Embossing paper with CNC milling machine

Author(s): Martin De Bie, Ivan Twohig

This experimentation have been made for a piece called « EMF topography« , part of the project « XYZ(t)-a » in collaboration with Ivan Twohig.

Embossing paper is a nice way to create pattern or typography in relief on paper. Usually, we did it manually like this tutorial explain it. But for this piece the aim was to emboss a map on a sheet of paper of 2m20 by 1m30, to realise this we have decide to use a cnc milling machine from the AVlab (fablab) of Strasbourg.

First step have been to find a proper tools to made it, we have buy an embossing stylus to explose it and just keep the metallic part, which was perfectly fitting into the cnc tool.

For the paper, you can use different kind but a thick one is better to mark well the trace of the tool (in our case Arches paper) and behind the paper you need a soft/resilient material, first i use multiple layer of waxed tablecloth but the perfect material was bulgomme an element that you usually put under a tablecloth.

For the first tests, the aim was to try how deep we can go to the material to have a good relief without scratch it.

This settings really depends on the machine that you will use,  the thickness of your paper and the resilient material that you put behind. In my case, i was able to go down to 2mm.

After everything was try in small scale i start to work in big scale, a piece of paper of 2m20 by 1m30. We start by attaching the paper to bed of the machine without damage the back which the side that we wanted to exposed.

Everything was ok during the first ten minutes but with the pressure the paper start to create some waves where the fraise enter into the paper and scratch it.

For the second try and to not reproduce our mistake, we decide to build a simple tool, made in wood with the laser cut, attach to the head of the cnc machine to keep the paper flat around the fraise when we emboss it and avoid scratch. Details and download here.

And we restart the process a second time.

Here you can see the result of this process exhibit into the exhibition « From bits to paper« .

I would like to thanks people from the AVlab for their help (ClĂ©o, Vincent, Diane, HervĂ©…).