The simple answer to this is yes. You can laser- engrave acrylic and laser cut clear acrylic.
In fact, clear acrylic is one of the most popular materials for laser engraving and laser cutting due to the high quality of acrylic laser cutters the engravings it produces.
Understanding Clear Acrylic and Laser Engraving
Laser engraving is the process of using a laser beam to effectively vaporise the material you are engraving with a very high heat. The process is much the same as laser cutting. The difference between the cutting process and engraving being that the lens of the laser is shorter when engraving to give a smaller spot and therefore can produce finer detail.
Laser cutting has a longer lens on the laser giving a much deeper effect, cutting into the material rather than etching into it.
Clear acrylic is a transparent plastic material. It is a popular material used in laser engraving because it has a huge variety of uses together with the fact that it is durable and economical and it can produce high-quality products.
There are two types of acrylic commonly used for laser engraving and laser cutting; cast acrylic and extruded acrylic.
Cast acrylic is best for engraving and when engraved produces the frosty effect.
Extruded acrylic is best for laser cutting as it will produce a flame-polished edge.
Factors in Successful Laser Engraving on Clear Acrylics
Transparency and Light Refraction
One of the top reasons clear acrylic is used in so many different applications is its transparency. It has a 92% light transmission rate which is nearly as much as glass giving it perfect optical clarity.
The light refraction index of clear acrylic material is also very high, slightly higher even than glass.
Because the thermal conductivity of the acrylic polymer is lower than that of glass this means that it can be engraved using low power.
Melting and Vaporisation Points
Acrylic has a low vaporisation and melting point meaning the machine settings should be on low power for the best results. Less laser power means less risk of vaporising more than you intend.
Tips for Achieving High-Quality Laser Engraving on Clear Acrylic
Proper Alignment and Focus
Ensuring proper alignment and focus on your laser machine is key to getting high-quality engraving and creating those flame-polished edges from the laser cutting process.
Testing and Adjusting Settings
Where possible have spare acrylic sheets or other acrylic materials so you can test and adjust to ensure you have the right settings for your design, laser cutting machine and the type of acrylic sheet or block.
Benefits and Applications of Laser Engraving Clear Acrylic
Laser engraving acrylic and laser cutting acrylic is perfect for personal craft projects and you can also create laser engraved gifts, such as personalised ornaments, key tags or acrylic awards for your workplace or as a cute gift for someone.
Clear acrylic is a versatile, economical and durable material for laser engraving and laser cutting which makes it the perfect material for cutting and engraving beginners and the more experienced with laser machines alike.
Why not start some new acrylic projects and see how you get on, you might be pleasantly surprised at the excellent results you can achieve.