Friday, July 25, 2014

Laser Cutting Acrylic for a Flame Polished Edge

Laser cutting acrylic can be very profitable, and also very difficult, especially if you are after the “flame polished edge”. There are many factors that will play a role in your ability to get the best possible edge; both in the material as well as the laser system itself.

Here are some tips for getting the best possible flame polished edge when cutting acrylic:

Velocity of motion system during cutting. Sometimes it is better to slow the laser down AND lower the power to not overpower the material. The less vibration the motion system makes the better the cut.

The performance of motion system in the change of direction. This would include the lasers ability interpret curves, as well as how smoothly the laser’s motion system can change direction. A very “clunky” motion system will show up as waviness in the acrylic in and around changes of direction.

How the laser’s printer driver sends a curve to the laser. If it sends the curve as a jumble of nodes, this will also translate to the edge quality and look like a “coin edge”. Reducing the nodes in the original file or using the Enhanced Geometries settings will help smooth out the curves.

The type of acrylic will also affect the edge quality. Extruded cuts better than cast; however, it will not frost when engraved and can leave a burr on the edge of the piece. Cast acrylic will cut just as good as extruded, but will require more intense power settings than extruded.

The masking of the acrylic also makes a difference in edge quality. In the U.S., cast is almost always going to be paper mask. Extruded can be found as both paper and film mask. The film mask is much easier to cut, and it doesn’t require the top mask to be removed like cast. If the paper mask is not removed off the top, it is very difficult to get a smooth edge. The paper mask that is left on the top side is also very prone to flaming, which will ruin the piece if the burning is bad enough.

Focal lens choice also will play a role in the edge quality. Ideally a 2.5” lens will work with thicknesses up to 3/8-1/2”. Anything thicker may require a 4”, 5”, or maybe even a 7” lens. This is where laser power will come into play. When the focal distance increases, the amount of energy of the laser will seem to decrease. Not having enough power will mean slowing the laser down significantly to cut through the material. There is a point where cutting slower will not work because it will increase the chance of flare-ups that can occur when cutting acrylic too slow. Acrylic is flammable and the only cure for this is more laser power. Then the acrylic can be cut at optimal and production friendly speeds and still get the nice polished edge. Achieving a high quality edge with multiple passes is very difficult.

Focal point will have an effect on the angle of the cutting edge. The thicker the material the more “into the material” the focal point should be. For acrylic over 1/4" thick, you should focus in 1/3 of the total distance ( ½” acrylic would need to be focused in approximately 3/16”.) This will keep the edge as straight as possible. The longer the focal point of the lens, the straighter the edge will be.

Air assist optimizes acrylic cutting.  It does not take much air pressure, 5 PSI or more PSI if your nose cone is high above the acrylics surface. Too much air will force the molten acrylic to dry too quickly and give you a bubbly and cloudy edge. The air helps push the acrylic off-gas down into the cut so that the fume extraction/dust collection system can then pull the debris out of the laser system.

The Fume Extraction/Dust Collection’s ability to remove the off-gas will help keep the hot gases from staining the areas around the edges. The more the CFM the better. This also reduces the chance of a flare up, since it is pulling the acrylic off-gas out of the laser faster.

By Chris Cudmore, Regional Sales Manager, Trotec Laser, Inc

Friday, June 20, 2014

President Obama Uses Trotec Speedy 300

Obama Tours TechShop
On June 17, 2014, President Obama visited Pittsburgh to highlight creative ways to boost manufacturing and to promote his program that helps provide entrepreneurs access to more than $5 billion in advanced manufacturing equipment. During his visit, he took a tour of Pittsburgh's TechShop to see first hand how entrepreneurs are utilizing manufacturing "maker spaces" such as TechShop. President Obama saw several demonstrations, including one on a 3D printer and a Trotec Speedy 300 laser system.

"We need to encourage more and more entrepreneurs and inventors to not just take root here, but have access to equipment and technology," President Obama said.

Speedy 300 Demonstration 
James Gyre of Naked Geometry demonstrated the laser process, creating a wood ornament entitled “Prayer for Peace” on a Trotec Speedy 300 laser. “It's a mandala of abundance, life and earth. It contains the numbers 12 (for plant life) and phi (for human life) and the infinity symbol.” explains Gyre. The fine detail of the design and intricacy of the cuts, showcased the Speedy 300's speed, precision, and intelligent engineering. After the laser processing was completed, Mr. Obama held it up and declared with a smile,  “This is pretty”. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Join Trotec at The NBM Show Indy 2014!

Join Trotec Laser at The NBM Show Indy, a premier trade show featuring the latest in sign making, digital printing, sublimation, apparel decorating, awards & engraving, personalization, promotional products, and much more.

Basic Info: 
Location: Indiana Convention Center 
Dates: June 12 - June 14, 2014
Booth: 401

Show Hours: 
Thursday  10 AM - 5 PM
Friday  10 AM - 5 PM

Saturday  10 AM - 4 PM

See Trotec Laser Systems in Action:
Speedy 400
Speedy 300 Flexx
Rayjet 300

Rayjet 50
ProMarker 300 

Classroom Education:
Topic: Lasers: Learn, Leverage, Lead - Plus Deep Dive with Acrylic Cutting
Date: Thursday, June 12, 2014
Time: 11 AM - 12:30 PM 
Takeaway: Learn tips and tricks to get the most out of your laser, including a deeper understanding of the fundamentals that will help make your profits soar. The last half hour will be dedicated to acrylic cutting applications on your laser.

great deals laser engraving machine ARA trade show 2013Hot Show Deals:
Stop by Trotec booth 401 to see our lasers in action, meet the Trotec team, & take advantage of exclusive show deals! Mention this post to get a *free cutting table w/the purchase of & deposit on a Speedy 300.

*Purchase and $1,000 deposit must be made on 12-Jun-14, 13-Jun-14, or 14-Jun-14 at The NBM Show Indianapolis to be eligible for promotion.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Kickstarting Your Laser Series: Etchpop's Kickstart to Success!

Crowdfunding your ideas and projects is becoming more popular with the rise of sites  such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.  This series of posts will feature campaigns that have used Trotec lasers in some incredibly successful projects.

Chester Lindgrin and Marshal Tipton wanted to modernize the process of woodblock printing, so they came up with an idea to create custom woodblocks with customer’s artwork with a laser. “We took wood blocks and used the laser to engrave the blocks to do the printing.  We set up a business where you can go to the website and upload your design.  We then engrave the wood block and send it back to you for you to print with.  This bypassed the hand carving step and used modern technology to do this type of printing.” says Chester. 
In 2012, they started their Kickstarter campaign to help fund their laser and startup. “The Trotec engraves waaaay faster than everyone else’s.  I had heard about them and am a tool snob, and knew that they were on the higher end.  I went to an NBM show and saw the engraving speeds of the Trotec laser and I was sold.” 

Their Kickstarter campaign was successful, more than doubling their original goal.  This also allowed them to create MC LaserLabs. “Our whole plan was to become a laser shop, but used the Kickstarter as a jumping off point.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Spring Table Top: Make Your Own Laser Cut Napkin Rings and Flower Cutlery Bags!

Get in the mood for spring by decorating your table with laser cut butterfly napkin rings and flower cutlery bags! With these cheery table top decorations the spring mood will stay in your home... Even during rainy days!

Materials Needed:
4mm polyester felt in two colors

Machines possible:
Speedy 100, Speedy 300, Speedy 400, Speedy 500

Machine used:
Speedy 400, 40 watts

Step 1
Open the file "Spring" in your favorite graphics program and send it to the laser. Laser parameters may vary depending on the machine used and the laser power available... The seetings below are for a 40W Trotec laser system. 

Black Lines (engraving)
Power: 60 %, Speed: 50 %, Resolution: 500 dpi, air assist on 

Red Lines (cutting):
Power: 60 %, Speed 1.1 %, Frequency 1000 Hz, air assist on, correction 20

Step 2
Assemble the parts. The table decoration is designed to fit perfectly without adhesive.


  • Use a 1.5 inch lens. 
  • We suggest using polyester felt for clean cutting edges and great engraving results. 
  • Using a honeycomb table prevents the felt rub off on the processing table.

Download Spring Application Files!

We would love to see your completed projects... Share your table decorations on our Facebook page!