|CNC Machined Plaques are usually made by milling fonts and graphics with a "V" shaped mill bit.
The width of font strokes and graphics lines is controlled by the mill depth. Once the milling is complete, the plaque surface is painted with black paint.
Once that dries, the surface is sanded to leave bare wood on top, and black fonts and graphics below the surface.
This process produces excellent looking plaques, albeit with these limitations:
- The number of characters, and the complexity of fonts, needs to be limited to make the milling time feasible.
- Very small fonts, or very fine lines in graphics, can be difficult or impossible to mill with sufficient precision to make the end result look good.
- Color is limited. The only way to have various colors is to mask areas when painting the surface. 2-3 colors are generally the maximum. Photographs are
limited to line drawings.
|Laser Etched Plaques overcome the first two limitations at left, the limitations on overall complexity and fine lines,
by using a powerful laser to burn away the wood. The laser beam can be moved far faster than the CNC machine can move a mill bit. However, there are still two problems:
(1) the burnt areas are more of a dark brown than black, and (2) there is still no ability to do multiple colors.
Direct Ink Jet Processees. There are ink jet printers which can print directly onto wood. There are also processes wherein an ink jet printer prints
onto a transfer sheet, and then the ink is transferred to the wood.|
In either case, there is a huge problem. High quality ink jet printing requires the use of specialized ink jet papers which have very well-engineered coatings. The quality
that is obtained in photo-grade printing is a joint function of the inks and the papers. The ink does not just sit on top of the paper's coating, but dissolves into it. The coating
contains, among other things, UV inhibitors which retard fading. And, the ink being dissolved into the coating makes the surface more durable. Ink jet inks on wood have
less than ideal color quality, and are said to resist fading for only about two years. And, ink jet printers have no white ink. The lightest color that's
possible is the color of the wood.
|The bottom line: With conventional processes, it is not possible to get all of these at the same time:
- Black, black fonts and graphics
- No restriction on very small fonts or very thin lines in graphics
- Photo quality color
- Durability of color to resist fading indefinitely
Our Process achieves all of the objectives below left.|
Using a high-end photo grade wide format ink jet printer, we print, on specialized photo print paper, the file which you help to create, which includes a precise simulation
of the wood grain. That print is then bonded to the surface of the wood plaque. The effect is so precise that it is difficult to tell that the surface
is a photo print and not actual wood.
The wood edges are first milled and varnished. Then the print is bonded to the surface. Our program predicts and anticipates exactly what the
wood will look once it is varnished.
The final step is to apply an acrylic overcoat to the entire plaque. This adds additional durability and protection from UV light.