Awards & Engraving

March '20

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38 • A&E MARCH 2020 I n the awards and engraving industry, acrylic is one of the most important and popular materials to work with. It can also be one of the most difficult to work with. The process from sheet stock to finished award is a long one, but with the right equipment, you can create beautiful finished acrylic pieces that are perfect for a variety of applications. In this article, we follow the acrylic along its journey from sheet stock to finished award and talk about the challenges that you may face during the fabrication process. ACRYLIC TYPES The first step in the process of creating an acrylic award is choosing the acrylic type. There are two main types of acrylic sheet stock: extruded and cast, also known as Plexiglass. Extruded acrylic is formed by pushing the material through forms while the acrylic is being formed. This process creates a flat sheet that holds tolerances well. In contrast, cast acrylic is formed by mixing chemicals and pouring it into molds. Since cast acrylic is poured into a mold to create the sheet, there are varying thicknesses to each sheet. Extruded and cast acrylic produce vastly different results when laser cutting and engraving. When laser cutting, cast acrylic gives a beautiful flame-polished edge that is less prone to crazing (appear- ance of fine cracks on edges) compared to extruded acrylic. Laser engraving cast and extruded acrylic also gives much different results. When laser engraved, cast acrylic yields a white engraving, whereas extruded acrylic gives a gray engraving. Due to the ability to produce flame-polished edges and vibrant white engravings, cast acrylic is recom- mended for awards fabrication needs. ACRYLIC THICKNESS AND COLORS Cast acrylic is available in many dif- ferent colors and thicknesses. Clear is the most popular choice, but colored acrylic can make an award pop. Most colors are available in thinner thicknesses, typically up to 1/4-inch thick. Your equipment capabilities are impor- tant to understand before choosing the acrylic thickness for your project. Saws and CNC routers can be used to cut acrylic but leave rough edges that require sanding and flame-polishing or buffing post-produc- tion. Lasers can cut and flame-polish in one step, which is a great way to save time and reduce the number of steps in your produc- tion. In general, the thicker the acrylic, the more powerful of a laser you need to achieve smooth, flame-polished edges. Braden Todd is a second-generation engraver and owner of Glassmith2, located in Boulder, Colorado. Braden's expertise ranges from sandcarving, industrial laser cutting/engraving, UVprinting, and the other supporting facets that allow Glassmith2 to consistently provide cutting-edge items to its retail and wholesale customers. Questions and wholesale inquiries are always welcome: By Braden Todd Laser Fabrication of Acrylic Facing the challenges presented during the acrylic fabrication process When laser cutting, cast acrylic gives a flame-polished edge that is less prone to crazing (appearance of fine cracks on edges) compared to extruded acrylic. ALL IMAGES COURTESY BRADEN TODD

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