Laser engraving crayons

  • Today we have a guest blog from Jon Cantin, from CNCRoi.com in St Catherines Canada. CNCRoi.com is one of our go-to registered businesses to help with jobs in Canada and blogs/ tutorials. Thanks for all your help Jon!

Laser Engraving Crayola

Wax is a tough material to laser engrave because it tends to melt when heated up, so I grabbed some Crayola crayons that I got at a manufacturing trade show (yes, some companies are getting creative with their swag), and gave it a try! Got a bunch of metal stuff engraved and I wanted to do a slight change of pace… keep the mind sharp!

laser engraving crayola

I could have spent a bit of time making a custom jig for my soon-to-be engraved Crayola but I decided to just grab some Lego to build a quick and dirty holding jig to prevent them from rolling off the bed.

laser engraving crayola

My guess is that the darker the color, the more apparent the engraving will go. My goal here was to vaporize the paper holding it in place and only very slightly engrave into the wax as it would just pool around in the bottom of the engraving, removing some of the sharpness I was trying to achieve.

laser engraving crayola

The blue came out pretty good as with the orange.

laser engraving crayola

From the picture above and below, the Crayola came-out pretty good, if I had to redo these, I’d use slightly more power or a slower speed (both do the same thing) in order to burn off a bit more depth. It’s a fine line between producing a soggy mess and a sharp engraving.

laser engraving crayola

You can watch the video below of the entire process, filmed here at CNCROi.com HQ. Now you know the secret behind crazy fast and easy to use jigs, Lego! This must be the first time these two worldwide-known brand names have come together with a third, Trotec!

Constant Speed Test Pattern

We’re back for 2016! Our next blog comes from Adrian at HowtoLaser.com,

Constant Speed Test Pattern

In this article we will learn how to use the Constant Speed Test Pattern, in order to find the power and speed setting suitable for your material.

Firstly, it is important that you download the files needed, they can be found HERE.

Once the files have been downloaded, extract the zip file in a folder or on the desktop.

Next we will need to open JobControl and import the Material templates.

Import Material
Import Material

By clicking “CTRL + M” after opening JobControl, the material database window will pop up. Navigating down to the “Options” icon, press the “Import from file” option.

 

Import Material Template
Import Material Template

Next, we have to navigate to the folder where we extracted the .zip file and find the file called “Constant Speed 25%”. This files, file type is .XML. Once you have clicked the file, press “Open”. You will later need to repeat this step for all the other .XML files (50%, 75% and 100%).

Import Material Dialog
Import Material Dialog

The next window you will be greeted with is the “Material Import” window. When presented with this window, please click “Import Materials and create copy on equal material names”. By clicking this option, it will prevent overwriting a material file with the same name.

Material in Database
Material in Database

As you can see, once imported, the new material will be stored under the material group “Standard” in a material called “Constant Speed 25%”.

NOTE: As you can see in the image above the power and speed settings increase at a rate of 6.25% per colour. Each colour will have a constant speed of 25% and only the power of the laser will increase. You can skip certain colours, if you think that they will damage the material you are testing. For Example 100 power, 25 speed will put the most power into the material which could set fire to it. Please be aware, that if the material under test is flammable or can be easily damaged due to high heat, please skip this engraving colour.

Now that we have the material in the material database, please restart JobControl to save the changes.

Once JobControl has been restarted, the material will now be stored in the material database. These steps will need to be repeated for the other 3 material templates. Please repeat this step for the 50%, 75% and 100% speed test patterns.

Now we will learn how to use the Constant Speed Test Pattern.

Constant Speed Test Pattern
Constant Speed Test Pattern

When you open the “Constant Speed (P 6.25 – 100)” file, you will be greeted with this view.

Simply navigate up to “File” and press “Print”

Print Properties
Print Properties

You will then be greeted with the “Print Properties” window. Please click the “Preferences…” button to set up the printer driver.

Printer Driver Setup
Printer Driver Setup

The printer driver settings should look like the image above.

Material Selection
Material Selection

NOTE: Please take care to make sure the correct material is selected in the “Material Settings” section. This should have the correct Constant Speed material selected. Constant Speed 25% will run the laser with 25% speed, 50% for 50 etc..

JobControl View
JobControl View

If everything is done correctly, you should see the test pattern in JobControl with each colour selected. Again I must stress, if your material under test is flammable or can be easily damaged due to high heat, please skip any engraving colour that might cause damage to the material.

An operator must be supervising the material testing at all times. By using these test files, you as the operator of the laser, take full responsibility for any damages caused by the misuse of these files.

That’s it for now

Catch ya next time!

How to Laser Cut Acrylic

Probably one of the best blogs to have come from Howtolaser.com! Thanks again to our guest contributor who always provides detailed tutorials.

Acrylic_Featurev2

Acrylic_Featurev2 CO2 Marking Other Tutorials

How To Laser Cut Acrylic

In this article we will learn how to laser cut acrylic and explore the factors that influence the laser cutting process.

Expectations

The first main influencing factor you must consider before cutting any piece of acrylic is, what is the expectations out of the laser cut? Does the end product need to be perfectly flame polished with a optical finish, or is the part going to be used as a mechanical component and edge quality is not too important. This factor will determine what kind of cut you should be looking to produce and ultimately could save you time if you establish that edge quality is not expected to be flame polished.

Influencing Factors

Some of the main influencing factors of a good laser cut are listed below.
◦ Brand of Acrylic
◦ Type of Acrylic
◦ Laser Parameters ◦Power
◦ Frequency
◦ Speed

◦ Laser Process Setup ◦Table Setup
◦ Lenses and Focus
◦ Exhaust
◦ Gas
◦ Material Preparation

By managing these variables, we are able to ensure perfect, reliable and repeatable laser cuts of our acrylic material.

Laser Physics

The physics behind getting a perfect laser cut with acrylic can be quite daunting, but luckily we can simplify the process by understanding the important topics.

Types of Phase Change

Acrylics are cut by vaporising the solid material. The laser is absorbed by the material causing it to change from a solid to a liquid then to a vapour. This is done with a very low level of chemical degradation. To help combat the copious amounts of vapour created by laser cutting, it is important to have a high quality, strong vacuum system to remove the vapour. The vapour that is emitted from the laser cutting process is highly flammable hence the laser system should never be left unattended while acrylics are being cut.

A gentle stream of air or nitrogen will blow the vapour away from the cutting area, to prevent the vapours igniting. This gentle stream of air also helps solidify the remaining liquid along the cut line; this will help create a glossy, smooth flame-polished finish on the cutting surface. But this is a double edged sword, if the stream of air is too powerful, the cutting edge will be disturbed while in the solidification phase and create a frosted or wavy cutting edge. So having a variable pressure regulator on the air assist pump is a must.

Brands

The basis of a good cut is good material. Sticking to name brand materials will give best results. These are the brands that Trotec Laser uses and recommends.

Brand Manufacturer
Plexiglas® / Acrylite® Evonik
Perspex® Lucite
Altuglas® Akemar
Plazit® Plazit
Quinn® Quinn
Oroglas® Oroglas

Types Of Acrylic

There are two main types of acrylic that you will commonly encounter, cast and extruded acrylic. These two types of acrylic have slightly different chemistry and are manufactured differently, which results in vastly different cutting characteristics. For most applications, cast acrylic is probably the right material for you, but under specific circumstances extruded acrylic might have its advantages over cast acrylic. The main differences are listed in the table below.

Cast Extruded
General
  • Many colours available
  • More expensive
  • More thickness’s available (2mm to 200mm)
  • Greater thickness tolerance (>±5%)
  • Less colours available
  • Cheaper
  • Less thickness’s available (30μm to 25mm)
  • Lower thickness tolerance (<±5%)
Laser
  • Engraving has high contrast
  • No bur on cut edge
  • High molecular-weight
  • Needs more power – higher melting point
  • Parameters more critical for flame polishing
  • Engraving has low contrast
  • Sharp bur at laser cut line
  • Low molecular-weight
  • Needs less power – lower melting point
  • Parameters not as critical for flame polishing

Laser Power

As a typical rule of thumb for every 10 Watts of power you will be able to cut 1mm / 0.04 inch of material. This will give you the ability to flame polish your cuts and give good production speed. That doesn’t mean you can’t cut 12mm / 0.5 inch with a 60 Watt laser, this is still possible, but the quality of the cut will not be nice and the process will be much slower. As a general rule, more power is always better; this gives you the versatility to cut extremely fast on thin materials and give you much better cut quality on thicker materials, peak power is the key!

Frequency

Depending on the material and the type of cut you would like to achieve, the frequency value will change.

Flame Polished Cut
◦Common to start with high frequencies (20 to 25 kHz) for cast acrylic.
◦Common to start with low frequencies (2-5 kHz) on extruded acrylic.

Separation Cut
◦Common to start with frequencies (9 to 12 kHz) for cast acrylic.
◦Common to start with frequencies (5 to 10 kHz) for extruded acrylic.

By decreasing the frequency of the laser you are essentially reducing the cutting energy of the laser, this is done by reducing the amount of laser pulses over a given time frame. This can however help reduce flaming, decrease boiling but does result in slower cutting speeds.

Speed

The cutting speed is defined by two factors, the quality requirements and the laser power. The typical types of cuts and their speed are shown in the image above. The light blue line represents a separation cut, which is a cut with no preference for edge quality. The second type of cut is represented by the dark blue line which is a quality cut.

As you can see there is a large discrepancy in speed of the cut depending on the quality level you would like to achieve with a given thickness of material. There is also a linear increase in speed as the power of the laser increases. For example a 400W laser cutting 10mm thick acrylic will be twice as fast as a 200W laser cutting the same material.

Lenses and Focus

Lenses are an important factor in the cutting process of acrylics, they have different focal lengths which affect their beam radius and waist length. Without getting too technical, the lenses are responsible for the shape and quality of the cutting edge.

For materials up to 20mm / 0.75 inch in thickness you should use a 2.5″ lens if the power of your laser permits this. For lasers with power levels

For material above 20mm / 0.75 inch in thickness or if your laser power exceeds 200 Watts, using a 5″ lens will give best results.

As for focus, for best results, follow these rules.
◦Do not defocus the laser if the material you are cutting is below 10mm / 0.4 inch in thickness.
◦When cutting material with thickness’s over 10mm defocusing the laser so the focal point sits 1/3rd into the material will give best results (for 12mm material use a z-offset of -4mm).
◦Defocus the laser if cut edges are not straight or wavy at the bottom of the cutting edge.

Defocusing the laser results in better beam usage, you are taking advantage of the beam waist to get a straighter and higher quality cut.

Table Setup

When flame polishing acrylic it is essential to cut the acrylic using a cutting table. Trotec Laser offers an acrylic or metal cutting table option for your laser. The acrylic cutting table is essential to a high quality flame polish cut. When cutting acrylic on a metal cutting bed, the laser energy may hit the metal cutting bed and bounce back into the material causing divots or vertical marks along the cut line. By using the acrylic cutting bed, the bed will absorb the laser energy and not bounce it back towards your work piece. There are also acrylic lamellas available for purchase that will do the same job, but for larger objects.

As mentioned before suction from below is important to rid the laser cabin of flammable acrylic vapour. Trotec Laser offer a vacuum bed for their lasers which the cutting beds can sit on top of. This gives you the benefits of both the acrylic cutting bed with the essential use of the vacuum table. When the material is on the acrylic cutting bed, you can lay scrap material or thin sheets of aluminium on the laser bed to cover the exposed areas where the vacuum can escape from. By doing this, you are increasing the vacuum intensity under the acrylic, which will result in a better cut.

Exhaust

Without a quality exhaust, quality cuts are not possible. The exhaust system serves two purposes; firstly it avoids flaming of the material. A good acrylic cut is hot and produces a lot of gases, these gases are highly flammable. The exhaust system transports these gases away from the cutting area and thus avoids those gases from igniting.

Secondly the exhaust controls the solidification of the liquid acrylic. The airflow through the kerf of the cut allows the acrylic to melt from top to bottom, this gives the desired flame polished cut, without this you will get wavy horizontal lines through your cut edge.

One of the best all-in-one exhaust and filtration systems on the market is the Atmos duo plus.

Atmos Duo Plus

Atmo Duo Plus

This exhaust system has two high vacuum turbines to evacuate the air in even the largest consumer laser systems. It also has 3 integrated filter elements to capture large debris and small particles. The filter also has a chamber of activated charcoal that will remove the smell of the cut products from the air, so this filter system can work in an office environment. The exhaust works off negative pressure, this is more important than air flow; the higher the negative pressure the better the system will work.

Gas

Compressed air or standard air assist will be necessary when laser cutting acrylic. As mentioned before by focusing a gentle stream of air on the cutting area the laser is able to operate in a safe way. The air assist will rid the cutting area of unwanted acrylic vapour preventing vapour ignitions. Trotec Laser recommends using no more than 0.1 bar of air pressure when using the small nose cone on your laser. The Trotec Speedy and Rayjet range have variable pressure regulators in order to adjust the air pressure to the cut line.

In very special situations which are highly uncommon, the use of nitrogen to cool the cutting process may be needed. This is a very expensive alternative to the internal air assist pump that all Trotec Laser machines come standard with, but if its needed, Trotec Laser offer a gas kit, which allows you to hook up bottles of gas (CO2, Nitrogen, etc..) and use it in conjunction with the internal air assist pump.

Material Preparation

It is a common misconception that for all laser cutting processes the protective film needs to be removed from the material. For non-quality orientated cut, leaving the protective film on the material can help protect the acrylic from scratches, fingerprints and debris. It is however recommended to take the protective film off if it is made of paper. The paper contains paraffin which can cause flaming and gives a poor cutting quality especially for flame polish finishes.

It is also a smart idea to remove the film off the material if you are to engrave it. This will reduce the amount of time weeding out the paper / film from the non-engraved areas. On the other hand, this can be used to your advantage. By leaving the paper on when engraving, the rest of the paper creates a masking layer, so paint filling the engraved areas are now possible without fear of damaging the rest of the acrylic.

Post Processing

If you are planning on joining laser cut acrylic pieces, please be aware that laser processing applies heat to the material. This heat can stress the material and when glued can cause micocracks. To avoid these microcracks please refer to the manufactures instructions for tempering the material prior to glueing.

Was this post helpful? Please consider liking and sharing this post with others!

That’s it for now

Catch ya next time!

Laser vs CNC? What’s the best?

This blog post is from the Blog: HowtoLaser.com, comparing the benefits of laser machines vs CNC routing machines. A must for every engraving and laser machine business to review.

LaservsCNC_feature

Laser vs CNC Mill – Why Buy A Laser?

Posted By Adrian

There are a few main reasons why you would purchase a laser as opposed to a CNC Mill. The 4 main reasons are:

  • Little to no post processing (Flame Polished Edges)
  • Precision
  • Speed
  • Processing Costs

In this article we will compare and contrast Laser vs CNC Mill and help explain why to buy a laser.

One main advantage that a laser has over a CNC Mill is that there is little to no post processing needed after cutting out a product from its parent material. The laser is able to create a flame polished edge in acrylic for example which would be a cost intensive manual process if the same product was cut on a CNC Mill. The laser is also able to create a higher quality, uniform cut around the product, even in hard to reach places or on small intricate parts, which hand polishing could not achieve. The CNC Mill post processing is time intensive, which means a product will have a higher production cost, resulting in lower profit margins.

Edge Finish
Laser vs CNC Mill Edge Finish

The second advantage that a laser cutter has over a CNC Mill is the precision of the cut. A trotec laser has the ability to cut a radius of 0.1mm / 0.004 inches and up, where as typically a CNC Mill can only cut down to 2mm / 0.08 inches and up. This means curves and corners will be exactly as designed and have a higher degree of precision. A trotec laser also has a very small kerf value compared to a CNC Mill which means parts can be very closely nested together saving material and lowering overall costs.

Laser vs CNC Mill Precision
Laser vs CNC Mill Precision

One of the most contributing factors to a laser purchase is the speed compared to a CNC Mill. A trotec laser is at least twice as fast as a router for most applications. A laser is able to cut thick material in one pass, where as a CNC Mill will need to do multiple passes to cut the same thickness. A laser also does not require the work piece to be clamped down as there is no physical force being applied to the material, so this is a step the laser can eliminate from the manufacturing process. Providing the work piece is flat, the lasers repeatability and reliability to create exact copies each and every time, is much higher than that of a CNC Mill. This confidence in the machine is key to a successful, efficient work environment.

Laser Cut vs CNC Cut - Speed Test
Laser Cut vs CNC Cut – Speed Test

The last main advantage that the laser has over the CNC Mill is of course the process costs associated with the use of the machine. As we touched on before, the CNC Mill has many more steps involved in order to create a final product. A CNC Mill requires the user to clamp the work piece, clean and polish / post process the item before getting to the end product. A laser will bypass these steps. A laser has the ability to produce a final product without any post processing or clamping. This may seem a small issue, but it adds up to a significant time and cost saving.

Below I have created a table of processing cost breakdowns with typical values, to allow you to quickly see the costs involved in both Laser and CNC Mill cutting.

Types of Costs CNC Milling Lasering
Fixing material and vacuum preparation $7,000($20/h * 350h / p.a) $0
Edge Post Processing (Flame Polishing) $40,000($20/h * 2000h / p.a) $0
Remaining machine set-up time and machine cleaning $1,500($20/h * 75h / p.a) $1,500($20/h * 75h / p.a)
Filter Costs $0 $4,800(120lbs active carbon)
Tool Head / Consumable cost $9,600
($48 * 200 heads p.a)
$1,000
TOTAL P.A. $58,100 p.a $7,300 p.a

Save 87.5%

So as you can see there is a pretty large discrepancy in the cost between using a laser and a CNC Mill. Your application might give better or worse results, this table is based around typical acrylic cutting applications. One thing you must keep in mind is labour costs; hiring a part time employee at $20 an hour quickly racks up unnecessary costs to flame polish the edges of a material, where a laser will be able to create a finished product, which saves on overheads, increases profit margins and dramatically decreases setup time.

If you are considering to buy a laser, I would strongly suggest you have a look at our friends Trotec laser. They sell the highest quality, most precise consumer and industrial solutions available on the market.

That’s it for now

Catch ya next time!

Corel Draw – Print Preview Nesting

Nested Design

Corel Draw – Print Preview Nesting

Posted By Adrian

Using the print preview nesting feature in Corel Draw allows you to create a evenly spaced, nested design for your artwork.

This is especially important for use with a laser cutting machine, as it can eliminate interference between adjacent artwork. You may find that if two jobs have a border, you will cut the border lines twice causing burning and other unwanted issues. This technique will work with identical jobs or multiple different designs. This tool is especially useful for multiple print merge jobs, for more information about print merge, you can Click Here.

Finished Artwork

Finished Artwork

First things first, design your artwork in a new document and click “File” then navigate down to “Print”.

Print Preferences
Print Preferences

In the JobControl printing preferences change the width and height of the printing area to the size of your material or the size of the laser bed. Once you have sorted out all other options, click on the JC button to accept the changes.

Print Preview Updated
Print Preview Updated

You will now notice you have a large print area with your design in the middle of the page. If you click the “Print Preview” button at the bottom left corner of the dialog window you will be greeted with a new window.

Print Preview Window
Print Preview Window

The next window you will be greeted with is the one shown above. This is the Print Preview Window, it shows you what your artwork will look like once printed to JobControl. But there is a special tool in this window which will allow us to nest our artwork efficiently.

Job Preview
Job Preview

If you click the second icon down on the left hand side tool strip, it will show you the current job preview. Right now we are printing the file with a 1×1 matrix of our artwork. By increasing those values we are able to fill the print area.

 

Fill Print Area
Fill Print Area

As you can see, in this example I have made a matrix of my artwork at a size of 9 x 5. This means it will repeat my artwork 9 times in the X direction and 5 times in the Y direction. This is done by adjusting the values in the area circled.

Vertical Spacing
Vertical Spacing

By clicking between the artwork vertically, indicated by the red lines in the picture above, you are able to split the artwork, effectively spacing them away from each other a specific amount. The amount can be changed in the top toolbar. In this case I have spaced them 5mm apart.

Spacing Horizontally
Spacing Horizontally

I then did the same thing in the horizontal direction.

NOTE: There is a known bug in CorelDraw X7 which requires you to have the vertical and horizontal spacing as a different value. Just simply change the value to a smaller or larger value then the previous step. You can then change it back and repeat this step to have a uniform spacing around the artwork. In my case I first created a 6mm space, then change it to 5mm and it worked as expected.

Job Preview
Job Preview

As you can see the jobs are now spaced 5mm away from each other in all directions. But there is one more optional (but recommended) step to finish the design.

Reposition Job
Reposition Job

By clicking CTRL + M or clicking on the “Options” icon in the top toolbar, you can bring up this window. By first clicking on the “Layout” tab, you will now be greeted with this panel. First click “Reposition images to:” radio button, then setting the dropdown menu option to “Top Left Corner”. Press “Apply” and “OK”.

 

Reposition Job
Reposition Job

Last step is to make sure the drop down menu, highlighted in red, is set to “Edit Margins” is selected. Once that is selected, press the icon to the right of the drop down menu, highlighted in blue, to position the jobs to the top left corner.

Once you are happy with the design, click “File” then navigate down to “Print”.

Nested Design
Nested Design

Once it has printed you will see the job in JobControl. Drag the job from the job queue onto the plate and view your perfectly nested design.

Using these simple steps will allow you to nest multiple jobs for easy cutting and engraving, using uniform spacing between jobs.

That’s it for now!

Catch ya next time!

Fiber Laser to Color Change Plastic: Hard Drive Marking

In this blog post, CNCROi.com color changes plastic… without melting it… on a hard drive using our fiber laser tube. The results are permanent, the results awesome!

 

Having a dual-sourced industrial wide format Austrian CNC laser has many advantages but one that isn’t shown too often is the ability of our fiber laser tube (we have a CO2 as well) to color change plastic without melting it.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

If we tried what you saw in the video and images below using our CO2 laser source, it would be a hot mess, here’s a picture showcasing the difference but it would be worse because this is a rubbery kind of plastic, not solid like the earlier hard drive test we did.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

As we aren’t actually touching the hard drive or components with anything but surface light, the electronics inside are safe, they are not heated nor are there any vibrations of any kind. This has no effect on the hard drive at all.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

Why would somebody want to do this? There are several reasons, the first is branding, it’s permanent and not coming off. It’s also a fantastic way to kill the resale value or possibility of theft as the mark is permanent. If needed, we can also engrave the internal hard drive inside as well so just removing the casing still wouldn’t be a way around theft or resale.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

What is really cool about our CNC laser though is that we can run it through a database, so if you had a thousand of these hard drives needing PERMANENT fiber marking and tracking, we can fiber mark a unique QR code or anything else you want to each one.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

This presents a lot of opportunities for our clients, see past the hard drive and think workshop tooling, small equipment and other items that are either prone to theft or you wish to hand out for marketing purposes. We can literally brand any and all surfaces to your specs.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

Are there any downsides to permanently fiber marking equipment? Yes, it’s permanent. So, be sure that anything you want us to CNC laser fiber mark or color change won’t be changing anytime soon.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

Yes, there are many alternatives to CNC laser color changing, stickers are great but easily come off, scratching these by hand is an option if you have more patience than we do and so is UV printing but those all fade, chip or come off over time. Our process is PERMANENT.

fiber laser color changing a hard drive, branding it

How to Use Job Control – The Basics Part 1

Another great blog from our resident “go to laser” guy – Adrian! This is specifically for Trotec Laser machine users who use JobControl.

Also please feel free to contact Adrian with blog suggestions. Courtesy of “How To Laser“.

Feature Pic

How to use JobControl – Part 1 The Basics

Posted By Adrian

Below is part 1 of the JobControl tutorial series

That’s it for now

How to make an Acrylic Taco Holder

We loved this idea so much we thought we should share it with you all. This is courtesy of Instructables.com, Acylic Taco Holder created by Joe Gadget and reproduced from the site. The machine used was a Trotec Laser Speedy 300.

Step 1: Materials and Equipment

Vector drawing software (I used CorelDraw)
Laser cutter (my TechShop has a Trotec Speedy 300)
Acrylic strip heater
Acrylic sheet folding tool
1/8″ acrylic sheet

Step 2: Measure a Taco

Taco Holder 1

Seriously.  You have to know how big the shell is before you can make a holder for one.  The brand we regularly buy is about 5″ in diameter as shown in the picture.  To plan the holder I added a couple of rectangles to mark points of interest.  Then, using the 3-Point Curve tool I drew in the base.  Then using the 2-Point Line tool I added the two vertical supports.  In the first few attempts I didn’t like the shapes so simply deleted the red lines, resized the rectangles, then redrew the holder profile.  The reason for using the rectangles is it let me easily make a symmetric design.

Step 3: Make a Top Down Guide

Acrylic Taco 2

Again to make it easier to create a symmetric design I dropped down a series of rectangles.  I sized the three large rectangles from the profile in the previous step.  CorelDraw reports the lengths of line segments (including arcs), and I used that to get the 2″ and 3.25″ horizontal dimensions.  Two tacos standing up against each other are about 2″ wide at the top, so I decided to make the widest points of the holder 3″ wide.  I then added the smaller rectangles to help define the openings in each vertical piece and the narrowing of the base in the middle.

Step 4: Draw the Top Down Profile

Acrylic Taco 3

Using a combination of the 3-Point Curve and 2-Point Line tools I drew the top down profile of the holder.  Make sure you use the hairline setting for the profile so that these lines will be cut and not engraved.  Once you like the shape, delete all of the guide rectangles.  I added two black lines (to be engraved) to show the fold lines on the holder (in hindsight it was pretty obvious where the folds would be and I could have skipped this step).

Step 5: Laser Cut the Acrylic

Acrylic Taco 4

Acrylic cuts and engraves quickly and easily.  For engraving I used 100% power and 80% speed, and for cutting I used 100% power and 0.7% speed.

Step 6: Fold the Ends Up

Acrylic Taco 5

Acrylic Taco 6

An acrylic strip heater generates a line of hot air that will locally heat and soften the acrylic for bending.  The acrylic sheet folding tool can be positioned and locked into place so that the acrylic can be bent to a specific angle.  For this holder I set the angle to 105 degrees (so that the ends will be folded slightly back onto themselves).  Line up the first end of the holder over the hot air opening, and after a few minutes the acrylic will be soft enough to bend. Bend the end up partially by hand then press the holder into the folding tool.  Hold it in place for a few minutes to allow the acrylic to cool and set in position.  Repeat the same heat and fold process on the other end.

Step 7: Bow the Middle of the Holder

Acrylic Taco 7

I wanted to curve the base of the holder, and the strip heater doesn’t heat a large enough area.  So I placed the holder over the hot air opening, and shifted its position every minute.  This slowly heated the entire middle of the holder, which I was then able to bend by hand into a gentle curve.  This completes the taco holder!

Step 8: Make Tacos and Enjoy!

Acrylic Taco 8

CNC Laser Engraving & Cutting Custom Wedding Cake Toppers

Another great “how to” by our supporter CNCRoi.com.

For the past year, CNCROi.com has been solely focused on manufacturing, mill work and aerospace industries, the reason is simple, they have the volume and expertise that utilizes our capabilities to the fullest. Now that we are in our second year of operation, we are expanding into new markets that can benefit from our industrial expertise in areas that aren’t being well served.

Our first stop on the diversification train is custom cake event toppers, specifically, wedding and birthday. We are, of course, still going full throttle with our “traditional” markets and expanding them further thanks to our unique dual-sourced Austrian wide format CNC laser, we are just opening our doors wider now into new areas. The more volume we can get into the shop, regardless of source, the faster we can acquire the equipment we are saving-up for to maintain and expand our lead in the custom CNC marketplace.

custom wedding cake toppers

These custom wedding cake toppers were custom designed by CNCROi.com in-house. This makes us a very unique entrance into the wedding cake topper market as our stuff isn’t imported. It’s CUSTOM DESIGNED, CUSTOM ENGRAVED AND CUSTOM CUT on any material you wish FOR YOU.

custom wedding cake toppers

The entire process can be as fast or slow as you wish, generally, give us a day to design and cut though this can vary to 2-3 days depending on the number of revisions, material selection and other stuff we have going on in the shop.

custom wedding cake toppers

The advantage though with CNCROi.com is that, like our industrial clients, we can easily ramp up production and make hundreds if not thousands of these in very short order. Not only that, but we can customize each wedding topper with the name of the person attending your wedding… as a keepsake.

custom wedding cake toppers

This is entirely impossible and impractible any other way. Why? Because we are a custom mass production business, meaning that in-house, if you need a thousand unique items or a thousand same items, our CNC laser (and operator) don’t care. It’s no problem as we cut, engrave, etch ON DEMAND.

custom wedding cake toppers

This incredible power is now available to you, for your special event… for the FIRST TIME EVER! Having industrial scale expertise and customers has many advantages, that you can now benefit directly from.

custom wedding cake toppers

The nice things about weddings and birthdays is that, generally, you know what the date of the event will be. That gives everybody tons of lead time, and again, you benefit as do we as between production runs at our custom CNC shop, we can fit in custom laser engraved and cut cake toppers.

custom wedding cake toppers

Another advantage that CNCROi.com offers, in addition to custom design and engraving/cutting capabilities and database driven customization of wedding cake toppers is that we are able to make these cake toppers out of any material you wish.

custom wedding cake toppers

In these examples, we make the wedding cake topper out of 6 mm (1/4 inch) birch plywood but that can just as easily have been solid wood, acrylic, plastic, polycarbonate… even stainless steel! What will dictate material options is the design and budget.

custom wedding cake toppers

Taking things one step even further, you can now have a mix and match, which means we can make a custom wedding cake topper for you out of one colored (or multi-colored) acrylic for the cake and make all the others out of plywood or anything else.

custom wedding cake toppers

These options, and a bunch more are all up to you. You want your cake topper to double as a knife to cut your cake? Yep, get one made out of stainless steel. Never seen that before… this is the power that CNCROi.com brings to your event.

custom wedding cake toppers

Not only that… I know, we can expand this infinitely, but we can just as easily make these wedding cake toppers for corporate use, so making them out of your logo as keepsakes or handouts to celebrate a big event. Got your first million dollar contract? Get a custom cake made (we can’t do that) and then get us to make a custom cake topper for it!

custom wedding cake toppers

The quality of our work is evident from both the front and the back. We are truly passionate about what we do here at CNCROi.com and make sure what ever we do for you, you not only are aware of how it’s being made but also get action shots during production.

custom wedding cake toppers

So, if you want to create extra buzz about your upcoming event, we can make videos, photography etc. that you can share on social media so that your awesome cake toppers becomes a conversation piece in addition to a keepsake.

custom wedding cake toppers

Alright, I can write about how awesome this stuff is all day, let’s go back to looking at how these two wedding cake toppers were made, production wise. Keep in mind that the steps change depending on the production quantity, materials and timelines involved.

custom wedding cake toppers

The first step involved with making these custom wedding cake toppers, after the design is signed-off upon, is to mask the plywood (acrylic etc. don’t need this step). The reason why we do this, ON BOTH SIDES, is due to the resins and glues in the wood, we have to do this whether it’s hardwood, softwood or engineered by the way. Once it’s vaporized, the residue which is very sticky, tries to find a place to latch onto, which is generally the surface of the material.

custom wedding cake toppers

The easiest place to latch onto is the front and back of the wood, for engraving, it’s just the front. Once this sticky residue latches on though, it’s very difficult to remove as it gunks up sand paper and most other materials. This is why we mask both the front and back, so that after production, we remove the masking paper which, removes the gunk as the same time.

custom wedding cake toppers

This is why the birch plywood you see in these photos looks “white” (or green actually through our industrial laser window). That’s paper covering things up.

custom wedding cake toppers

After the engraving is complete, we then cut the inside parts and outline. Why? Well, if we cut out the outline first, it will “shift” slightly and so, cutting out the inside parts and the engraving will no longer be the same. We imported an industrial CNC laser from Austria… the precision is insane… and that’s why our customers love us. Just because we are now offering “simple things” like this wedding cake toppers, doesn’t mean we cut corners to speed production up.

custom wedding cake toppers

This is what makes CNCROi.com different. If something takes a bit longer to do RIGHT, so be it, at least you get what you paid for!

custom wedding cake toppers

As you can see from these photos, the masking has burned edges (resin) residue. This is why most laser cut cake toppers look HORRIBLE, because the company can’t be bothered to do things RIGHT. They have a junky machine that’s anything but precise that is simply set-up on the wrong foundation to run a proper custom CNC shop upon.

custom wedding cake toppers

Taking the masking off, you can clearly see the quality of our output. Yes, we masked this (we didn’t have to), yes, we made extra cut lines around the letters (we didn’t have to) and absolutely yes, we custom designed this to spec. We do this because we care about what leaves the shop, we are in business for the long term and CNCROi.com will not last as a business if we only do awesome industrial work but awful cake toppers. Either you do things right and perfect or go out of business.

custom wedding cake toppers

This is plywood, so the results from the laser have a bit of variance. You can see the “white blotch” inside the “Mr.”, upon closer inspection, the wood itself is a different color – in this case, we’d send a photo to the customer for approval before shipping. If you didn’t want that white blotch, no problem we cut another one until you get what you paid for. Easy as that!

custom wedding cake toppers

Here you can more clearly see the quality of the output, our letters are perfectly centered with their related contours, the lines are smooth, not jagged. The engraving is the same depth all over and considering this is wood, a pretty darn good sample of what we are capable of doing!

custom wedding cake toppers