Online Encyclopedia


Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 698 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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ENGRAVING OF COPPER ROLLERS The engraving of copper rollers is one of the most important branches of textile-printing and on its perfection of execution depends, in great measure, the ultimate success of the designs. Roughly speaking, the operation of engraving is performed by three different methods, viz. (1) By hand with a graver which cuts the metal away; (2) by etching, in which the pattern is dissolved out in nitric acid; and (3) by machine, in which the pattern is simply indented. (I) Engraving by hand is the oldest and most obvious method of engraving, but is the least used at the present time on account of its slowness. The design is transferred to the roller from an oil-colour tracing and then merely cut out with a steel graver, prismatic in section, and sharpened to a bevelled point. It requires great steadiness of hand and eye, and although capable of yielding the finest results it is only now employed for very special work and for those patterns which are too large in scale to be engraved by mechanical means. (2) In the etching process an enlarged image of the design is cast upon a zinc plate by means of an enlarging camera and prisms or reflectors. On this plate it is then painted in colours roughly approximating to those in the original, and the outlines of each colour are carefully engraved in duplicate by hand. The necessity for this is that in subsequent operations the design has to be again reduced to its original size and, if the outlines on the zinc plate were too small at first, they would be impracticable either to etch or print. The reduction of the design and its transfer to a varnished copper roller are both effected at one and the same operation in the pantograph machine. This machine is capable of reducing a pattern on the zinc plate from one-half to one-tenth of its size, and is so arranged that when its pointer or " stylus " is moved along the engraved lines of the plate a series of diamond points cut a reduced facsimile of them through the varnish with which the roller is covered. These diamond points vary in number according to the number of times the pattern is required to repeat along the length of the roller. Each colour of a design is transferred in this way to a separate roller. The roller is then placed in a shallow trough containing nitric acid, which acts only on those parts of it from which the varnish has been scraped. To ensure evenness the roller is revolved during the whole time of its immersion in the acid. When the etching is sufficiently deep the roller is washed, the varnish dissolved off, any parts not quite perfect being retouched by hand. (3) In machine engraving the pattern is impressed in the roller by a small cylindrical " mill " on which the pattern is in relief. It is an indirect process and requires the utmost care at every stage. The pattern or design is first altered in size to repeat evenly round the roller. One repeat of this pattern is then engraved by hand on a small highly polished soft steel roller, usually about 3 in. long and 4 in. to 3 in. in diameter; the size varies according to the size of the " repeat " with which it must be identical. It is then re-polished, painted with a chalky mixture to prevent its surface oxidizing and exposed to a red-heat in a box filled with chalk and charcoal; then it is plunged in cold water to harden it and finally tempered to the proper degree of toughness. In this state it forms the " die " from which the " mill " is made. To produce the actual " mill " with the design in relief a softened steel cylinder is screwed tightly against the hardened die and the two are rotated under constantly increasing pressure until the softened cylinder or " mill " has received an exact replica in relief of the engraved pattern. The " mill " in turn is then hardened and tempered, when it is ready for use. In size it may be either exactly like the " die " or its circumferential measurement may be any multiple of that of the latter according to circumstances. The copper roller must in like manner have a circumference equal to an exact multiple of that of the " mill," so that the pattern will join up perfectly without the slightest break in line. The modus operandi of engraving is as follows:—The " mill " is placed in contact with one end of the copper roller, and being mounted on a lever support as much pressure as required can be put upon it by adding weights. Roller and " mill " are now revolved together, during which operation the projection parts of the latter are forced into the softer substance of the roller, thus engraving it, in intaglio, with several replicas of what was cut on the original " die." When the full circumference of the roller is engraved, the " mill " is moved sideways along the length of the roller to its next position, and the process is repeated until the whole roller is fully engraved.

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