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Laser Cut Acrylic: All You Need to Know

by Winnie Li Updated on March 19, 2024

Acrylic, also known as plexiglass, is a visually captivating material, known for its glossy finish, transparency, optical clarity, and vibrant hues. Owing to its stunning properties, acrylic is employed in a diverse array of products that enjoy high demand.

Acrylic is typically available in sheets in the marketplace. That said, to create your desired object, you must cut the appropriate shape or pattern from these sheets. While there are numerous methods for cutting acrylic sheets, laser cutting is the most sought-after option due to its precise and refined results, which enhances the aesthetic appeal of the finished product.

acrylic laser cutter

Nonetheless, before attempting to laser cut acrylic, it's essential to acquire adequate knowledge and skills. To assist you in this process, we present a comprehensive guide on laser cutting acrylic.

In This Article

  • How Laser Cutting Acrylic Works?
  • What Type of Laser Cutter Can Cut Acrylic?
  • Best Acrylic Laser Cutter
  • Types of Acrylic to Laser Cut
  • Laser Cutting Acrylic Projects for Your Inspiration
  • FAQs: Learn More About Laser Cutting Acrylic

How Laser Cutting Acrylic Works?

Laser cutting machines are favored for acrylic cutting due to their ability to deliver precise results in less time. Their versatility allows them to cut and engrave acrylic in various shapes from the sheet, maintaining fine results even at high speeds. 

how laser cutting acrylic done in 3 steps

Laser engraving or cutting involves directing powerful laser beams at the material's surface, rapidly raising its temperature. The material transitions from solid to gaseous state when reaching its boiling point.

Laser cutters can efficiently raise acrylic's temperature, causing the surface material to evaporate and leave a cavity or deep mark, known as engraving. 

Laser machines can also cut acrylic by penetrating the sheet with appropriate power and speed, resulting in the desired shape quickly.

What Type of Laser Cutter Can Cut Acrylic?

Although a laser cutter can indeed cut or engrave acrylic, factors such as the laser type, acrylic type, and acrylic color must be considered. Laser cutting acrylic depends on the laser's wavelength and color. For example, blue lasers cannot cut blue acrylic, as the blue color reflects the blue laser, preventing laser absorption and temperature increase. Likewise, clear acrylic cannot be cut using a blue laser, as the beams pass through the material without absorption.

What Laser Can Cut Clear Acrylic?

In this case, a suitable laser, such as a CO2 laser cutter, is required. CO2 laser cutters emit laser beams in the infrared region, which can be absorbed by acrylic of all colors. 

co2 laser cutter for acrylic

xTool P2 55W Desktop CO2 Laser Cutter

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CO2 laser cutters with sufficient power can easily cut acrylic, ideally in a single pass, saving time and producing optimal results.

acrylic laser cutter

Can a Diode Laser Cut Acrylic?

A diode laser can also cut acrylic; however, it is crucial to understand the limitations related to acrylic colors. Generally, didoe laser cutters can cut some dark oqaque acrylic. Specifically, with a blue-light laser, engraving or cutting blue acrylic is not possible, as the material will not absorb the laser beams due to the matching color. Additionally, most diode lasers are incapable of engraving or cutting clear acrylic. 

How to Cut Clear Acrylic with a Diode Laser Cutter?

Some users may apply paint or masking tape over the acrylic surface to prevent laser reflection or penetration, but this method is not always practical. Another factor to consider when cutting acrylic with diode lasers is the optical power. The machine must have adequate optical power to cut the acrylic in a single pass. A 15-20W diode laser can typically cut acrylic up to 6-8mm thick in one pass.

diode laser cutter for acrylic

xTool S1 Enclosed Diode Laser Cutter

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Best Acrylic Laser Cutter

xTool P2 is a powerful CO2 laser cutter for acrylic cutting. Whether it be clear acrylic or any other color, you will get perfect results in no time. Due to its compact size, you can use it for your small business or hobby.

xtool p2 laser cutter

The optical power of the laser machine is 55W. It can cut acrylic up to 20mm thick in only one pass, which is more than incredible. Moreover, xTool P2 cuts 500% faster than 40w diode laser machines.

laser cutting clear acrylic

Not only acrylic, but xTool P2 can also cut a wide range of materials, including wood, rubber, paper, cardboard, leather, etc. Moreover, P2 can engrave all these materials and more materials, including glass, ceramics, coated metal, stone, etc.

Laser cutting acrylic requires a high degree of precision to achieve clean, polished edges. The machine is quite smart. The xTool P2 with its dual camera system is a perfect fit for acrylic projects. Both the panoramic and close-up cameras boast exceptional resolution (16MP). Simply position your designs on the acrylic sheet with the high-resolution preview within the xTool software. This minimizes material waste and ensures successful cuts.

Furthermore, the panoramic camera and xTool software work together to identify identical shapes within the work area. This allows for efficient pattern replication on multiple objects simultaneously, perfect for batch projects.

laser cutting acrylic in batch

The best thing about the machine is that it can create a 3D model of the object and help in engraving curved surface. It automatically adjusts the focus according to the object. You won’t find this extraordinary feature in other desktop laser cutting machines. 

Additionally, the machine offers an automatic passthrough, which can engrave objects up to 118 inches long. Thus, cutting long acrylic sheets won’t be a problem. You can also attach the 4-in-1 rotary machine to engrave cylindrical and spherical objects.

acrylic laser cutter with passthrough

xTool P2 is equipped with some commendable safety features that almost eliminate accidents and ensure the safety of the user. When you cut acrylic or any other material, the laser machines produce smoke and debris. xTool P2 is completely enclosed, so it won’t pollute the environment. Secondly, the exhaust fan removes the smoke from the machine automatically. Thus, cutting materials becomes a lot easier. Moreover, you can also attach the smoke purifier to remove the contaminants from the exhaust air.

On top of that, it has an emergency button in case of any emergency. The light-filtering lid helps you keep an eye on the object without risking your eyesight. You can use the Fire Safety kit to automatically extinguish the fire or flame. Surprisingly, it gives some warnings if there is any problem with the machine.

xTool P2 is a complete package that can engrave and cut acrylic like a hot knife on butter. It is compatible with a wide range of materials and ensures ideal performance. It is compact, powerful, efficient, and versatile, taking your acrylic laser cutting business to the next level.

batch laser cutting acrylic

Types of Acrylic to Laser Cut

Acrylic can be broadly categorized into two types based on the manufacturing process of their sheets: Cast Acrylic and Extruded Acrylic. Cast acrylic is created by pouring molten acrylic into a mold, which determines the shape, size, and thickness. Extruded acrylic, on the other hand, is produced through mechanical pressing of hot acrylic sheets under rollers. The acrylic is rolled until the desired thickness is achieved. This continuous production process allows for large volumes of acrylic sheets, making extruded acrylic more affordable than cast acrylic.

Cast or Extruded Acrylic for Laser Cutting?

Both types of acrylic come in sheet form but are manufactured differently. They have the same chemical composition but exhibit varying properties when exposed to laser cutting machines. Therefore, it is advisable to test each type to determine its suitability for laser cutting or engraving, ensuring optimal results.

Acrylic can also be classified based on color, thickness, mirroring, light diffusion, tint, texture, and radiation blockage. This variety allows you to select the most appropriate acrylic for your project.

laser cut acrylic projects

When choosing acrylic for laser cutting, consider the color and thickness. A CO2 laser cutter can cut acrylic of any color, while a diode laser can only cut some dark opaque acrylic. The thickness of the acrylic is also important. Depending on your laser cutting machine's power, select a suitable thickness. A 20W diode laser can efficiently cut up to 8mm thick acrylic in one pass. CO2 lasers, being more powerful, can cut most commonly available acrylic sheets.

How to Laser Cut Acrylic?

Here's a step-by-step guide to get you started laser cutting acrylic with your xTool P2:

Step 1: Preparing Your Design and Material

1. Design your project: Prepare your design in a compatible file format like SVG. There are many free design resources available online, or you can create your own design using software like Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape.

2. Choose your acrylic: xTool P2 can cut any color of acrylic with thickness up to 20mm in one pass. Most acrylic sheets have a protective film on both sides. Does it need to be peeled off? My personal rule of thumb is that if I have to make some fine cuts, like a small name, I peel it off. And I don't peel off the entire sheet, just the part to be cut on. If it's going to be a large piece, I leave the film on.

Step 2: Setting Up the xTool P2

1. Place the acrylic in the laser bed: Ensure the acrylic sheet fits comfortably lies flat. Ensure the honeycomb working table is installed for better ventilation. 

2. Import your design: Upload your design file into the xTool software. Then use the camera preview function to place the design on the acrylic. The machine will automatically focus to ensure precise cutting.

design adjustment

3. Assign cutting paths: Select the lines in your design that you want the laser to cut. In the software, these lines will be set to "Cut."

4. Adjusting Power and Speed: These settings will depend on your acrylic thickness and desired finish. Within the xTool software, we have the material settings built in. Choose the "Material" option and select the type of acrylic you're using. If your specific acrylic isn't listed, you can test a small scrap piece first to find the optimal settings.

acrylic laser cutting settings

Step 3: Cutting and Finishing Touches

1. Start the cutting process: Once you're happy with the settings, initiate the cutting process. The laser will perform the cut according to your design.

2. Removing the Film: Once cool, gently remove the protective film from the cut acrylic.

3. Cleaning Up: Wipe away any residue with a damp cloth.

Laser Cutting Acrylic Projects for Your Inspiration

There are tons of laser cut acrylic ideas you can implement using your acrylic laser cutter. Here are just a few ideas for your inspiration.

You can also visit the xTool Projects for more creative ideas!

1. Laser Cut Acrylic Earrings

Using an acrylic laser cutting machine, you can make distinct, attractive, and fashionable earrings and other jewelry items. You can cut and engrave almost any design on acrylic, and due to its shiny appearance and diffusion and reflection of light, it looks awesome.

laser cut acrylic earrings

There are various laser cut acrylic jewelry designs available for different occasions, such as Christmas, Halloween, National day, and St Patrick’s day. You can also find other stylish and unique designs or create your own. 

laser cut acrylic halloween earrings

2. Laser Cut Acrylic Signs

Laser cut acrylic signs are in great demand. You might have these signs in offices, buildings, homes, etc. These are used for branding, designing the main sign of the business, symbols, nameplates, etc. 

Depending on the working area of your acrylic laser cutting machine, you can make a wide range of designs and signs. For instance, you can make door signs, LED wall signs, table signs, etc. 

laser cut led acrylic wall sign

3. Laser Cut Acrylic Awards & Trophies

One of the most common and preferred uses of acrylic is in the making of awards. You might have seen shields and awards at different conferences and events. These are usually made from acrylic. The main part of the award is acrylic, and it is cut and engraved using a laser machine.

laser engraved acrylic award

Photo by Claudio Schwarz Unsplash  

These awards have a huge demand in schools, offices, corporate events, businesses, etc. Creating such an award is pretty easy, as you only need to cut and engrave acrylic. You can make the base of the award using acrylic, wood, or any other material.

Pre-made awards are also available. So, you only need to engrave them and write whatever you want.

4.  Laser Cut Acrylic Keychains

Laser cut acrylic keychains are one of the most common ideas, and people love to buy them. You can cut the keychains in the desired shape and then engrave the name, logo, photo, date, design, or anything else. There are also pre-made keychains available on the market, and you only need to engrave them.

laser cut acrylic keychain

5. Laser Cut Acrylic Christmas Ornaments

Christmas ornaments are one of the hot-selling items on occasion. These are used for house decoration and Christmas tree decoration. People frequently buy these from online stores. 

laser cut acrylic Christmas ornaments

©liquidhandwash via Instructables.com

There are dozens of designs of ornaments available for different occasions, such as Halloween and Christmas. With a laser cutter and some acrylic sheets, you can easily add a personal touch to your home decor on special occasions.

6. Laser Cut Acrylic Wedding Invitations

If you are looking for a distinct wedding invitation, then the laser cut acrylic invitation could be the right choice. Acrylic wedding invitations look more than appealing. They are personalized and look classy. All you need to do is cut the invitation in the desired shape and then engrave it. 

laser cut acrylic wedding invitation

©StunningEngraving via Etsy

To make it more appealing, you can use foil writing on transparent acrylic. It looks more than exceptional. The best thing about it is that the person who will order the invitation will definitely order several pieces for distribution. So, you can make excellent profit from this idea.

7. Laser Cut Acrylic LED Light

An LED lamp is a beautiful item that everyone would love to have in their home. You can make eye-catching lamps using acrylic. The LED blanks are available on the market, and you only need to cut and engrave acrylic. Then, finally, place the acrylic over the lamp, which make it look mesmerizing, and people buy it for their bedrooms, living room, and gifting.

laser cut acrylic led night light

The design of the lamp depends on your creativity. You can make almost any design. Customized designs can be made for couples and families. You can write names on the acrylic sheet. Special LED lamps can be made for special events, such as Christmas, Halloween, weddings, and housewarming parties.

8. Laser Cutting Acrylic Place Cards

laser cut acrylic place cards

Laser-cut acrylic place cards offer a stylish and modern touch to event settings. Created using a precision laser cutter, these place cards can be customized in various colors, finishes, and fonts to match any event theme. Their durable and elegant design not only adds a unique aesthetic to table settings but also serves as a memorable keepsake for guests. The detailed, crisp lettering and potential for intricate designs make these acrylic place cards a blend of functionality and artistry, elevating the overall experience of any special occasion.

9. Laser Cutting Acrylic Cake Toppers

Acrylic cake toppers do not need an introduction. These are the must-haves on every birthday or celebration. You can make beautiful acrylic cake toppers using the sheets. It is one of the simplest acrylic laser cutting ideas that beginners can also try. If you want to sell these like hotcakes, make sure to introduce some new designs that are unique and appealing.

laser cut acrylic cake toppers

FAQs: Learn More About Laser Cutting Acrylic

Q1. Is All Acrylic Ok to Laser Cut?

Most acrylics are suitable for laser cutting, but some factors, such as color and type, can affect the process. For example, blue lasers cannot cut blue or clear acrylic. It is crucial to test the specific acrylic you plan to use, ensuring it is compatible with your laser cutter and produces the desired results.

Q2. What Laser Do I Need to Cut Clear Acrylic? How to Laser Cut Clear Acrylic?

To cut clear acrylic, you need a laser that can emit infrared beams that can be absorbed by the transparent material. A CO2 laser cutter, with wavelength of 10,640 nm (infrared light), is a good option for this purpose. A CO2 laser can cut through clear acrylic sheets with a glossy, flame-polished edge without any additional post-processing. A diode laser, on the other hand, will not work for clear acrylic because its light will travel through it without altering it. 

Q3. Can a Diode Laser Cut White Acrylic?

No, a diode laser cannot cut through white acrylic. White acrylic reflects the wavelength emitted by a diode laser. Since the laser light isn't absorbed, it doesn't have enough energy to cut through the material.

Q4. Is Acrylic Easy to Laser Cut?

Yes, acrylic is relatively easy to laser cut, especially when using a CO2 laser cutter. It produces clean, precise cuts and engravings with minimal effort. However, it is essential to consider factors such as laser type, acrylic type, color, and thickness to achieve optimal results.

Q5. How Thick of Acrylic Can a Laser Cutter Cut?

The optical power of the laser cutter determines how thick of an acrylic sheet it can cut. A diode laser with 40W like xTool S1 can cut up to 15mm thick black acrylic in one pass. This is the highest optical power available for desktop diode laser cutting machines as of now.

CO2 laser cutting machines are more suitable for acrylic laser cutting. They have higher optical power and can cut through thicker acrylic sheets in one pass and can cut acylic of any color. For example, xTool P2 can cut up to 20 mm thick acrylic in only one pass. 

Q6. Do You Laser Cut Acrylic with or without Film on?

Acrylic sheets usually come with two types of protective film: plastic masking and paper masking. It is generally recommended to remove the plastic film from both sides of the acrylic before laser cutting, as it can produce fumes and cause edge deformation during the process. However, it is ok to leave the paper masking on during laser cutting, as it doesn't cause issues associated with plastic films.

Q7. How Do You Prevent Burn Marks When Laser Cutting Acrylic?

To prevent burn marks when laser cutting acrylic, use the correct laser settings (power, speed, and pass), and maintain the focus of the laser beam. Keeping the paper protective film on the acrylic may also help reduce burn marks. Additionally, using air assist, which blows air over the cutting area, can help minimize heat buildup and remove debris from the cut, reducing the risk of burn marks.

Q8. What Setting Do You Use to Laser Cut Acrylic?

The ideal settings for laser cutting acrylic depend on your specific laser cutter model, the thickness of the acrylic, and the desired cutting speed. Always refer to your laser cutter's manual for recommended settings, and perform test cuts to determine the optimal combination for your project.

Q9. How Do You Clean Acrylic after Laser Cutting/Engraving?

To clean acrylic after laser cutting or engraving, gently remove any protective film, if present, and use a soft cloth or sponge dampened with a mild soap and water solution to wipe the surface. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as they may scratch or damage the acrylic. Rinse with clean water and pat dry with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Q10. Are Fumes from Laser Cutting Acrylic Toxic?

The fumes from laser cutting acrylic are not lethal but they can be unpleasant and irritating to the lungs. They can also cause headaches, nausea, eye irritation, and respiratory problems. Therefore, it is important to use an appropriate exhaust system and ventilation and wear a respirator when laser cutting acrylic. The fumes can also linger on the laser cut acrylic for some time after cutting, so it is advisable to place the finished project in a well-ventilated area.

Q11. Where to Buy Acrylic Sheets for Laser Cutting?

At xTool, we offer a variety of acrylic sheets for various laser cutter projects. Whether you need colored, transparent, glitter, frosted, or mirror acrylic, we have it all. Browse our selection and find the perfect match for your project needs.

For more questions. Please join our Facebook group to get inspired!

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