Engraving Plastics: Part Five

engraving sheet plastic with cleaning solutions

This is the fifth and final entry in our five-part blog series on engraving plastics. Click here to read part four about specialty engraving plastics.

For signage and labeling, plastic engraving sheets are an indispensable tool. They offer durability, versatility, and an aesthetic appeal that suits a wide array of applications. Among the most renowned brands in this niche are Rowmark and IPI, whose engraving materials have become synonymous with quality and reliability. However, ensuring that these materials maintain their appearance and functionality requires conscientious care and maintenance. In this guide, we delve into the best practices for preserving the look and integrity of plastic engraving sheets so you get the best results possible for your customers.

Storing Your Engraving Sheets

Proper storage is the first step in maintaining the integrity of your plastic engraving sheets. Some materials, particularly thin-gauge products, are sensitive to environmental factors such as temperature, humidity, and exposure to light. To prevent warping, discoloration, or other forms of damage, follow these guidelines:

• Controlled Environment: Store your engraving sheets in a clean, dry, and climate-controlled environment. Avoid places prone to extreme temperature fluctuations or high humidity levels, such as basements or attics. This is particularly important when storing other engraving materials such as wood sheets that are particularly vulnerable to warping with fluctuating humidity levels.

• Horizontal (Flat) Storage: Whenever possible, store the sheets horizontally rather than vertically. While this may take up more space in your shop, storing sheets flat minimizes the risk of bending or warping over time.

• Protective Covering: Keep the sheets covered with a protective layer, such as a plastic film or cloth, to shield them from dust, scratches, and direct sunlight.

• Avoid Direct Sunlight for Indoor-Only Products: Engraving materials marked as indoor or interior use only typically don’t have UV stabilizers built into their products and will fade in direct sunlight. Be sure to store these materials away from sunlight that passes through open windows and glass doors to avoid color fading.

By adhering to these storage practices, you can prolong the lifespan of your plastic engraving sheets and maximize the value on your purchase.

Cleaning Your Engraving Sheets

Cleaning your plastic engraving sheets both before and after fabrication is essential to ensure your projects remain free from dirt, grime, and other contaminants. Follow these steps to clean your materials effectively:

• Gentle Cleansers: Use mild, non-abrasive cleansers specifically designed for plastic surfaces. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaning agents, as they can cause damage or discoloration. Novus 1 Acrylic Cleaner is a great option for cleaning various types of sheet plastics.

• Soft Cloth or Sponge: Moisten a soft cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution and gently wipe the surface of the engraving sheet. Apply minimal pressure to avoid scratching the material. Do not use abrasive items like steel wool that will leave scratches on the surface of the plastic.

• Rinse Thoroughly: After cleaning, rinse the sheet with clean water to remove any residue from the cleanser. Ensure that the surface is completely dry before storing or using the material again.

• Avoid Excessive Heat: Do not use hot water or expose the engraving sheets to high temperatures during cleaning, as this can cause them to warp or deform.

Regular cleaning not only enhances the appearance of your plastic engraving sheets but also helps to maintain their functionality and longevity.

Removing Small Scratches:

Despite your best efforts, plastic engraving sheets may occasionally develop small scratches or blemishes. Fortunately, there are several methods for effectively removing these imperfections:

• Polishing Compound: Apply a small amount of plastic polishing compound to the scratched area. Using a soft cloth, gently buff the surface in a circular motion until the scratch becomes less visible or disappears entirely. Novus 2 Acrylic Polisher is a great first option to try and remove light surface scratches.

• Microfiber Cloth: For minor scratches, a microfiber cloth dampened with water may suffice. Rub the cloth gently over the scratch, using a circular motion, until it gradually fades away.

• Heat Gun or Hair Dryer: In some cases, applying heat to the scratched area can help to diminish the visibility of the scratch. Use a heat gun or hair dryer set to a low temperature, and carefully heat the surface of the engraving sheet. We recommend testing your heat gun technique on a scrap piece of the same material. Be cautious not to overheat or melt the plastic.

• DIY Solutions: Some household items, such as toothpaste or baking soda mixed with water, can be effective at removing minor scratches from plastic surfaces. Apply the paste to the scratched area, rub gently with a soft cloth, and rinse thoroughly. Again, we advise testing on a scrap piece of material prior to using these techniques.

• Heavy Scratches: Novus 3 Heavy Scratch Remover may be able to remove or diminish heavy scratches in acrylic and might be an option to save a finished piece from having to be remade.

Regular cleaning not only enhances the appearance of your plastic engraving sheets but also helps to maintain their functionality and longevity.

In conclusion, proper care and maintenance are essential for preserving the brilliance and functionality of plastic engraving sheets, such as those manufactured by Rowmark and IPI. By following the guidelines outlined above, including proper storage, regular cleaning, and effective scratch removal techniques, you can ensure that your engraving materials remain in optimal condition for years to come. Remember, a little diligence goes a long way in maintaining the beauty and integrity of your signage and labeling materials.

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