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Laser Cutting Discussion And Advice Thread

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This thread is an ongoing and open discussion on laser cutting. It also serves as a support thread for our comprehensive guide to cutting router templates on a laser.

If you have a design that you'd like to have laser-cut but are unsure on whether it is "good to go", share it here and the members experienced in laser cutting will offer you advice and/or fixes. Attaching DXF or similar vector files is fine; just ensure that they fall within the site's file sizing guidelines.

Discussions on local/national laser cutting services of interest is also encouraged; if you're a business owner and would like to advertise your own services here, PM us and we can talk about your in-house design protocols, reducing setup costs, writing up a Supplier Listing, etc. Discounts for ProjectGuitar.com members with jobs that are good to go are encouraged. :thumb:

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For those interested: I'm a heavy user of laser-cut acrylic templates. I've tried many different companies and material thicknesses over the last few years, so let me throw my official (however little weight they may carry) recommendations out there:

For the best balance of usability, durability, and price, go with 3/8" acrylic. I've found 1/4" to be too flexible and prone to melting, even when used briefly as master templates. I love using 1/2", but they're just overly expensive for little real benefit over a similar part in 3/8". I'd say 1/2" is really only worth it if you need something to be extremely sturdy...like the adjustable sides of a Myka jig, maybe.

And for places with lasers, my best experiences and results have been from Pololu's custom laser cutting service. Very fast, reasonably priced, and most importantly, totally accurate. Just make sure your drawings have accounted for the laser kerf, which is about 0.005" in Pololu's case.

Happy lasering!

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Prostheta    1,254

Agreed. 3/8" or 10mm is a good size, definitely. It's about on the cusp where it's thick enough to cut with most standard optics (thicker materials need different collimating optics and mo powah) and very usable for most things.

1/4" is economical and still useful if you can get the cut settings dialled in properly, and for basic templates it's not difficult to copy that to thicker working templates, or even 1/2" acrylic. I don't think that many detailed templates really benefit from 1/2" anyway. For router templates it's a better investment buying in shorter milling cutters (Amana do some great ones) instead of going thicker on the template. Invariably, templates get dinged or shaved by the cutter which is not good for your only master template. Another argument for copying I guess.

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Prostheta    1,254

Pololu's service looks very straightforward and reasonably-priced. It seems that they recommend layering rather than the more Epilog-centric red/blue colour differentiation. Still, they provide that information upfront and proof designs before committing which is excellent. Very positive points to their service. Good call, Andrew.

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StratsRdivine    102

I would add that lasers are a lot less expensive than one would think.  I budgeted over 30 grand when I planned to get one, but discovered US based importers of chinese lasers (with US based tech support) that are less than half that cost.  Been using it everyday for almost a year and no issues.  Small ones (18 x 24" bed capacity) can be had for under 5 grand.  

I wish I had bought mine ten years ago.  Not only for templates, but I cut all my inlay material with it, and even gaskets for my spray guns in foamed teflon.  Tons of uses for it in the shop.  Engraving logos and name plates - easy peasy and looks great.  

The laser engraved the text in these knobs below right through the masking, then cut the circles in literally ten seconds. Then I filled the lettering with white lacquer, peeled off the masking and you are DONE.  

Knobs-clsps.JPG

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