Acrylic

Information, tricks, know-how, and advice to help you laser cut your model in our Acrylic material.

Colors

Thicknesses

  • (mm)
  • 1
  • 3
  • 5
  • 8
  • 10
  • (inches)
  • 1/8
  • 1/16

Characteristics

Surface Look
Details
Strength
Flexibility

Acrylic Material Guide

Description

Acrylic sheets are typically manufactured using either the continuous cast process or the extrusion process. The extrusion process is faster and cheaper but in terms of quality, the resulting acrylic breaks easily. At Sculpteo we use acrylic sheets that were processed using the continuous cast method. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of Continuous Cast Acrylic (CCA):

  • Transparency – CCA sheets are made with the same process used to make sheets of glass providing excellent optical clarity and high transparency
  • Strength – CCA is easier to ship and handle as a result of its strength compared to other acrylic manufacturing processes 

However, CCA can present some issues with thickness control, as it can have thickness variations that go up to 20%.

This material has a smooth glass-like, shiny surface and ranges between nontransparent and moderately opaque. To learn more, refer to our paragraph about finishes and colors for acrylic materials. 

Please take note that the laser cuts the plastic under a slight angle which may be visible on thicker parts.

Applications

Acrylic is a material that has several benefits, both on its ease of use and on its durability. The technical properties of Acrylic can vary depending on the thickness but will stay quite stable regarding shrinkage and tolerance. Our Acrylic material can light up when exposed to LED lights, and is quite resistant to crazing and or cracking. When cutting, Acrylic is not subject to any deformation and its smooth surface allows for a perfect cut to be easily achieved. Moreover, it can be painted on, glued, lit up, it is also a BPA-free material that is also weatherproof. Continuous cast acrylic is used for thousands of products due to its high quality, exceptional clarity, ease in processing and design flexibility. From displays to signage, medical devices, lighting, electronics and dozens of other applications.

All acrylics are waterproof, that is to say, they are resistant to moisture and can be used in kitchens, bathrooms. 

Acrylic is easy to maintain. To clean your Acrylic laser cut or laser engraved parts, simply use a mild soap and lukewarm water mixture with a clean soft cloth, do not use cleaning sprays. It is also recommended to avoid rough cloths, scouring sponges, lacquer thinner, and aggressive cleaning products.

Pricing​

Your price for laser cutting and engraving is automatically calculated when you put your vector file online on our website. It is calculated interactively and depends on some factors, such as the amount of material used, the machine time needed to cut or engrave it, and logistics costs. You can see it change in real time as you make modifications to your vector file. To get the price of your item in just a few clicks, you just have to log in and upload your vector file.

For laser cutting, we have two different catalogs: one for the materials we produce in our factory in France, and one for the ones we produce in our factory in the United States. According to whether you choose materials in either or both of those catalogs, your shipping time and cost will be modified.

The time for cutting and engraving is approximately 2 working days for plywood produced in France, and 4 working days when it’s produced in the US. An additional period of 24 to 48 hours may be necessary depending on the size of your vector file. Based on the details of your engraving, the operation may take some time. The final time period is given on our website when you place your order.

Delivery time is added to the laser cutting and engraving time and depends on the delivery method you choose, on whether you order from the French or American catalog and on where you are located.

Process

Laser Cutting:

Laser Cutting is a digital subtractive fabrication technique that consists of cutting or engraving a material by means of a laser. Laser Cutting can be used on a number of materials such as plastic, wood, cardboard, etc. The process involves cutting material using a powerful and highly accurate laser that focuses on a small area of the material. The high power density results in rapid heating, melting and partial or complete vaporizing of the material. Usually, a computer directs the high-power laser at the material and traces the path.

Laser engraving:

Laser Engraving (or Laser Etching) is a subtractive manufacturing method, that uses a laser beam to change the surface of an object. This process is mostly used to create images on the material that may be seen at eye level. To do so, the laser creates high heat that will vaporize the matter, thus exposing cavities that will form the final image. This method is quick, as the material is removed with each pulse of the laser. It can be used on almost any kind of metal, plastic, wood, leather or glass surface. As a special note for our transparent Acrylic, when engraving your parts, you must be sure to mirror the image so that when looking at your part head-on, the image appears correctly.

Finishings

Acrylic is a material that lends itself to different types of operations. While it’s true that Acrylic can be painted, and glued (which we will cover in this section) please be aware that it can also be sawed, drilled, routed, decorated, silk-screened, and formed as well. For gluing you will want to use a solvent-based glue which will soften the surface of the acrylic as it welds the parts together, chemically bonding the two pieces into one.

For painting, it’s recommended to first prime the piece and after using a spray enamel paint on the acrylic parts. When painting, remember not to over-apply the paint, even with a thin layer there will be no runs or drips.

Laser cuts and engraves material by burning its surface, therefore, leaving a kerf. When burning the surface, the laser also leaves a kerf of a width that can vary, depending on the type of material and the thickness chosen. 

When designing your project, you need to take this kerf into account and plan for a surplus of material accordingly.

The following chart lists the kerf sizes for Acrylic in the function of the thickness.

In our European catalog:

Thickness of Acrylic Sheets (mm)11(clear)35810
Width of the kerf (mm)0.070.120.1050.170.20.215

In our American catalog:

Thickness of Acrylic Sheets (in)1/81/16 (clear)
Width of the kerf (in)0.00390.009

In our European catalog:

Minimum dimension (mm)15 x 15
Maximum dimension (mm)940 x 590

In our American catalog:

Minimum dimension (in)0.59 x 0.59
Maximum dimension (in)32 x 18

In our European catalog: 

Thickness of Acrylic sheets (mm)135810
Minimum distance between two paths (mm)135810

In our American catalog:

Thickness of Acrylic sheets (in)0.0390.1180.1960.3140.393
Minimum distance between two paths (in)0.0390.1180.1960.3140.393

For laser engraving, the laser will contour each letter, which will “bolden” the font. Therefore, when you conceive your vector file, you need to:

  • Give priority to narrow fonts
  • Space the letters
  • Not write your texts too small (2mm minimum)

For laser cutting, it is key to take the kerf into account when designing your text. The texts must be treated like shapes: they must be vectorized and respect the same rules as every other shape.

LASER CUTTING TEXT

We offer two types of laser engraving:

  • Line engraving: ideal to engrave a contour. It’s the same operation as cutting, with less power. For this type of engraving, use our cutting tips when designing your file. On our website, only one line engraving level is available.
  • Surface engraving (also known as infill engraving): For this type of engraving, the outline of your design must absolutely be closed. We offer two levels of surface engraving depth: superficial or deep. With the superficial level, the cut can barely be felt by touch, whereas it is noticeable at a deep level.

Make sure you incorporate different colors in your vector design, according to whether you want a cut, an engraving line or a surface engraving.

laser engraving acrylic

Is possible to assembly your parts ?Yes
Minimum space required for assemblyDepends on the kerf

The pieces that are cut can then be assembled. In order to do that you must plan for a minimum space between each of the pieces to assemble. This space must be larger if you want your pieces to be mobile. Make sure to build your design in a way that allows space for the kerf. 

PA-assembly EN.png

If you want your objects to fit into each other (for example a yellow acrylic square into a blue frame) you must take the kerf into account, which means subtract half the size of the kerf from the blue frame’s parameter, and add the other half of the kerf to the yellow square, as you can see on the sketch below:

encastrement_pieces.png

If you wish to make Acrylic pieces fit into each other and make sure they’ll stay connected, we recommend that you add in nodes. Nodes are small bumps situated in a piece’s slots or tabs, that allow compensating the thickness variations of the material and the kerf. Nodes get compressed when the pieces are assembled and they concentrate the friction on specific points rather than on the slot’s whole surface. This way, the slots can be larger without coming apart, allowing the pieces to stay together.

nodes

On top of the nodes, it is important to adequately treat the end of the slots. Sharp angles are a weak point for acrylic, and will always fracture at the corner, where efforts get concentrated. A solution to this issue is to add a hole at the corner of each sharp angle. This technique allows for distributing the stress across the whole surface of the hole instead of just one precise point.

Files with Multiple Objects ?No


Clear Acrylic

Mechanical PropertiesConditionsUnitValue
DensityISO 1183Kg/m31.19
Swelling (24 hours)ISO R 62/DIN53495%0.3
Tensile Strength 23°CISO 527-2/1 B/5MPa76
Bending StrengthISO 178MPa110
Internal BondISO 604MPa110

Non-Translucent Acrylic

Mechanical PropertiesConditionsUnitValue
DensityISO 1183Kg/m31.19
Swelling (24 hours)ISO 62%0.2
Tensile Strength 23°CISO 527 (5 mm/min)MPa75
Bending StrengthISO 178 (2 mm/min)MPa116
Internal BondISO 179kJ M-212

Ready to laser cut with Acrylic?

With Sculpteo’s online laser cutting service you’re just a few clicks away from professional Acrylic laser cutting. Your model is cut with the highest quality and delivered straight to your door. 

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