CNCROi.com has been CNC laser engraving and cutting various materials for quite a while now, today we’ll just review a brief summary of the results achieved on them using our Austrian wide-format industrial Trotec Speedy 400 flexx laser.
One of my most favorite material is black acrylic, this is a special kind of acrylic that actually color changes when it’s hit using our CNC fiber laser tube (our machine has both fiber and CO2 tubes).
For black acrylic, the contrast is awesome as the fiber laser tube changes the surface to white! It’s quite magical because nothing is added or removed, our CNC laser just changes the surface properties, there is NO engraving happening.
The process is incredibly slow but completely permanent, unlike UV printing, screen printing or any other type of “printing” that adds something to the surface. There are NO special pastes or tricks, just raw black acrylic in this laser turning white.
The resolution we achieve is fantastic as well, we can get up to 1 000 dpi though the settings we normally use are 500 dpi to speed-up production. Your eye will not be able to tell the difference between 1 000 and 500 dpi so why bother increasing production time for an arbitrary number?
The advantage to color changing the plastic and then cutting it using our CO2 laser source is that the material never moves between different laser sources. This means there is zero deviation or chance for error. If we had a thousand of these, they would be spectacularly identical!
The bed we have in this video is our professional cutting bed, we have a variety of beds available in our CNC laser that fit above our vacuum table from acrylic to aluminium – we use the optimal set-up for the application.
As you can see, the fiber color change on the black looks spectacular! What’s especially nice is the matte finish on this acrylic, this means there isn’t any reflection from the Sun or lights in a room during networking. This is a great option for everything from custom CNC laser produced wall signage to name badges and literally anything in between!
Acrylic is a wonderful material to work with as it’s available in a variety of colors, thicknesses and opacities while laminate is your “two+ color” option. What can you do with acrylic? Here’s an example of a sign we made a while back (which you also see behind me in the video.
Next material to do the same engraving and cutting pattern on is 1/8th (3 mm) plastic laminate.
In this case, the laminate “looks” like stainless steel and when the top surface is vaporized using our CO2 laser source, it reveals black. The advantage to using this “stainless steel” laminate over real 304 stainless steel is cost. Annealing REAL stainless steel using our fiber laser source is a very slow process, this is blindingly fast by comparison!
The other advantage of laminate is that it can be got in a variety of color combinations in both substrate and surface, so if you wanted bright yellow with a black ‘engraving” that is no problem at all… here’s a pic!
Of course, if you wanted the top to be yellow and the back blue, we can get that too! In the case of the “stainless steel” laminate, it’s available with a variety of finished from highly reflective like you see in these pictures to matte finish.
Additionally, it’s available in a variety of shades from copper to raw iron and everything in between. The disadvantage to using “steel” laminate in this case over the real thing is longevity. REAL steel will last several lifetimes while this stuff starts to degrade when exposed to UV lighting, various cleaning solvents and scratches easy.
The cost though between “steel” laminate and the real thing may make sense if you need something temporary. The longevity can also be increased significantly using various additional processes and materials though you will never achieve the same results as the real stainless steel.
What you see all around this stainless steel laminate is dust, I forgot to clean it up before doing the video but it’s easily removed though care must be taken to make sure the surface isn’t scratched. Because the material is a “mirror finish”, scratches show-up a lot more than matte.
Now we are going to head back down the acrylic route, this time with a solid piece that can’t be color changed as white becomes white which isn’t noticeable. Again, we are using various scraps and off-cuts to make these samples, hence the deviation between sheet size and the double sided-tape you see at the bottom of the picture below.
As color changing is out the window, we are using the CO2 laser source to engrave into the plastic, the results are pretty good but nowhere near the dpi resolution we can achieve using the color changing method as the plastic is literally vaporized and melts a little during the process.
After the CNC laser engraving is done, we cut out the various pieces, the steps taken each time are identical, if you look at the video, each square is cut in the same order and at the same level of precision within 5 nanometers.
You might be wondering where all the FIRE is in these videos, cutting plastic with high energy generally makes fire but we have a special machine. Our industrial wide-format Austrian laser has a vacuum table and gas kit, which means there is too much “wind” for ignition. On some thicker materials, we do get flame like in 12 mm thick acrylic but it’s never allowed to “expand” beyond the narrow beam.
After the engraving and cutting out of the various pieces, the perimeter is cut, this means that absolute precision is maintained as the piece isn’t taken out of the material until the last step, keeping everything grounded.
We also have a massive bed, with pass-through ability, which allows us to cut through full sheets of material instead of having to cut it down to size. A huge advantage!
As you can see, the contrast between white acrylic and white engraving isn’t the best but luckily, we can get this in a variety of colors, transparencies and thicknesses that provide far better contrasting options for applications far and wide.
Looks awesome anyhow!
Next up is clear acrylic, so you can more easily see the details that are there but hard to see in the white. Keep in mind that in this blog post there are 3 different acrylic options, we have HUNDREDS available. Each has their optimal application.
The first thing you see in engraving this material is the actual amount of dust created by engraving acrylic, you don’t see it in the color changed acrylic because there is no material being removed and in the white one, white on white just isn’t as noticeable.
The protective sheet was left on the surface of this material, that’s why it goes from this semi-transparent blue to completely clear at the end of this blog post.
Acrylic scratches, especially on the aluminium slot bed you see in these photos, the protective covering prevents these scratches from happening, producing a better result.
There is plenty of clearance in our machine, we have up to 13 inches if needed, so even for odd parts that need engraving or marketing or cutting, that isn’t a problem.
This is why a powerful extraction system is needed for this type of laser work, the dust gets everywhere pretty quickly. The fine details are there, they are just hidden under the acrylic dust made during production.
Voila! There is still some clean-up required along the surface and edges to produce a completely clear acrylic plaque but this gives you an idea of what can be done across a variety of materials using our indusrial CNC laser.
Looking at it from another angle, you can see the level of detail, in this case, 500 dpi was used but you can easily make-out the palm tree leaves and if we wanted to, additional details like tree bark would be easily done without adding anything to the production time.
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