View Full Version : Rant-Allen Bradley, your new 559's stink

Kev Williams
02-17-2017, 12:17 PM
I know most of you guys/gals are laser engravers, but many of us do it the old-fashioned way with cutter tools :) - Not sure how many of you engrave legend plates, but for those that do, and specifically the popular Allen Bradley 800T-X559's, FAIR WARNING;

I recently received 100 of these from Radwell, and it was a mixed batch. About 20 of them were the 'old' gen-2 (<my term) plates, the rest were a different gen-3 batch. I've been doing these since they came in boxes of 25 back in the '70's thru somewhere in the '90's when they changed to individually bagged plates (yuk- 100 empty bags nearly fills a 5 gallon garbage can). These were 'gen-1' plates. I don't exactly remember when they changed to the gen-2 plates, but it was a good change, and had to do with streamlining the 2-color process I'm sure. The only problem I've had with the gen-2 plates is the gray can chip off around the edges.

So now we have these new plates. I don't know where they're making them or how cheap AB is getting them. They're fine as blanks, but if you plan to engrave and paint them, prepare to have your patience tested. The quality of these things is ridiculously bad.

Series of pics, old style on the left, new style right...

Note the back, old is dull-anodized like the front. The new backs are totally raw. This is how you'll know they're the new style.

Engraving test- old left, new right. I have an order for these so no waste :)
This is my 1989 5000XT, and you'll note I have a little slop in my lead screws, getting time to cinch up again ;)

side by side, engraved with the exact same tool. The old style engraving is smooth and burr-free,
but the one on the right didn't engrave worth a crap. Didn't cut cleanly at all, the aluminum balls up along the edges.
And as it does this, the depth gauge nose rides over the burr which results in shallow engraving in spots. The material
is balling up so badly that it's playing against the slack in my drive train, notice the wobbly lines that don't happen in the first one...

same pic above, just stacked and zoomed in...

And this is just the beginning! Next comes painting! Even running 2+ passes to clean the burrs, whatever's on the surface flakes off, and you get "sparkly's" around the edges. And THEN, whereas DNA used to nicely clean off the residue of enamel, it won't budge the paint shadow from these plates. This now requires mineral spirits (at least), which does work, but it works so well that it immediately attacks the dried paint in the engraving, and will easily drag it right out if you're not very careful. DNA takes several seconds to attack semi-dry enamel so that's not a problem... the result is, the finished product looks like someone who doesn't know squat about engraving did these!

So beware fellow engravers. And AB, if you're listening, THE QUALITY OF THESE PLATES IS UNACCEPTABLE. http://www.engraver1.com/gifs/thumbdown.gif
I haven't bought any of the jumbo size or other red or other colors yet, but I assume they're coming next...

>>added pics<<

paint n' swipe-- hard to swipe with all those burrs...

I'm not as good at this as the wife ;) - I missed a bit of shadow on the left sides of both plates..
But the difference in the quality of the finished product is obvious. I don't like selling inferior product...

Ross Moshinsky
02-17-2017, 1:11 PM
100% changed the grade of aluminum to something not as machinable. Lowering spindle RPM might help but likely won't.

Sounds like you'll have to change suppliers, put it on the fiber, or start using Cermark.

Mark Sipes
02-17-2017, 1:47 PM
Kev when did you sharpen your carbide cutters last???? the "O"s are a result of dull tips and possibly lose jig. As for the material I don't know but I do stainless and only have those problems when I need to resharpen my cutters.

Tony Lenkic
02-17-2017, 4:09 PM

I do fair number of these as well but I use FS220AB part number manufactured by RONP in Detroit area.
As for paint filling I don't do that way. I use aluminum oxidizer and have had good results.

Also as Mark pointed out cutter may be OK but make sure that there is no play with cutter if you use drop in type spindle.

Kev Williams
02-17-2017, 4:15 PM
The tool has a few runs on it and could use a touch-up, but the bumpy O's are mostly Y-axis slop. And the spindle has a LOT of hours on it so it's a bit loose, and likely the reason for the wobble in the sides of the N's...

Newer CNC machines have a complete moving gantry's driven by recirculating ball lead screws. My IS7000's gantry, in looking at its construction, which is hollow webbed castings for the sides, and simple thin sheet metal boxing and a curtain to surround the mechanicals. My guess is the entire gantry weighs less than 40 pounds.

This thing, the X axis moves across a stationary gantry, the Y axis involves moving the entire table, which is solid aluminum, 2" thick, 29-1/4" long and 22" tall. Taking into account T-slots and and such, and calling the thickness 1.8", my estimate of aluminum volume in the table comes to 1154 cubic inches- Aluminum weighs 1.56 ounces per cubic inch, that comes to 1800 ounces, /16= 112 pounds..! That's a lot of weight to be constantly pushing back & forth, AND it's done with regular thread-cut lead screws and cheesy plastic drive nuts. And for good measure, NH uses soft rubber spacers between the couplers for shock absorption. They're so soft there's about .005" of free play both directions just because of the coupler. All of which sacrifice engraving quality. With larger engraving these issues are barely noticeable. And running small engraving slowly really helps with the quality. The X axis head weighs maybe 8 or 9 pounds. I've never had a slop issue with the X axis on any of my machines.

Recirculating ball drives totally eliminate this problem. I can get those for these machines, but NOT economically viable ;)

My other XT used to engrave much worse than this one, but I fixed the problem by purposely preloading the lead screw and nut. I've been expecting to really wear out the plastic nut fast, but it's been like 8 years ago and still works fine. I've also cinched plain old hose clamps around the couplers, which removes a lot of the rubber slop. I've just never gotten around to doing these projects with this machine, but I really need to :)

And I can't change plate brands, I do the engraving for the AB distributor :D


Tony Lenkic
02-17-2017, 4:36 PM
Looking at the pic. 3 it appears that what you are getting now is RONP legends. Color is more grey vs. true AB800T-559x which is black.
Since you are doing the for AB distributor you have no other options.

BTW, I like CH (Eaton) finish better but the cost is too high (3X cost of RONP).

Rodne Gold
02-17-2017, 4:58 PM
Have your cutters ground with much more back clearance..use a water soluble cutting fluid when engraving , shell dromus or diatsol .. use it raw , it washes off