How to Laser Cut Acrylic?

laser cutting acrylic
Laser-cutting acrylic has revolutionized the design and manufacturing industry. This precise and versatile method offers endless possibilities for artists, engineers, architects, and hobbyists alike. This versatile method is employed in various industries to accurately shape and craft acrylic sheets.

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This cutting-edge technique harnesses the power of high-energy lasers to carve and etch acrylic material. This blog post will guide you through the step-by-step process of cutting acrylic using a laser cutter.

The Science Behind Laser Cutting Acrylic

The process of laser-cutting acrylic harnesses the power of focused laser beams to cut through acrylic sheets cleanly and precisely. According to HCI Engineering, not all materials are safe for laser cutting. Some materials release toxic fumes when they come in contact with a laser beam.

Acrylic is a safe material for this purpose. The science behind laser cutting acrylic is a fascinating blend of physics, optics, and material science. Let’s have a look at it.

Vaporization of Acrylic by High-Energy Laser

The laser emits a concentrated beam of light. This beam is directed through a series of mirrors and lenses to achieve pinpoint accuracy. The temperature of the laser beam quickly rises. When the temperature reaches 200°C, the acrylic sheet gets heated up. The laser beam heats the acrylic material at the point of contact, causing it to rapidly vaporize. As the acrylic vaporizes, it creates spaces, or cavities, within the acrylic sheet.

A laser cutter emmiting laser beam on acrylic sheet for cutting.

Creation of Patterns by Localized System

The laser beam is controlled through a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) system to form designs and patterns programmed into the software. This system coordinates the movement of the beam over the acrylic sheet to produce the desired pattern. Moreover, the CNC system controls the speed and energy of the laser beam to ensure accurate and precise cutting.

The Advantages of Laser Cutting Acrylic

Laser-cutting acrylic is employed in various industries. Its numerous advantages make it a popular choice for multiple applications. Here are some of the benefits of laser-cutting acrylic:

1. High Accuracy and Precision

Laser cutters provide exceptional accuracy and precision that is difficult to achieve with other cutting techniques. It enables you to create designs and detailed cuts effortlessly. The intense, focused laser beam enables you to make fine lines, curves, and complex shapes with minimal material wastage. This precision is imperative for various applications where tight tolerances and high-quality finishes are needed.

2. Minimal Heat Distortion

The concentrated beam from the laser cutter prevents heat damage to the acrylic sheet. The laser beam only vaporizes the material that is in contact with it. The surrounding material is not affected due to its localized action. It reduces the risk of distortion, allowing you to achieve a clean and smooth cut of acrylic sheets.

A laser cutter cutting acrylic sheet.

3. Minimal Material Wastage

Laser-cutting acrylic involves negligible material wastage. The laser can efficiently cut the acrylic sheet into the required pattern or shape. This process conserves the material and minimizes the manufacturing cost.

4. Greater Design Flexibility

Digitalizing laser-cutting acrylic allows you to produce various designs that might not be possible with conventional methods. You can create complex geometrical patterns, intricate shapes, and detailed designs without hassle. You can unleash your creativity and customize your projects according to your desires.

5. Efficiency and Speed

Efficiency and speed are paramount for manufacturers. Delays in projects can cost time and money. Laser-cutting acrylic is a fantastic technique to speed up the production industry. Manufacturers can rapidly create the required prototypes and products without any hindrance.

6. Safe Operation

Unlike traditional methods, laser-cutting acrylic is a secure process. Laser cutters do not release hazardous substances. They also eliminate the need for unstable burning agents. Moreover, laser cutting is an automated process, and you can produce the required product without manual operations.

You can click here to learn about the differences between fiber laser cutting and traditional methods.

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Different Types of Lasers Used for Cutting Acrylic

Various types of laser cutters are used for cutting and engraving acrylic. Here are some common types of lasers used for cutting acrylic:

CO2 Laser

This laser is used for cutting cast and extruded acrylic. According to the Weitzman School of Design, acrylic is one of the best materials for laser cutting and engraving. Cast acrylic is manufactured from liquid acrylic. Liquid acrylic is poured into the mold and hardened to create cast acrylic.

Extruded acrylic is made by heating acrylic and pressing it through an extruder. A CO2 laser cutter releases an intense beam of infrared radiation on the material. The material absorbs the beam of radiation as heat and melts or vaporizes.

This type of laser is known for its versatility and ability to cut acrylics of various thicknesses. (CO2 laser machines can also cut a variety of materials, understanding in detail.) Moreover, it offers precise control over the cuts. Operators can adjust the speed and power to get the intricate engraving.

However, CO2 lasers generate immense heat. Proper ventilation and cooling systems are required to prevent material deformation or undesirable thermal effects.

A laser cutting machine creating pattern on an acrylic sheet.

Laser Diode

A laser diode is an energy-efficient solution for laser cutting. It emits light of shorter wavelengths for marking and cutting acrylic. It releases minimal heat, making it suitable for delicate acrylic work, such as creating intricate jewelry designs or intricate patterns on acrylic surfaces.

Laser diodes are known for their speed and accuracy. They are suitable for thinner acrylic materials, as they may struggle to penetrate thicker acrylic sheets. Moreover, laser diodes require more frequent maintenance than CO2 lasers.

Factors Affecting Laser Cutting Acrylic

Various factors influence the laser-cutting acrylic technique. The following are some of the most important ones:

Laser Output Power

Laser output power significantly impacts the process of acrylic laser cutting. The laser power determines the intensity of the laser beam, which defines the depth of the acrylic cut.

Higher laser power offers greater cutting speeds. It also enhances the ability to cut through thicker acrylic sheets. On the other hand, low power results in incomplete cuts. Therefore, understanding the material’s thickness and composition is crucial in selecting the appropriate output power of the laser machine.

Adjustment of Focus Position

Setting the focus position of a laser cutting machine affects the energy density at the cutting point. If the focal point is too high above the acrylic surface, the laser beam will diverge before reaching the material, resulting in a wider cut.

A laser cutter is adjusted for cutting acrylic Sheet.

In contrast, if the focal point is too low or within the material, it can lead to excessive heating. Therefore, calibration of the focus position based on the acrylic sheet’s thickness and the desired cut quality is necessary. You may want to know the thickness limits of laser cutting.

Cutting Speed of Laser Machine

The laser machine’s cutting speed is crucial in determining the effectiveness and excellence of acrylic laser cutting. It is directly tied to the laser power density. Finding the perfect cutting speed impacts the amount of heat transferred to the acrylic.

If the speed is too slow, excessive heat can accumulate in the material, leading to undesirable effects such as melting, charring, and the formation of rough edges. Conversely, if the cutting speed is too fast, the laser may not have enough time to cut through the acrylic, resulting in incomplete or jagged cuts.

Therefore, you need the right balance between cutting speed and laser power to enhance the precision and overall quality of laser-cut acrylic components.

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How to Laser Cut Acrylic: A Step-by-Step Guide

Whether you’re a seasoned maker or a novice enthusiast, the following guide will walk you through the process of laser-cutting acrylic with precision and finesse.

1. Preparation of Acrylic Sheet

You have to prepare the acrylic sheet before cutting it with a laser cutting machine. Acrylic sheets are available in large sizes, and you can’t make patterns on such large sheets with a laser. You have to slice them into smaller pieces to make them suitable for laser cutting. The sheet must be clear and free of dust, debris, or protective films. Deburr any rough edges to get the desired outcome.

2. Design Creation for Laser Cutting

Creating a well-thought-out design is necessary for any successful laser-cutting project. Drafting your design using vector-based software like Adobe Illustrator or Autodesk Fusion 360 Blender. Pay close attention to line colors, as these will dictate the cutting order and settings in your laser software.

Group and label elements for clarity for intricate designs or those requiring multiple layers. Adjust the depth and power setting if you want to engrave on an acrylic sheet.

Check the overlapping lines or open paths in your design, as they can result in burned edges. Save the design in compatible files, like PDF, SVG, or DXF. You can import them to your laser cutting software when required.

3. Setting Adjustments

You also need to adjust the precise setting adjustments for a successful laser cutting project. Calibrate your laser cutter’s power, speed, and focus settings according to the type and thickness of your acrylic.

Test cuts on scraps to find the right settings for your specific machine and acrylic type. Additionally, consider the use of exhaust systems to remove fumes and prevent flare-ups during cutting. Accurate setting adjustments will result in clean, precise cuts. 

4. Cutting

After setting up the components of the acrylic laser cutting machine, you can start cutting the acrylic sheets. For this purpose, securely place the acrylic sheet on the table and align your laser cutter.

Open your design file into the laser software and direct the laser to cut the sheet. The laser beam will follow the patterns you’ve set in your design file. Don’t compromise your safety during this complicated process. Wear protective gear, such as safety goggles, and monitor the machine during operation.

A U-shap pattern cut from acrylic sheet by a laser cutter.

5. Finishing

Finishing is crucial to get the refined final product. Look for signs of incomplete cuts on your product. Smooth the rough edges and polish the whole product. Polish gives it a shiny appearance.

Tips for Achieving the Best Results

The following tips can help you get the desired results:

  • Select the right acrylic sheet. Consider factors like thickness, color, and type (cast or extruded). Each type behaves differently under the laser, so understanding your material is crucial.
  • Ensure that both the acrylic sheet and the laser machine’s optics are clean. Even minor debris or residue can affect cutting quality.
  • Examine the design file before exporting it to laser cutting software. According to the Weitzman School of Design, you can’t cut the material if your file is not accurately formatted.
  • Always put on protective gear, including safety glasses, when operating a laser cutter.
  • Avoid direct contact with smoke and fumes created during the cutting process. Use exhaust systems as an extra precaution.

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Common Mistakes and Their Solutions

The following are some common mistakes laser cutters make when working with acrylic and how to fix them:

1 – Melting and Burning of Acrylic Sheet

One of the most common issues in laser cutting acrylic is the risk of melting or charring the material’s edges. It happens when the laser power and speed settings are not appropriately calibrated. To prevent it, adjust the laser power to a lower setting. Increase the cutting speed or decrease the intensity to find the optimal balance.

2 – Rough Edges

Uneven edges or irregularities along the cut lines are another common issue. It occurs due to inconsistent laser settings. Proper calibration of the laser can prevent rough edges. Moreover, using the appropriate nozzle will also help obtain smooth edges.

3 – Neglecting Ventilation

Laser cutting of acrylic releases toxic fumes. These hazardous chemicals can affect your health and laser cutter. You need to maintain a well-ventilated workspace to remove fumes.


Laser-cutting acrylic offers numerous advantages for designers, manufacturers, and hobbyists. It is an efficient way to create intricate patterns and shapes in a single piece. The right settings, equipment, and techniques must be used while laser-cutting acrylic sheets to ensure safe and accurate cuts without melting or charring.

Ensure Smooth Cuts With Baison!

If you are looking for a premium-quality laser cutter for creating fantastic acrylic projects, Baison Laser can help you. Explore laser cutters, laser welders, and various advanced equipment and create stunning projects. Our team will guide you with the right equipment and optimal settings to ensure smooth cuts.

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Sam Chen

Hey there, I’m Sam!

I’m the founder of Baison. We have been helping manufacturing industries increase their productivity and capacity with our advanced fiber laser systems for over 20 years.

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