Can you laser engrave acrylic?
If you ever come across a material that feels and looks like glass, yet is incredibly light weight and highly scratch-resistant, it’s probably acrylic! You can simply refer to acrylic as the plastic version of glass, and that’s why it’s even sometimes called plexiglass. Acrylic is a popular material with a high-end look, yet it's also a budget-friendly alternative for many people. Laser cut acrylic is a material with a seemingly endless number of applications including awards, jewelry, signage, and much more.
One impressive attribute of acrylic is it’s friendliness with lasers when being cut/engraved to achieve superb designs. With OMTech’s Mid-Range CO2 laser engravers, you have 50W to 80W of cutting power capable of laser cutting acrylic between ½” to 1” thick at a maximum speed of 30mm/s. When you have machines with superior specifications such as this, you are sure to produce flawless and elaborate logos to the super fine details of a photograph. In the spirit of helping you become a pro, you need to keep the tips shared in this blog handy and master them. With these tips, you can smoothly laser cut acrylic for future small business orders or simply for the love of the hobby.
7 Pro Tips for Laser Cutting Acrylic
The process of laser cutting acrylic involves partially melting a specified area and outlining the uploaded design on the surface. And acrylic has a lot to offer when it comes to simplicity of use and durability. Although the mechanical properties of acrylic are impacted by the chosen thickness, the material still remains stable with a strong resistance to bumps and cracks. Acrylic is also water resistant, and can be used for projects that will be exposed to water or other liquids.
Laser engraving acrylic is usually hitch-free, but you might sometimes run into some problems. Here are some useful tips to help you laser cut acrylic like a pro:
What is the best acrylic for laser cutting?
Choosing the best type of acrylic for the job can make the laser cutting process much easier. There are two types of acrylic: Cast acrylic and Extruded acrylic. Generally, cast acrylic materials are great for engraving gifts and prizes. When a smooth, polished edge is necessary, extruded acrylic is the finest choice for profile cutting letters, blanks, and unique forms. So, make sure you are using the correct type of acrylic for the right cutting job.
Fine tune your layout
You can cut acrylic products on either the front or back so that the engraving can be seen through the acrylic. It is better to cut the back of an acrylic piece as it provides the item with a dimensional quality that makes the material look better. While you laser cut acrylic from the back, remember to make the graphics and text reverse-reading to ensure correctness when read from the other side.
Some engraving software programs use the mirror function to accomplish this easily. This step is often forgotten while laser cutting acrylic. Applying a green-tinted polyester mask to the acrylic item and using very low power is one technique to test your layout skills.
Right spacing between paths
For laser cutting, the minimum distance between two paths must be equal to the thickness of the material. If your acrylic portion is 2mm thick, for example, the distance between your two pathways must be 2mm. Your finished item will be more robust if you stick to this minimum distance. Your design may break if you do not adhere to these spacings.
Getting the Optimal Laser Setting
In general, acrylic engraves the best with high speed and low power settings. When engraving acrylic that has been painted on one side, use the same speed setting as unpainted acrylic, but increase the power by about 10%. That enables the laser to cut neatly through the paint. You may experience problems such as cracking, melting, or hazing occasionally, which usually means that there is too much heat present. To fix this problem, reduce the wattage and/or increase the engraving speed. The best power and speed settings will be determined by the acrylic you're engraving and the laser engraver you're using. Yet, the most important take-home for you should be that trial and error is an integral part of the journey to becoming a pro with unrivalled skill/experience for laser cut acrylic.
Preparing your design for laser cutting
If you want to include text in your laser cutting engraving project, you'll need to be cautious whether or not it's readable. If you wish to include text in your project, here are some suggestions:
- Space your letters
- Avoid small writing
Indeed, many people aren't really concerned with the spacing between characters, but it is quite important. This is because if the letters are too close together and overlap, the inscription will become illegible.
If you need to assemble different parts, create nodes in order to lock your parts together. These nodes are tiny bumps on the parts that keep them from coming apart. You should consider it while designing your piece. Nodes can be especially useful and beneficial during the assembly process.
Use air-assist systems
Air assist is available as a basic feature or as an option on most laser engravers. An air assist system blows a steady stream of compressed air across the cutting surface, which helps to prevent burning, scorching, and charring.