Acrylics to Inspire Creative Laser Projects

Mike Fruciano is a Market Development Manager for Coherent Inc. Mike brings 25 years of laser systems, laser processing, and materials experience, and is a frequent writer and speaker on these topics. Contact Mike at 602-616-4971 or at

Acrylic is an ideal and easy-to-work with material for laser processing. Lasers can create amazing engraving detail with low power so photos, text and logos take on a crisp and clean look. Explore some of the acrylic types available for fabrication to give you some new ideas for projects.

Cast versus extruded acrylic: Using both laser engraving and cutting, there are two types of acrylics and their applications. Awards and plaques are fabricated from cast acrylic sheets. Cast acrylic, when laser engraved, turns a frosty white color.

Extruded acrylic is another type of commonly-found acrylic. Note that the different raw materials used for extruded acrylic makes for clear engraving. Although not always ideal for engraving applications, extruded acrylic cuts superbly with a laser. Extruded acrylic will make clean and smooth cuts with a flame polished glass-like edge quality.

Marble acrylic sheets: Ideal for name badges, plaque plates and other recognition projects, marble acrylic sheets are a clear cast acrylic with a pattern or solid color on the back. The engraving results can be dynamic when reverse-engraved on the back side to create white lettering or logos. A rich marble color finish or solid black can add a classic look to a project and features the highly-detailed engraving cast acrylic can offer.

Mirrored acrylic: Mirrored acrylic will cut with a smooth, glass edge and engrave with a clear finish. A major benefit of laser processing mirrored acrylic is when we reverse-engrave on the back side of the material. First, remember to mirror the engraving graphic and text and increase the engraving power slightly to completely vaporize the mirror coating, and engrave slightly into the base acrylic. Adding color is easy with acrylic paints. The result can be stunning when a contrasting color is applied, creating a detailed engraving of the mirrored surface when viewed from the front.

Graphic mirrored acrylic: This material is a more durable derivative of the mirrored acrylic sheet. Using a proprietary vacuum deposition method, richly-colored graphics are printed on the back side of an extruded acrylic sheet. A UV-stable foil is applied to the back to create a mirror. This effect gives the graphics some real punch. It is also suitable for color-filling on the back side when reverse-engraved. It can be easily cut and engraved to create durable signage, license plates, key chains and more.

Edge glow acrylic: Using special light-bending acrylic, edge glow acrylic is a cast acrylic and is available in a range of colors. Laser engraving on edge glow acrylic turns it white like any other cast acrylic. Laser cut edge glow acrylic to see the unique feature of how it makes the edges glow in normal light. This material can be used to create holiday ornaments, cake toppers, key chains, and a wide variety of gift items. Customers will love the unique and “electric” look of this acrylic sheet.

—Mike Fruciano, LaserBits