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Avoiding burn marks/smudges when engraving acrylic

Burn marks and laser cutting go hand in hand – you are cutting with a highly focused beam of light after all. Even so there are some tips and tricks to minimize this issue for different materials. Here we are going to focus on acrylic.

Solution

Most of the acrylic you will buy comes with a protective paper on both sides. It is possible for you to leave this paper on the acrylic while you laser cut you design. In our experience doing this does not interfere with the quality of the engraving at all. The biggest pitfall of this method is that you will need to peel the paper off both sides of your acrylic after you laser cut it, which can be extremely time consuming depending on how much cutting you and removing the paper can be fairly tricky depending on the complexity of your design.

Tips

As a rule: cut with paper on both sides if there is no raster engraving in the design, or if there is only heavy raster engraving. Heavy raster engravings will have no trouble burning through the paper.  Neither will heavy or medium vector engraving. However if the file has medium or light raster engraving you should remove the protective paper from your acrylic unless you have tested out that design in particular to find out if you can in fact leave the paper on.

Cutting

If you leave the paper on for a cut through acrylic you will see that the leaving the paper on produces a cut that appears much more clean that if you were to take the protective paper off the acrylic. Normally a cut can and will leave smudgy burn marks on the inside of your cuts. Which it may not be eliminated completely, these marks will be greatly reduced if you leave the paper on your acrylic while cutting.

Heavy Raster Engraving

If you leave the protective paper on while engraving you will notice that the paper produces a crisper result compared to engraving with the paper. The vaporized acrylic builds up around the outside of the letters when the paper is not use and produces this slightly ‘inflated’ look. This would probably polish off should you have the desire to do so.

Medium Raster Engraving

Again leaving on the protective paper and simply engraving through it will leave the design looking more crisp that if you were to remove the paper. However with medium raster you may have some sticky residue left over from the adhesive of the paper as it may not be as thoroughly burned as it will be from a heavy raster engraving.

So what does all this mean?

If you want to reduce some of the burning on your acrylic or get better and crisper engravings then simply leave the protective paper on while you cut or engrave it. However be sure to still remove the paper for some medium and basically all light raster engravings.