There are many materials that can be safely used in laser cutters and engravers. There are many types of plastics that come in a form suitable for any laser, be it a desktop laser cutter or an industrial laser engraver, but not all plastics are safe to use because they produce harmful fumes when heated or burned. While acrylic can be used in cutting There may be a strong smell, but if your fume extraction is set up correctly, nothing will harm you or your machine.

Acrylic is a thermoplastic that can be produced in a variety of colors and transparencies. While there are many plastics that should never be used with lasers, acrylic is safe to use and works very well with CO2 lasers.

Acrylic plastic has high impact strength, but becomes brittle when it is cut into strips that are too thin. The thicker the acrylic, the harder it is. Acrylic is also known as "plexiglass" and is known to have high impact strength.

Acrylic's weather resistance is high in most conditions, but when exposed to the sun's UV rays, it may warp and the color may fade or change. This will vary by color and manufacturer.

Best Types of Acrylics for CO2 Lasers

Best for engraving as it leaves a smooth, shiny edge on vector cuts with a unique "frost" look with engraving and excellent optical quality. On the downside, cast acrylic can be uneven and more expensive than extruded acrylic. Cast acrylic looks purer and reacts effectively to lighting, creating a glow (especially when edge-lit).

Cheaper than cast acrylic, no change in engraving color. Also, due to the way it is manufactured, extruded acrylic is more consistent in thickness and flatness.

Acrylic has a variety of independent brands. Consult the manufacturer or consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) before using any of these brands. Some may contain additives or colored dyes that are not safe for laser cutting.

While not lethally toxic or harmful to machines, acrylic vapors, like PVC, can still give off an unpleasant odor and cause irritation. It may cause some discomfort for those who are sensitive to strong odors. Always use a proper exhaust system.

Acrylic usually comes with a film that protects the acrylic. In most cases, this should be removed, however, when the grating is in the laser cutter, some leave film behind to protect the bottom of the workpiece. You may get better results when cutting acrylic if you leave the mask on the material while cutting. Always have spare sheets or pieces of acrylic on hand that you can test and experiment with to find out what works best for your individual needs.

As with wood, we want our acrylic to be as flat as possible, especially if we're going to assemble a box with a slot or other 3D project. Since the thickness of the material may vary, we recommend using a caliper for precise measurements. Acrylic sheets may also not be completely flat, causing focus issues for laser cutting and engraving. Using weights or clips to secure the acrylic to the honeycomb is the perfect solution for dealing with warped acrylic sheets. Also, be aware that acrylics can produce foul odors, although they are considered safe for laser operators with a proper exhaust system installed.

Laser settings
Your power, speed, and other laser settings will vary based on factors such as the thickness of acrylic you're cutting. Even your laser power and local environment can affect the setup. For this reason, we recommend not setting it arbitrarily, but doing a material test on an unused corner of a piece of scrap acrylic or project material.

Acrylic laser cutting
Cutting acrylic is very easy. Like wood, it will create contrast at the edges. Try different power levels to produce different results on the cutting edge. If you use higher power, it will melt the edges slightly and make it look smoother and more glass-like.

Acrylic Laser Engraving
When laser engraving on acrylic, the settings can make a big difference to the result. Results can range from slightly shimmery to a thicker frosty look. Acrylic can also be purchased in layers that reveal a second color when engraved, creating vivid color combinations.

Acrylic Laser Marking
The marked acrylic has high detail and is suitable for slower speed settings. Lower the power settings until the desired result is obtained. Our raster engraving material test files can help you determine the point where the laser marks only the surface of the material and not the depth of engraving, and saves you a lot of guesswork.

Acrylic Finishing Tips
Only use non-abrasive cloths, such as microfiber cloths, for cleaning. If needed, press lightly and use a mild soap and water mixture. Avoid cleaning chemicals like ammonia or solvents, as this can cause microcracking or shattering. For laser engraving, use a very soft bristle brush (like a toothbrush) and gently scrub the engraved part in cold water. If you use hot water it may deform the acrylic and the soap may risk interacting with the newly marked acrylic.

Just like wood, acrylic is a versatile material that works well with CO2 laser systems. This article should give you an idea of ​​where to start and what to look out for so you can make amazing projects. As always, the best way to learn is to try and experiment on your own. Acrylic can be a little more expensive than other materials, so keep any scrap that might be useful for testing. Stay safe and don't be afraid to make mistakes as this is one of the best ways to learn and grow as a laser expert.

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