Making money with Delcam’s ArtCAM Pro engraving software

Tooling for the Grand Slam medal was ready two days after the final game

A gradual transition from traditional methods to computerised design and manufacturing with Delcam’s ArtCAM engraving software has allowed the UK’s Royal Mint to cut its lead times to at least half of the times needed previously. The final stage of the change was completed last year, when the Mint completely removed the pantograph from its processes.

The Royal Mint is a department of the United Kingdom government and its primary responsibility remains the provision of the nation’s coinage. Its reputation extends well beyond this and it has produced coins for over 100 countries. Its history stretches back more than 1,100 years from an initial consolidation of Anglo-Saxon moneymakers within the Tower of London. The Mint later moved to purpose-built premises at Tower Hill and, more recently with an enormous increase in demand for coin at home and overseas, to its huge modern coining plant in South Wales.

Chief Engraver Matt Bonaccorsi highlighted two reasons for the time taken to make the transition. "Firstly, we needed to change our processes without any disruption to our business,” he explained. "Secondly, we needed to be absolutely confident that quality would not suffer while our staff were learning to use the software.”
The first stage of the process was to begin creating all lettering and borders with ArtCAM. "Lettering was the obvious place to start as it is so difficult with traditional methods and so easy in ArtCAM, "said Mr. Bonaccorsi. "There was a range of immediate benefits. The software can handle a much wider range of fonts. Scaling for different sizes of coin is much faster than with a pantograph. It is both quick and easy to change details like dates, with no problems in matching the new details to the positions of existing numbers or letters. Finally, we can add draft to the lettering automatically to ease removal from the die.”

The next stage was to add reverse engineering with a Renishaw Cyclone alongside ArtCAM. The Cyclone is mainly used to scan plaster models of new designs but has also been used to create new coins from existing samples and to re-cut new punches from old examples.

"Using ArtCAM and the Cyclone rather than a pantograph has increased our accuracy considerably,” claimed Mr. Bonaccorsi. "This is especially beneficial for any series of coins as we can be sure not only that the common features will be identical but also that they will be in exactly the same place each time.”

There are also considerable time savings in the continuity series, in which a new coin is issued monthly to collectors. "The first example in a series might take six to eight hours to create,” said Mr. Bonaccorsi. "However, subsequent examples will take only one or two hours since the majority of the design follows a common template with a limited number of new elements.”

Most recently, staff at the Mint have begun creating complete designs within ArtCAM instead of modelling them in plaster first. "Geometric shapes like building designs have been completely manufactured in the computer from design to tooling,” reported Mr. Bonaccorsi. "We are now starting to use the Face Wizard in ArtCAM to create some portraits that we can compare with the results we get from hand modelling.”

Machining data from ArtCAM is fed to a series of high precision Kuhlmann engraving machines to cut the punches for the coins. All cutting tools are ground in-house as tooling of sufficient precision is not available commercially. "Ever since we have been using ArtCAM, our punches have always been delivered on time,” claimed Mr. Bonaccorsi. "One recent example of the delivery times now possible was a special medal produced to commemorate Wales’ Grand Slam in the Six Nations rugby championship. We produced designs and punches in two days, and that included the time needed to recover from the hangovers following the victory celebrations.”

With the success achieved so far Mr. Bonaccorsi is looking to push things forward with more innovative designs in future rather than just following traditional styles. He also wants to investigate possible uses of ArtCAM in other areas of the Royal Mint, including its souvenirs and collectables, such as jewellery and figurines, which are currently manufactured externally.