How to Laser Cut Acrylic: The Complete Guide

Laser cutting is a precise process of cutting material using a powerful laser beam that melts, burns, or evaporates. This process helps create customised patterns and designs that add significant personalisation to various materials. 

As a result, acrylic is becoming an increasingly popular material for laser cutting. Its shiny appearance, transparency, optical clarity, and beautiful colours are the reasons. These attributes make it an ideal material for creating signs, jewellery, displays, and more. Moreover, laser cut acrylic is smooth and creates precise designs for various applications. 

You may need a laser cut acrylic machine for commercial needs, practising hobbies or other purposes. Whatever the reason is, you must know how to laser cut acrylic. So, please keep reading to learn its working and helpful laser cutting acrylic tips. 

Why you need to know how to laser cut acrylic 

An acrylic laser cutting machine is wonderful equipment for initiating fast and precise cutting. However, before trying acrylic laser cutting, you must know some things. Acrylic is a type of plastic, and acrylics are attracted to fire and can produce harmful fumes.  

Also, there are various acrylics; for example, Cast acrylic is made of liquid acrylic poured into moulds. The result is a frosted white look and matte finish. However, it has a high thickness tolerance and a relatively slow production process. 

On the other hand, there’s Extruded Acrylic produced from high-volume production methods. It has a low cost, but there are fewer colours. The result of laser engraving is smooth and polished edges. 

So, you have to keep in mind both the materials, their properties, and safety precautions before practising laser cutting acrylic. 

Guide to performing acrylic Laser cutting 

Here is a complete guide to how to laser cut acrylic: 

STEP 1: Create the design for laser cutting 

To begin with, choose the design of your choice and use software like Inkscape, Adobe Illustrator AutoCAD, Autodesk Fusion 360 Blender, FreeCAD etc., to add, create, and adjust the design on the computer.  

This design can be in vector files with formats like SVG, EPS, PDF, DXF, DWG, CDR (CorelDRAW), AI (Adobe Illustrator) etc. In addition, typical drivers transform an image from a computer into a format that the laser cutter can read. 

STEP 2: Adjust the material 

Now, adjust the acrylic sheet inside the working area. You can carry a utility knife to make cuts to adjust the sheet in the working area. Also, masking tape is useful for stopping burn stains and taping down light materials. 

STEP 3: Adjust the settings 

Connect the laser cutting machine to the power and switch it on. Before processing, adjust some settings: 

Power: Select the beam’s power, which can be from 0 to 100%. It can vary according to the thickness of the material. 

Speed: It’s the speed at which the beam moves by the designs. For thinner materials, speed can be increased. 

Frequency:  The frequency is the number of pulses per second that will affect the result. For various types of acrylic, the frequency is between 5000 to 20000 Hz. 

Focus: There is a focusing lens inside the laser head, which must be moved up or down according to the needs. 

Air Assist: If your laser cutting machine has air assist, it’s a great feature to let the material cool down. It will minimise the burnt edges and give beautiful results. It can be around 0.2 bar pressure with a large size laser nozzle. 

STEP 4: It’s time to cut 

After achieving the desired laser cutting acrylic settings, it’s time to cut. Always go for test cuts and save the settings for future use. Within minutes, you will notice clean and precise acrylic cuts. 

Laser cutting acrylic tips 

  • Choose the right acrylic material. The extruded acrylic is best for cutting because the result is flame-polished edges. 
  • Ensure good ventilation for fumes to settle down 
  • Low power and high cutting speed will ensure flawless cutting for acrylics. 
  • Always ensure a safe working environment with proper safety gears. Always keep children away from the working area. 
  • Clean the acrylic sheet with a non-abrasive cloth, microfibre or lint-free anti-static fabric. Also, don’t put too much pressure on the sheet. 

Although the initial cost of a laser cutting machine can be high, its durability and precision cover it. The acrylic laser cutting ensures high quality, maximum cuts in minimum time, versatility and longevity. 

This was a detailed guide about how to laser cut acrylic. The easy process and cutting on various materials make it very useful for customisation, commercial needs, and hobbyists.