When you use acrylic for your laser cut signage jobs, it opens doors to unique cutting and etching options with respect to creativity. It does, however, take practice to work with acrylic, and lacking the proper amount of experience when working with it can produce mixed results.
Laser cutting acrylic can be difficult, but with the right training, you can reach an impressive skill level, thank your manufacturer. Let’s take a look at some of the most useful tips when trying to get high-quality results from acrylic laser cutting.
Always Watch Your Acrylic Cutting Procedure
Never leave your acrylic cut unattended. Keeping a watchful eye on your piece, especially while it is being cut, is vital because acrylic is combustible, and you need to be able to react quickly if there is a flare-up.
Use Cast Acrylic
Cast acrylic tends to be slightly more expensive than extruded acrylic, but the extra expense is no match for the incredible quality of results. Not only does cast acrylic cut with ease, it consistently creates beautiful engravings and edges without burrs. Extruded acrylic may be used, but it will cut more slowly and require greater expertise to accomplish similar results than with using cast acrylic.
Raise Your Acrylic
Raising your acrylic will help you prevent flashback, a huge setback when cutting. Flashback takes place when a laser cuts completely through the material at hand, hitting the aluminum laser bed beneath it. The bed reflects the heat of the laser upwards, creating small nicks in your material. Because is it brittle and prone to flashback, raising acrylic materials off of the laser bed is the best way to prevent edge damage and imperfections.
Having excellent air circulation and a uniform vacuum capability also can decrease a materials vulnerability to flashback. When using a more solid cutting bed, as is a major benefit when cutting and sealing fabrics, raising the acrylic slightly off the bed can increase airflow and be just the trick you need to avoid potential problems.
Make Use of Protective Paper
Burn marks occur naturally when laser cutting materials; therefore it is necessary to cut with paper placed on both sides if there isn’t an engraving featured in the design. This applies to heavy raster engraving as well.
Improve your Edges
When you laser cut with acrylic, the resulting edges are typically smooth, but there is a trick you can use to make them appear even better. First, try to slow down your laser to allow a little more heat to build in the cutting kerf. Overall, adjusting the speed and power of the laser cutter to match the thickness of your material will give you the best-polished edges possible. This is because varying colors and types of acrylic react differently to the heat from a laser.
When using a lower powered laser cutter, you can still achieve a flame polished look by slowing the lasers cutting speed to a level that is below the manufacturer’s recommendation. This method won’t completely flame polish your edges, but they will still look great.
Blur the Lens When Laser Engraving or Etching
This technique will spread out the hottest part of the beam, melting the acrylic while it etches. While smoothly engraving, blurring the lens simultaneously reduces dust product. Most laser cutters are equipped with a device that allows you to set the focal depth of a laser cutter.
Using a laser cutter to work with etched wood is much different than using a laser to cut acrylic. Cutting acrylic with a laser involves numerous tactics that differ from the those when using a laser on etched wood.
In summary, out of the many tips, you can implement, the most prominent include blurring the lens when engraving, adjusting your laser to flame polish your edges, raising your acrylic off the laser bed, and making use of protective paper.
Hopefully, after reading this you have a better understanding of how laser cutters work, and how you can make them work for you.