Acrylic is excellent to work with using a laser, regardless of whether you want to give the material a specific shape or give it an inscription. The laser machines from JustLaser not only win people over with their highly-precise results in cutting and engraving, they also preserve the special aesthetic of the material.
Acrylic, also known as PMMA (polymethyl methacrylate) or Plexiglas®, is a synthetic, clear, glass-like plastic, which is part of the class of thermoplastics and can be formed under the influence of heat. Acrylic is often used as a substitute for glass as the material has some significant benefits. It is as transparent as glass while also being 30 times thicker and, unlike glass, can be cut as well as engraved. If suitable machines and parameters are chosen, the cut edge is just as smooth and transparent (“polished cut”) as the non-processed areas of the acrylic. In a mechanical cut (e.g. with a saw or milling machine), an additional step needs to be taken to make any opaque cut edges transparent through flame polishing. In addition, acrylic doesn’t scratch during processing and remains consistently clear. The plates are available in various textures and colours.
This plastic is ideally suited to laser processes. Cutting and engraving acrylic is frequently used in plastics engineering, in the advertising industry, in the signage industry, and in the production of front plates:
When cutting and engraving acrylic, distinctions are to be made between two different types of the plastic which can be machined using this process: cast acrylic and extruded acrylic.
When cast acrylic is manufactured, the hot, still-liquid acrylic is cast (poured) into a mould, where it then cools and solidifies in a controlled way. This material has an outstanding surface quality and no thermal stress. This kind of acrylic is particularly well-suited for laser engraving as a wonderful milky glass effect can be achieved on it. The engravings on this kind of acrylic are significantly more high-contrast than on extruded acrylic. In addition, cast acrylic can be cut without burrs forming on the cut edge in the polished cut.
In order to produce extruded acrylic, granules are melted in an extruder. This melted mass is fed through the extruder’s nozzles into the desired mould. The process is significantly cheaper than manufacturing cast acrylic.
Extruded acrylic is particularly popular for cutting as it can be cut cleanly and produces a flame-polished edge – however, it can produce a relatively sharp-edged bulge. When engraving, however, the material remains transparent or the engraving becomes very inhomogeneous.
The cutting and engraving of acrylic with a laser is an efficient method with many different possible applications. A number of different types of acrylic are suitable for laser marking (depending on manufacturer / trading name):
Cutting and engraving acrylic with a laser has proven itself to be economically efficient for both small and large lot sizes. Different processes are used depending on the type of acrylic and the quality requirements. JustLaser can provide you with the right laser system for any requirement.
During the engraving process, the CO2 laser causes material to be removed or roughened. This causes a light, matte surface marking. A contrasting inscription can sometimes be created on coloured acrylic with a fibre laser. In this process, the laser thermally breaks down the colour pigments.
Laser cutting is a thermal cutting process in which the material is precisely cut into pre-defined shapes using a laser.
Acrylic melts due to the heat of the laser, causing the release of vapours, smoke and particulates, all of which need to be filtered and extracted. An extractor system removes them, reduces the temperature on the cutting surface and guarantees an optimal working process.
Cutting and engraving acrylic with a laser has proven itself to be economically efficient for both small and large lot sizes. Acrylic plates with a thickness of up to 25 mm can be processed quickly and cost-effectively using the laser machines from JustLaser.
The smallest details, delicate patterns and unusual shapes (which can’t even be produced using a milling machine) can be produced quickly and easily, even in difficult-to-reach places – and with maximum design freedom. The JustLaser laser machines win people over with their accurate, permanent and high-contrast results with consistent quality. The material doesn’t need to be fixed or clamped in place, meaning surfaces remain completely intact. The contactless process preserves the acrylic plates and reduces maintenance costs to an absolute minimum.
Furthermore, JustLaser laser machines can be integrated into almost any Windows-based software – e.g. CorelDRAW, Adobe or AutoCAD. Laser and computer can be connected easily using a USB or Ethernet port. Create your designs in your usual graphics program.
The flexible laser technology from JustLaser can be used to process a wide range of materials, not just acrylic. The contactless process means materials are not placed under any mechanical strain. As a result, there are no breakages or waste, and there are no expenses for tools or high-cost maintenance works.
When you buy a laser machine from JustLaser, you’re getting a highly-modern product that will win you over with its high throughput rates and processing quality! The relatively low investment risk for a laser cutter from JustLaser, its low set-up costs and its versatile range of potential uses make it a sensible investment for companies of any size.