables by showing how I create some of the stuff I do! I also would like to incorporate using the laser in some of my artwork ( I did two items with Hell Boy, a crest and some stuff for friends who are into Twilight and Lord of the Rings.... I will attach some of the things I have created in the past using my employer's Epilogs. I would LOVE one of my own!

PLEASE VOTE FOR ME!!!

Good luck to all entrants in the contest!! I hope my Instructable helps make the process of using CerMark a little easier for someone.
There is not a lot of documentation on it so it's a lot of trial and error!

Mookiechan - aka Chris

Note: all of the sample images of my work are copyrighted by Lasting Impressions, and not for use.

Comments

author
rbneville (author)2011-10-17

Very cool. I wonder if there is a less expensive alternative to CerMark. Also an alternative to CerMark for glass and tile is to engrave directly onto the glass or tile, then apply either an oil or acrylic pigment over the engraved area.

author
Snortimer (author)rbneville2012-07-08

There is a less expensive alternative, by the same company, but they really do recommend the CerMark for stainless steel.

Also, you don't have to buy the spray cans. It is MUCH less expensive to buy the bottles and mix it with denatured alcohol. You can brush it on, or use a sprayer to apply it. You can buy a small bottle (30g) for around $30, or a 500g bottle for about $220 if you know where to go (Laserbits.com). There are also bottles in between, for different prices.

The coverage on the 500g bottle is supposed to be around 10,000 square inches or so, if you dilute it properly. The spray cans are easy, but you're paying for that convenience.

I've also heard of de-focusing the laser a bit to create a smoother result (focus and then lower laser bed by about 1/8"). I have yet to try that myself, but as it's recommended for acrylic and AlumaMark as well, I'm guessing that it works.

author
mookiechan (author)rbneville2011-10-19

Not that I am aware of. It seems to be a liquified clay with alcohol as a drying agent and a propelant. I am sure there are other ingredients but the green gray kinda screams modeler's clay. Which when fired or layered in this process would harden into a ceramic.

You would have to laser glass a lot to get the depth needed to colorfill. It would be easier to laser the mask out and sandblast it. Usually you get a lot of fractures and chipping when glass is lasered too deep because it doesn't vaporize the material like wood or plastic.

author
mookiechan (author)2011-10-19

I stand corrected. There is a product that is a little cheaper. The same company might even make it since this site sells both CerMark and TherMark.
http://www.thermark.com/

for 900/sq inch can I think it said it was $58 or so... but they recommend the CerMark for more permanent applications. This looks grey in color instead of the green CerMark is.

author
mookiechan (author)2011-10-19

I'm thinking something like a French green clay in powder form, like used in a clay facial mask. Which is a lot cheaper if that's what they use. I guess the easiest way is to do an experiment.... A little of the clay powder and alcohol in a slurry and see if it works. LoL

author
mookiechan (author)2011-10-14

Let me know if this was helpful! ;)

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