First thing’s first: Before getting into laser cutting acrylic, it’s important to understand what a laser cutting machine is and how it works.
A laser cutting machine is a device that uses a beam of radiation to cut, fuse, connect, and evaporate materials. It’s a technology centered around high speed and precision.
A typical laser cutter connects a computer and works in the X and Y axes. (In other words, it’s a bidimensional machine.) The computer controls the laser (power, frequency, speed). Other aspects — like table setup, lenses and focus, exhaust, gas, and material preparation — must be done manually. All these variables can influence the quality of the laser cut.
With the acrylic sheet in place, the laser will vaporize the solid material, creating a thin, smooth, and glossy surface with extreme precision.
To laser cut, it’s important to have a good vector model. This model is comparable to a drawing with a single line. The computer will process this line and cut it into the acrylic sheet.
You can work in any of the different CAD software tools available to create your vector file. Here are some popular examples:
To prepare the file, one must know the program in which the machine is working. Most of the programs work in RGB mode and in millimeters. In this case, the color of each line must be indicated by the producer and the stroke weight must be 0.01 mm.
All this information should additionally be provided by the company that you select to cut the model.
Note: Acrylic is a weak material to work on. Sharp angles, for examples, are likely to break. The solution is to add a small hole to each sharp corner. This will allow the stress to distribute itself across the entire surface.
As explained above, a laser cutting machine vaporizes the material, turning it into a harmful gas. A home laser cutter should therefore have an exhaust system with a good stream of air to expel the gas outdoors or to an air filter.
Most machines sold on the Internet have a weaker laser designed to engrave or cut paper and soft materials. If such a device is more to your like, take a look at our article on laser engravers, which has all the info you need.
Just because it’s hard to laser cut at home doesn’t mean you can’t have laser-cut products. There are many companies that provide acrylic laser cutting services. In the following, we look at some recommendable websites.
FabLab is a worldwide network of associated artists and technicians that work together to help build technological or manufactured projects. Each FabLab offers a different set of machines and technologies.
FabLab San Diego doesn’t have a physical location, but there is still a connection between the associates and new partners and projects. They also provide workshops!
NYC Laser Cut is a studio focused on CNC milling, laser cutting, and engraving. They began as architecture design and fabrication but are now a renowned service for both digital and conventional technologies. They also help prepare the design you need!
The Laser Co specializes in laser cutting and engraving. Like NYC Laser cut, they help with the design of new ideas and offer local and sustainable materials.
With years of experience in laser cutters, Online Laser Cutting provides a professional and high-quality service for all type of designs, materials, and sizes.
License: The text of "Acrylic Laser Cutting – Best Ways to Get the Job Done" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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