CO2 laser for acrylic cutting (PMMA)

Let's continue exploring the main applications of the CO2 laser. In this article we will be talking about acrylic CO2 laser cutting. As we have seen in previous articles, the CO2 laser has expanded the possibilities of treating and working many materials. Among them is methyl methacrylate, a plastic material best known as Plexiglas® or Perspex®.

This thermoplastic polymer was invented in the 1920s. However, the product only really gained ground during the post-war period. Easy to manufacture and work, rugged and flexible, acrylic has imposed itself as a light and economical replacement of glass. Thermoplastic polymer can be scratched very easily in comparison to glass, but this defect cannot possibly outweigh the numerous advantages of the product. One of those being the ease of manufacturing the product with the CO2 laser.

As a matter of fact, the cutting, perforation and marking of acrylic are perhaps the applications in which the CO2 laser has the widest range of application.

Laser cutting and drilling: the main processes

Acrylic is one of the many materials that responds very well to the wavelength of the CO2 laser. The CO2 laser has gained considerable interest due to the fact that most materials, such as plastics, start absorbing at 10 micrometers.

At this wavelength the molecular structure of acrylic, like many other substances, causes it to be opaque to the CO2 laser operating at a wavelength of 10.6 μm. This feature, coupled with low thermal conductivity and a relatively low sublimation point (300 ° C), allows acrylic processing to be done quickly and easily.

The main acrylic processes include the laser cutting and drilling of acrylic. In both cases, the process is done by instant sublimation of the material. The cutting head deliver a very high beam of energy on a sheet of acrylic, thereby cutting the material. This allows manufacturers to easily laser cut acrylic letters, acrylic panels, or laser cut acrylic signs.

The end result is a cutting of extreme precision and quality: clean, smooth and without any need for finishing off. Sublimation causes the material to evaporate and therefore does not create residues, making laser cutting an extremely clean process.

The acrylic laser cutting process is also incredibly fast. Speed ​​is related to the thickness of the material and the power of the laser source. But whatever the thickness, the processing speed will be significantly higher than the mechanical cutting methods, even if it is a CNC method.

The possibilities of laser machining is endless and, ultimately, only limited by the designer's imagination.