Change the orientation of your best laser engraver for acrylic to begin engraving from the bottom of the material upwards. This simple process will minimise the amount of residue being exhausted over previously engraved material which can re-deposit on the warm core and make cleaning difficult.
Acrylic is highly regarded as one of the most popular materials in the industry. It's a beautiful material with high-end appeal, but it's still an affordable option for many customers. The applications for this material seem limitless, including product categories such as awards, gifts, signage, and more. Check out a directory of acrylic product suppliers and you'll find page after page of unique designs that will appeal to high-end markets, such as corporate awards, as well as more budget-conscious clients, such as school sports leagues. Most importantly, the acrylic is beautifully engraved. With a laser or rotary engraver, you can get truly outstanding engraved images, from intricate logos to the ultra-fine details of photos.
Acrylic for laser engraving is the generic name for heat-sensitive plastic materials produced by many manufacturers, including Rohm and Haas, DuPont, Eastman, Cero and Mitsubishi. Familiar brand names include plexiglass and plexiglass. Different types of acrylic are used for different applications, but the two types of acrylic used for most engraving applications are cast acrylic and extruded acrylic. While both are used, please note that there are fundamental differences between the two.
In our industry, the standard for prize making is cast acrylic. Cast acrylic is produced by pouring an acrylic "syrup" between two sheets of tempered glass. Rubber spacers are placed between the glass sheets, the thickness of the spacers will result in the thickness of the cast sheet, as the "monomer" hardens into a solid sheet of acrylic polymer. Today, acrylic medals are made of cast material because of its excellent optical clarity and the material turns frost white when laser engraved.
Extruded acrylic is another common type of acrylic. Making extruded acrylic involves feeding resin pellets into an extruder, heating them to a molten mass. This molten plastic is forced through a die to form a molten sheet, which is then fed into rollers to determine thickness and, in some cases, surface finish. Extruded acrylic is widely used for certain applications, such as producing display installations, and sometimes for the focus of acrylic awards, such as mirroring. Extruded acrylic is rarely used to make acrylic prizes because, unlike cell cast acrylic, it can be engraved "clear". It is also a softer material and tends to "stick" during rotary engraving unless very sharp knives are used. While not always ideal for engraving, extruded acrylic is excellent for laser cutting. It will cut cleanly and smoothly with a flame polished glass-like edge quality.
Generally speaking, cast acrylic products are best for engraving gifts and prizes. Extruded acrylic is best for cutting letters, blanks, and special shapes that require smooth, polished edges. In either case, though, keep in mind that different types or brands of acrylic can sometimes engrave differently, so most engravers will find a variety they like and stick with it.