Materials for Laser Cutting
We can laser cut plastics, woods, rubbers, foams, and papers as long as they do not contain chlorine. Depending on the material, there is usually no limit to the thinnest sheet we can cut, and the thickest sheet we can cut is typically 1/2" (12 mm). We stock acrylic, ABS, Mylar, PETG, and styrene, and you are welcome to mail us material or have suppliers ship us material directly. Please read the following topics about laser cutting materials:
- Materials we can laser cut
- Materials we cannot laser cut
- Acrylic color pictures
- Material search tool (for searching prices, cutting costs, weights, etc. of various materials we can laser cut)
- General information about popular plastics
- How to supply your own material
Materials we can laser cut
We can cut the following materials. If you do not see your material listed, we would be happy to try cutting it as long as it does not contain chlorine (please submit a quote request and provide details about your material in the special instructions section of the quote request form).
- ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
- Acrylic (also known as Plexiglas, Lucite, PMMA)
- Delrin (POM, acetal) — for a supplier, try www.mcmaster.com.
- Kapton tape (Polyimide)
- Mylar (polyester)
- Nylon — melts badly
- PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol)
- Polyethylene (PE) — melts badly
- Polypropylene (PP) — melts somewhat
- Two-tone acrylic — top color different than core material, usually for custom instrumentation panels, signs, and plaques.
- Depron foam — often used for RC planes.
- Gator foam — foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard shell.
- Cloths (leather, suede, felt, hemp, cotton)
- Magnetic sheets
- Rubbers — for a supplier, try www.mcmaster.com.
- Teflon (PTFE, Polytetrafluoroethylene) — for a supplier, try www.mcmaster.com.
- Woods (MDF, balsa, birch, poplar, red oak, cherry, holly, etc.) — for a supplier, try www.midwestproducts.com.
Materials we cannot laser cut
We do not or cannot cut the following materials:
- Metals — We cannot cut through any metals. We do stock an acrylic-based, dual-tone plastic with a faux-metal finish on one side. If you need metal parts, www.dcwaterjet.com might be able to help you.
- Polycarbonate (PC, Lexan) — we stopped cutting Lexan due to the fumes.
- Any material containing chlorine
- PVC (Cintra) — contains chlorine
- Vinyl — contains chlorine
- Neoprene — contains chlorine
- Glass — we can engrave glass, but we cannot cut it.
- Printed circuit board (FR4 and other material types)
- Carbon fiber
Pictures of some acrylic colors we stock
Below are pictures of some of the 1/8" acrylic colors we stock. Your monitor will probably not show the colors exactly, but the pictures should give you some idea of what the colors are like. We do stock other colors; please see our material search tool below for a complete list of acrylic colors and thicknesses we stock.
|Other colors stocked: clear, black, white, opaque yellow, transparent light blue, silver mirror, gold mirror, neon/fluorescent blue and pink, two-tone (black top white core, brushed-aluminum top black core). For other colors, we can special-order it from www.delviesplastics.com. For two-tone acrylics, we can special-order from www.johnsonplastics.com (laser-safe colors only).|
Material price, cuting costs, weights, etc.
Please use the materials search tool below to view the cutting costs, prices, weights, etc. of the materials we can cut. Some things to note:
- Material thickness — All plastic thicknesses are in millimeters, and can vary by + or - 10%. The nominal thickness in inches are approximate and for reference only.
- Material sheet sizes — Material sheets you provide must be no larger than 35.5" x 50"; see our standard layout areas for materials we stock.
- Wood cutting speeds — The cutting costs for most woods are about the same as the cutting cost of acrylic with the same thickness; www.midwestproducts.com can supply various woods.
- Material suppliers — Many of the un-stocked materials below are available from www.mcmaster.com or www.usplastics.com. For larger acrylic color selections, please visit www.delviesplastics.com. For more two-tone acrylics, please see www.johnsonplastics.com (laser-safe colors only).
- Discounts — The cutting prices and materials costs provided here are a guideline; we do provide discounts on a case-by-case basis, especially if you order a lot of parts or if your parts are particularly simple to cut and handle.
Materials search toolPlease click on the options in the boxes below (material type, color, etc.) to change your materials search criteria:
- To select multiple search criteria, hold down the Ctrl key and click.
- To de-select a search criteria, hold down the Ctrl key and click.
- By default, we list all materials; to return to this comprehensive list during your search, click the reset button that appears at the top of your list.
General information about some plastics
We mainly laser cut the following plastics, for which we have provided some additional information:
- Acrylic (PMMA, Plexiglas)
- ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
- PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol)
- Delrin (POM, acetal)
Acrylic, also known as PMMA, is a type of plastic with a variety of brand name manufacturers, including Plexiglas, Lucite, Acrylite, and Optix. We stock different brands depending on what our suppliers carry. We can cut up to 1/2" acrylic. The thicknesses in inches of acrylic is nominal; the actual thicknesses are in millimeters and vary by + or - 10% within the same sheet.
Acrylic is the cheapest plastic to laser cut. It is attractive (it has a glossy surface), comes in a variety of thicknesses and colors, and the edges of laser-cut acrylic have a "laser-polished" look. Acrylic is somewhat brittle (you have to be careful not to crack if you want to drill holes after laser cutting; it is better to have us laser-cut all screw holes and mounting holes). Acrylic parts will crack or chip (especially at sharp corners) if you drop them on a hard surface. Acrylic usually comes with a paper masking on both sides.
Acrylic is manufactured in two main ways: via casting or extrusion. Extruded acrylic has a lower melting point than cast acrylic, so extruded acrylic tends to have a shinier, polished finish when cut. We mainly stock extruded acrylic for this reason. However, we do stock some cast acrylic since cast acrylic is better for engraving (the engraved portions of cast acrylic become a milky-white, sand-blasted version of the original color).
Acrylic comes in a variety of thicknesses. It is available in transparent, translucent, and opaque colors, including neons, fluorescents, and mirrored colors. If we do not stock the thickness or color you need, we can special-order it for you from our suppliers, or you may have it shipped to us from a supplier such as www.delviesplastics.com, www.usplastics.com, or www.mcmaster.com.
Two-tone acrylic (with a thin, top layer that is a different color than the core material) is available for parts that require high-contrast engraving such as instrumentation panels, signs, and plaques. We stock a few basic colors (including one with a faux-metal, brushed-aluminum finish on one side); you can get other colors at www.johnsonplastics.com.
Acrylic is transparent to infrared light (IR), so it is not appropriate for IR-sensing applications. You can glue acrylic together using special acrylic glues such as Weld-On. Please contact your local hardware store and ask for glues used for acrylic or Plexiglas.
Our customers have made the following types of parts with acrylic:
- robot parts and chassis
- computer case parts
- computer fan grills
- custom jewelry and charms
- custom stencils
- luthier templates and tools
- instrument inlays
- instrument-making tools
- enclosures for electronics
- custom ornaments
- custom awards
- custom gifts
- custom trinkets
- custom model railroad parts
- other scale model parts
- custom art pieces
- custom sign lettering and logos
ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
ABS comes in black or white, with one side smooth, and the other side textured. The texture is called a "hair cell texture" and is similar to the texture on the sides of older refrigerators. We have cut up to 1/4" ABS. We can probably cut thicker ABS, but we have not tried. The thickness in inches of ABS is nominal; the actual thicknesses are in millimeters and vary by + or - 10% within the same sheet.
ABS does not come masked. If you would like us to mask it during cutting, please request this in the special instructions section of our quote request form. ABS is opaque to infrared light (IR), so it can be used for IR-sensing applications.
ABS is easy to machine and is not brittle (it will bend quite a bit before it cracks). ABS parts will not crack or break easily, even if you drop them. Legos, many computer peripherals, and graphing calculator cases are made from ABS. ABS is less rigid than acrylic, and is somewhat soft. You can glue ABS parts together using sticky, black, ABS glue available at hardware stores. With ABS, you can design parts that snap together by making tabs with small "hooks" or "feet" that fit into slots that are slightly smaller than the feet (so they stay hooked in to the slots).
Laser-cut ABS parts tend to smell, so you might have to air them out for a few days and wipe dust and residue from the edges. Do not attempt to clean ABS parts in your dishwasher (the parts become discolored).
Other customers have made laser-cut encoders, sturdy robot chassis, instrumentation panels, gears, and sprockets using ABS.
PETG (polyethylene terephthalate glycol)
We only stock PETG in clear. We have cut up to 3/16" PETG; we can probably cut thicker PETG, but we have not tried. The thickness in inches of PETG is nominal; the actual thicknesses are in millimeters and vary by + or - 10% within the same sheet.
PETG usually comes with a thin, plastic, film masking on both sides. It is not brittle (it will bend quite a bit before it cracks), and PETG parts will not crack or break easily, even if you drop them. PETG is less rigid than acrylic, and is somewhat soft.
Laser-cut PETG parts tend to smell, so you might have to air them out for a few days and wipe off any dust and residue with warm water.
Other customers have laser cut PETG to make very thin grids/nets for scientific experiments and guards for pinball machines to protect the pinball parts from the impact of the pinballs.
Delrin (POM, acetal)
Delrin is a very tough, slippery material that resists warping and deforming well. You cannot glue anything to Delrin. It is more expensive than acrylic, ABS, or PETG. Gears are often made from Delrin. We do not stock Delrin, but you can order it from www.mcmaster.com or another supplier and have it drop-shipped to us directly. Please be sure the material is shipped FLAT (not rolled).
How to supply your own material for laser cutting
If you plan to supply your own material, please mention this in the special instructions section in our quote request form, and also specify the sheet size of the material you plan to supply. Material sheets must be no larger than 35.5" x 50". If you are raster engraving parts, or if you can only supply a CDR, AI, SVG, or PDF file (not a CAD file set up for laser cutting), your material must be no larger than 24" x 36". Please send the material to our address as shown on our contact page.
If you are sending the material yourself, please include a note that has your full name, day-time phone number, quote number, and email address that you check regularly. The material must be very flat (not bowed, warped, or rolled; otherwise the laser cannot focus properly).
If a material supplier is shipping to us directly, please be sure they include your full name and quote number in the attention line in the address. If possible, the shipping receipt, label, invoice, or packing list should also include your day-time phone number. Please instruct the supplier to select the flattest material and ship it flat, not rolled, folded, or bent. We list a few material suppliers above in the material cutting costs, prices, weights, etc. section.
It is always good to supply extra material just in case something goes wrong with the cutting, and for testing and calibration purposes, especially if you are sending material we have not cut before. If you would like us to ship excess material back to you, please let us know in the special instructions section of our quote request form.