Embossing machines are used to create a three-dimensional image or pattern on paper, leather, plastic or another material. Using heat and pressure, a raised or depressed image is formed using rollers or dies.
Embossers, which are continuously fed, have one roller with a flat surface and one roller with a patterned or imprinted surface. The material to be embossed is fed through these rollers which in turn apply pressure to the material, causing the surface to take on the pattern of the roller. Dies are similar in that there is a flat surface and an imprinted surface and they are pressed onto the material to create the embossed image. Yet dies are used on a single piece at a time, but can be used over again to create the same image.
Deformation of the surface occurs as the material under pressure conforms to the pattern of the roller or dies. In some cases, heat can be applied to the part marking process as well to ensure the malleability of the material being embossed as it is fed into the rollers. Embossing machines, like engraving machines, result in consistent precision and minimal variation between results of each process. Even high production runs yield consistent embossed images or patterns. Manual embossers require the assistance of a machine operator feeding material into the rollers and are used with softer materials such as papers or plastic.
Other embossing machines use mechanical, electric or hydraulic power to create greater pressure and so are used for harder materials such as metals which are more resistant to surface deformation. The rollers for embossing machines are typically made from a metal such as steel which is able to resist wear and tear due to continuous usage, and is able to maintain a precise pattern after repeated use.
Common materials used in embossing include aluminum, brass, copper, steel and galvanized steel, zinc and more. Embossing can be used for decorative purposes to create images or patterns on objects, or for identification and informative purposes. For example, a common use of embossing is on credit and debit cards with the raised numbers and letters providing information about the cardholder. Indent marking dies are used widely to identify and mark motor vehicle components, tools and other metal parts.
Depending on the type of material being embossed, the imprinted or patterned die will require replacement, or re-imaging after a certain amount of use. Even the toughest metal will be affected by repeated embossing. Handheld embossing with marking tools is not common in industrial applications, but it can be used when the purchasing of a die would not be a cost-effective solution, or when unique results are desired on each piece.