October '20

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7 0 G R A P H I C S P R O O C T O B E R 2 0 2 0 G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M S I G N A G E & P R I N T I N G S H O P T A L K | R I C K W I L L I A M S PERFECT PAIRING: LASERS AND ACRYLICS A CO 2 laser in a graphics shop can be used for many things, espe- cially engraving many types of substrates, both flat and dimensional. Though not made to cut metals, CO 2 lasers do their fair share of cutting other softer, non-metallic substrates. But per- haps nothing is more suited to laser cutting, and even laser engraving, than acrylic plastic materials in all their varia- tions. Our laser is a Trotec 120-watt unit, and it has certainly proved itself on multiple jobs using acrylic sheet stock, and often the sheets are covered with polyester metallic films for a more cus- tomized appearance. Sometimes the ad- dition of a digital print, or some colored vinyl that is plotter cut, will be used to achieve the look we're after. If the settings are right, our laser will make a polished, clean cut in acrylic up to a 1/2-inch thick or so. It will also cut precise patterns from thin school-use poster board. In addition to those du- ties, the laser is great for making custom mini-stud mounting hardware in-house. The photos in this article illustrate the types of work that regularly go through our shop, which are all made possible by the capable application of a CO 2 laser. These jobs are fun to do, easy to install, and are efficient enough to maintain a healthy profit margin as well. WORKING WITH FILM As mentioned, the metallic finishes are done in polyester films, either brushed silver or brushed gold, which, unlike vi- nyl, do not exhaust deadly chlorine gas when cut on a laser. The transfer tape used to apply the film is left in place un- Our laser cut acrylic letters are often covered with metallic (non-vinyl) film to make a more custom letter or logo. (All images courtesy Rick Williams) Our 120-watt laser does a good job of cutting acrylic up to 1/2-inch thick.

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