Acrylic for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving

Acrylique illustration.jpg detail size strates
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EU.png European Catalogue*

Clear
Translucent White
Diffuse LED White
Opaque White
Black
Clear Red
Clear Fuchsia
Clear Orange
Clear Yellow
Clear Violet
Clear Blue
LED Red
LED Fuchsia
LED Orange
LED Yellow
LED Green
LED Blue



EU.png American Catalogue*

Translucent White
Diffuse LED White
Opaque White
Black
Clear Red
Clear Orange
Clear Yellow
Clear Blue
Clear Green
LED Red
LED Orange
LED Yellow
LED Green
LED Blue




*You can order from both catalogues, no matter where you're located. It will simply influence your shipping cost and time.


Overview

Here you will find all the information, tricks, know-how, and advice to help you laser cut and laser engrave your model in our acrylic material. You will learn about the:

General information on our material

Our Acrylic Material

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.

Processing Times and Pricing for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving

The price of manufacturing your acrylic design is calculated automatically the moment it is placed online. As you modify your object and utilize our optimization tools, you will note that the price changes automatically. The pricing is based on a series of factors, including: quantity of materials used, labor, and machine manufacturing time - to name a few.

For laser cutting, we have two different catalogues: 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 catalogues, your shipping time and cost will be modified.

The time for cutting and engraving is approximately 2 working days for Acrylics 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 catalogue and on where you are located.

Laser cutting technique


process

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 Techniques 


process

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 use 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. 

Uses and Maintenance


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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.

Examples of uses of carved or engraved Acrylic:

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Thickness and coloring

Thickness & Finishing Options


There are multiple thickness and coloring options available through Sculpteo :

In our European catalogue:

  • 1 mm
  • 3 mm
  • 5 mm
  • 8 mm
  • 10 mm
In our American catalogue:
  • 1/8 in

Please note that the thicknesses for Acrylic can vary, for instance the thickness is between 2.5mm and 3.5mm for a 3mm-thick sheet.

Our clear acrylic is available in all thicknesses. Our opaque white and black are available in 3 mm, 5 mm, and 8 mm. It is also worth noting that an additional delay can ensue on 10 mm opaque white and black, along with all diffused white, and translucent white materials.  Our clear acrylics with color, and our LED acrylics are only available on demand in 3 mm thickness, with the possibility of an additional delay.


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All our acrylic is impact resistant and half the weight of glass, it is also very easy to work with and can be sawed, drilled, routed, glued, painted decorated, silk-screened, and formed. Our clear acrylic is a great material for interior design projects and medical industry tooling. Our opaque white acrylic does not allow light to travel through and the same is true for our black material as well. Diffuse white acrylic is is great for letting roughly 30% of light through it's the perfect product for signage and displays. Our clear material is a very versatile material with great impact strength and also light weight. The transparent colors offer light transmission through the material enabling it to act as a colored or tinted window. And our LED acrylic sheets offer innovative lighting and signage solutions when combined with LED technology. 

Colored Clear and Colored LED acrylics are available in 3 mm thickness only. There are 7 colors available :

  • Violet
  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Fuschia
  • Red
  • Blue 
  • Green

See the guide below for the European catalogue:

Thickness (mm)
1 3 5 8 10
Colors short lead time short lead time short lead time short lead time short lead time
unavailable short lead time short lead time short lead time short lead time
unavailable short lead time short lead time short lead time unavailable
unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
unavailable short lead time short lead time short lead time short lead time
Violet unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Orange unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Yellow unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Fuschia unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Red unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Blue unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Green unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Orange unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Yellow unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Fuschia unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Red unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable
Blue unavailable short lead time unavailable unavailable unavailable


For the American catalogue, we propose the following colors in 1/8" size: 

  • Opaque White
  • LED Diffuse White
  • Translucent White
  • Black
  • Clear Blue
  • Clear Orange
  • Clear Red
  • Clear Yellow
  • Clear Green
  • LED Blue
  • LED Orange
  • LED Red
  • LED Yellow
  • LED Green


One thing to note is that there is a small variation of color on the borders of the LED Red Acrylic sheets after having been laser cutted as we can see in the following picture:

PA utilisation entretien

Paint and glue your acrylic parts and creation

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 use a spray enamel paint on the acrylic parts. When painting be sure to remember not to over-apply the paint, even with a thin layer there will be no runs or drips.


Design Guidelines

Laser Precision for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving

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 function of the thickness in mm (European Catalogue)

Thickness of Acrylic (mm) 1 1 (Clear)  3 5 8 10
Width of the kerf (mm) 0,07 mm 0,12 mm  0,105 mm 0,17 mm 0,20 mm 0,215 mm


The following chart lists the kerf sizes for Acrylic in function of the thickness in inches (U.S. Catalogue)

Thickness of Acrylic (inches) 1/8
Width of the kerf (inches) 0.0015"

Maximum and minimum dimensions for cuts and engraving

In our European catalogue:

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


In our American catalogue:

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


The maximum size of your designs is limited by the dimensions of the machine's cutting table. Your designs must abide by the measures below in order to be cut/engraved by our machines.

Minimal dimensions may be necessary for laser cutting, but not for engraving. When you load your design onto our website in order to have it cut, we can't detect, based only on the information contained in the file, whether you wish to keep the outer or inner surface. Therefore, if you wish to keep the inner surface, you must respect minimal dimensions. Indeed, if the surface is too small, it could be lost under the cutting table's grid. If you wish to keep only the outer surface, this constraint does not apply.


Warning

Be very careful to respect the minimum size of 15x15 mm: objects of this size are all susceptible to not be delivered.

Minimum distance between two cut lines for Laser Cutting

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Because of the kerf created by the laser, a minimum distance is required between two cutting lines, in order to prevent the lines from touching or mixing. 

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This table gives you the minimum distance not to forget in your design, depending on the thickness of the material: 

Thickness of Acrylic (mm)     1          3          5          8         10   
Minimum distance between two paths (mm) 1 1 1 2 2

You can refer to our tutorial for more precision and guidance for your vector construction.


Tips

Double check the aforementioned kerf constraint and respect the minimal distance between two lines.

Prepare your texts for Laser Cutting and Laser Engraving 

It is possible to cut/engrave texts. 

To be recognized by our interface, you must achieve a vectorization of your text. Once you've choosen the font in the vectorial drawing software, select your text and transform it in vectors. If you do it well, the text should appear on our interface as on your software.

To learn how to transform your text into a vectorized path, see our Inkscape tutorial.

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 vectorised and respect the same rules as every other shape (see tutorial).

As for full letters (A, D, O, B...) remember to create links between the inside and the outside of the letter (see below), so that the center doesn't get detached from the rest of the letter. These links are necessary if you wish to keep the outer part of the cut (we'll call it the stencil). So that your text looks best and harmonized, you can create similar links all over the text, even on letters that don't need them.

These links are really simple to create on your own, but you can also use a font like STENCIL, in which they already exist. You'll find such fonts with a simple internet search.

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Tips

To get an approximation of the kerf, you can temporarily apply a 1,2 pt thickness to your letters.


Depth of Laser Engraving


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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 with the deep level.

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


Tips

Surface engraving requires a horizontal sweeping of the laser head, which can slow the process. Considering that manufacturing time can be an important price factor, we recommend you either choose a superficial engraving level or you limit your surface engraving to a few cm²


Piece Assembly Restrictions

Is possible to assembly your parts ? Yes
Minimum space required for assembly Depends 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.

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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:

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For more information on pieces assembly, we invite you to visit our tutorial on how to prepare a model for laser cutting on Illustrator or Inkscape.

Conceiving nodes in order to lock pieces together

If you wish to make MDF 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 to compensate 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.

In order to make sure the pieces stay fixed, you must place the nodes on each side of the slot opposite to one another. Depending on the length of the slot, you can place several nodes. This will minimize the tension that could potentially occur if the nods were not aligned or if one was missing. They must be smooth and long enough to ease the interlocking. Depending on the material’s density, the nodes’ width may be increased or decreased. The higher the material’s density, the smaller the nodes’ width should be.

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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 to distribute the stress across the whole surface of the hole instead of just one precise point. 

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Files with multiple objects

Files with Multiple Objects ? Yes

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It is possible to cut or engrave several objects designed in the same vector file, by attributing one different color for each action, as indicated on the tutorial how to upload and prepare your 2D file.

Technical specifications

Clear Acrylic 

Mechanical Properties Conditions Unit Value
Density  ISO 1183 Kg/m3 1.19
Swelling (24 hours) ISO R 62/DIN53495 % 0.3
Tensile Strength 23°C ISO 527-2/1 B/5 MPa 76
Bending Strength ISO 178 MPa 110
Internal Bond ISO 604 MPa 110

Non-Translucent Acrylic

Mechanical Properties Conditions Unit Value
Density  ISO 1183 Kg/m3 1.19
Swelling (24 hours) ISO 62 % 0.2
Tensile Strength ISO 527 (5 mm/min) MPa 75
Bending Strength ISO 178 (2 mm/min) MPa 116
Internal Bond ISO 179 kJ M-2 12


To learn more about acrylics technical specifications, refer to the following documents:


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