Awards & Engraving

April '17

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16 • A&E APRIL 2017 By Jim Puentes YOUR LASER AT WORK But what about that elephant in the room—that heat-producing equipment that you invested so much in? Have you ever considered using the laser to bend acrylic? I'd not considered using the laser as a heat application tool. After all, it's for cutting and vaporizing, marking and engraving. I was planning on either buying or making a strip heater when the inspiration came. That Eureka moment was triggered by a mistake. I was using a jig that I'd built to lift a sheet of clear cast acrylic about 4 inches off of the cutting grid. I was trying to avoid flashback marks from the grid. As the pieces were cut, they would fall onto the grid. A couple of pieces bounced and landed below where the laser was still cut- ting through. Upon inspection, I found that those pieces had wide, frosted marks on them and were ruined. But that led me to under- stand that an out-of-focus laser had the ability to heat acrylic without cutting through. It could produce the right kind of energy to be an alternative to a strip heater. After much experimentation, I came up with a consistent method for creating bend lines using the laser. BENDING BASICS There are several advantages to using your laser to apply the heat necessary to bend acrylic. • There is no warm-up time; the laser applies the heat as it fires. • It's fast, usually less than half of a minute for each bend line. • There is no equipment cool-down time; nothing in your work area to burn you with an accidental touch. • No extra table space is needed. • You don't have to wear gloves; the surrounding material stays cool to the touch. B ending acrylic is fairly simple. Applying heat softens the acrylic and allows it to be bent into shape. There are several ways of applying the heat. Electric strip heaters are common. A torch, a heat gun, an oven and even a microwave oven can be used. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. Bending Acrylic Using Your Laser Have you ever considered bending acrylic using your laser machine? There are several advantages to doing so. ALL IMAGES COURTESY JIM PUENTES

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