Acrylic is an awesome medium for C02 lasing. This article will cover the processing of acrylic for edge-lit projects but these principles still apply to basic acrylic etching in general. Before we jump in let’s cover a few important details.
There are 2 common variations of acrylic and while they are all chemically similar, they behave very differently from one another due to the manufacturing process:
- Extruded Acrylic: This is what is commonly found in big box and local hardware stores. This is made by forcing the acrylic resin through a form. This type is usually masked in plastic and when etched produces very little contrast.
- Cast Acrylic: This type of acrylic is not commonly found locally but it is used in aquariums so a pet or aquatics store may be worth a try. It is produced by pouring the resin in a cast and subjecting it to heat and pressure. Cast is usually masked with thin craft paper but not always. Cast is great for etching and produces remarkable contrast.
You can learn more about the differences between cast and extruded HERE.
Light travels through cast acrylic along the outermost edges of the material. This is why it’s called edge lit. Extruded acrylic lacks this characteristic.
To learn how to process a photo for lasing in standard design software check out The Laser Engraving Institute!
When you cut acrylic there are a lot of factors at play besides your speed, power, focus, etc… Russ Sadler has some great in-depth tutorials on one of his YouTube channels HERE.