Acrylics are polymer fibers that were first developed by DuPont in the early 1940s. These fibers often make up the materials for sweaters and tracksuits due to the warmth they provide. Since these wool-like fibers have incredible strength, they are used for furniture and travel bags. The laser is an ideal tool for cutting this strong material.
Laser Cutting Decisions
When working on a laser cut acrylic project, it’s important to decide if you are creating finished products with a flame polish or if the items will need additional refining. Setting this goal determines the type of cut necessary for a certain edge quality. The variables affecting the way acrylics should be cut are the brand and type, in which the factors affecting laser production quality are power, frequency and speed.
Acrylics are commonly cut by a process of vaporizing the solid material. As the material transforms from solid to liquid to vapor, the laser is absorbed by the material. Since this vapor is flammable, cutting acrylics should always be overseen by a human and not just left to a machine. A strong vacuum or fan is needed to remove excess vapor and a stream of air is needed to help blow away dangerous fumes in any laser cut acrylic project.
Factors Affecting Cut Quality
Plexiglas, manufactured by Evonik, is one of the most well-known acrylic brands. Each brand offers multiple types of acrylics in which colors and thickness may vary. Once the cutting material is determined, you must then decide the type of laser cut and the metrics for power, frequency and speed. The desired cut quality plays a big role in determining speed, as lower speeds deliver higher quality. Material thickness is also a crucial factor. Serra Laser can cut up to 1 inch thick acrylic.
Other factors that affect the cut are lens and focus controls for beam radius and waist length. The quality of the lens has a direct impact on the shape and quality of the cutting edge. Thicker materials usually require a higher quality lens. The focus feature helps determine the focal point while defocusing leads to a higher quality cut.
A cutting table is necessary when the goal is high quality flame polishing. It allows you to utilize the acrylic cutting bed that absorbs laser energy. Once the acrylic is cut, it produces several flammable gases, which is why you need a reliable exhaust system that helps move dangerous gases away from the cutting area. This exhaust helps the acrylic material melt and turn into a liquid.
Prior to cutting, the material should be prepared, which may involve removing film from the acrylic. Gas is also used in laser cut acrylic operations. Sometimes nitrogen is used for making the cutting process cooler, although an internal air assist pump is a much more affordable option. Acrylic material can be damaged at a certain temperature.
An easy way to cut acrylics is with a laser, as long as you take the proper safety measures. Contact us at Serra Laser to learn more about laser cut acrylic solutions.