Acrylic is one of the most essential and popular materials to work with in the awards and engraving industry. It can also be one of the most difficult. The process from sheet stock to finished award is a long one, but with the right settings on your equipment, you can create beautiful finished acrylic pieces that are perfect for various applications.
When setting up to laser cut acrylic, there are two main steps:
- Prepping the acrylic and laser
- Determining the settings
Typically, acrylic comes from the factory or supplier with a protective carrier sheet to reduce damage and scratching. You can leave this on while cutting or remove it right before cutting. By leaving it on, you reduce the amount of smoke that can land on the surface of the acrylic, potentially causing a haze, and protect the acrylic from scratches.
To prep the laser for cutting, use your air assist and a honeycomb laser bed. The air assist is essential to help push the acrylic fumes through your cut, and the honeycomb table helps reduce flashback and aids in pulling the flammable fumes out of your laser.
When determining your laser cutting settings, the best place to start is with the laser manufacturer’s recommended settings, then adjust from there to optimize your cuts. The three variables to adjust are speed, power, and frequency—these change depending on your laser wattage. Since we run Epilog lasers in our shop, I have included the recommended settings that came with our lasers.
Epilog Laser recommended settings for 1/8″ acrylic
Epilog Laser recommended settings for 1/4″ acrylic
Epilog Laser recommended settings for 3/8″ Acrylic (two passes may produce better results)
In general, as the thickness of the acrylic you cut increases, the cutting speed must decrease. Epilog also recommends two passes for the thicker 3/8″ acrylic. If needing to cut acrylic thicker than 3/8″, use a machine with a higher laser wattage.