View Full Version : Vinyl lettering/vector cuts

Linda Forte
02-10-2005, 11:11 PM
In the past I've ordered lettering from companies that have vinyl cutters for doing outdoor client signs.

Has anyone used their laser to cut adhesive backed vinyl - Avery I think - stuff that comes in a roll, has a film backing and uses transfer tape for application? Does the laser have sensitivity enough to not cut the backing - and are there any suppliers that carry adhesive vinyl for lasers - maybe flat sheets?

Thanks again...

Rodne Gold
02-11-2005, 12:14 AM
We cut a lot of vinyl on our lasers , its sensitive enough to kiss cut much like a vinyl cutter. Despite all the dire warnings re PVC in a laser , the amount of chlorine released in cutting is negligable , if you engrave areas of it - yeh - you might have a problem. We take a feed off our vacuum exhaust and run a tube to near the cutting point and use a charcoal canister in the line , this sucks the fumes at the cutting point and scrubs em a bit of the toxic gas.
A great application is on acrylic like clear acrylic , we apply the vinyl on the back side of the acrylic and kiss cut letters or shapes in reverse and weed away the excess , this leaves beatufully coloured letters with a slight defining edge (we vector cut so that the outline of the letter goes into the acrylic)
We ofthen then turn the piece over and front engrave , so you get a double sided acrylic plaque or sign. (applying vinyl to the front of acrylic does not give the depth and smooth finish that reverse application does)
You also get polyester based vinyls , most mirror gold or silver or holographics are polyester and you can engrave and cut this safely , we use it a lot to laser acid resist and sandblast resist masks on stuff.
the best way to keep vinly flat in your machine is use the sticky mat stuff used in engraving tables , this is reusable mat that anything sticks to like crazy and can easily be removed , considering you arent cutting thru the backing , you dont damage the mat. We als cut directly on the table and lay flat steel rules along the edges of the vinyl , keeps it dead flat.

Keith Outten
02-11-2005, 5:44 AM

You might also consider using Laser Lights material which is 0.004" thick (0.001" Cap) and adhesive backed. Laser Lights are safe for engraving and cutting and are available in a dozen or so color combinations. You can purchase Laser Lignts from just about any of the major Laser supply houses. You can vector cut Laser Lights on a sticky mat or I often use a piece of Corian as a base for cutting very thin materials. You can purchase Laser Lights in 12" by 24" sheets for about $7.00 per sheet.

Rodne Gold
02-11-2005, 6:47 AM
Hiya Keith
Is laser light the same as Spectrum light?

Michael McDuffie
02-11-2005, 9:34 AM
Just a heads up about cutting vinyl.

I thought with a 2HP dust colletor drawing smoke out of my machine, I wouldn't have a problem with vinyl. I was wrong. A 6 inch ruler I used to leave in the machine is now unreadable on one side, some of the leveling springs for the table mounts are rusted and I'm pretty sure that the damaged mirror is also a result of cutting holes in vinyl.

I was cutting 3/16 diameter holes in vinyl pieces kind of like end caps for pipe, in a jig holding 50 at a time. After cutting about 4000 over several months time, I noticed the above problems and gave up the job.

Sheet vinyl may not be the same, but I'm unwilling to find out.


Mike Mackenzie
02-11-2005, 12:30 PM
You are completely correct It is not the fumes that are exhausted that are the issue It is what remains within the system that damages the unit. That is why everyone states DO NOT DO PVC WITH A LASER. In fact warranties can and will be void if PVC is done with a laser.

They do make a polyester vinyl material that works well with the laser I am not sure of MFG but I have heard of it.

Rodne Gold
02-11-2005, 11:31 PM
Sign vinyls are microns thick and cutting them does not release enough vapour or chlorine to combine with the moisture in the air in the machine to form hydrochloric acid (which is what attacks the machine , its motion system etc) , Cutting PVC end caps is another matter.
Polyester vinyl is not that suitable for conventional signage applications due to price , limited colour range and the fact that it is not conformable (Ie not at all stretchy so applying it to anything that is not dead flat is problematic)
3m used to make it.

Linda Forte
02-12-2005, 1:11 AM
Thanks for the great tips. I think the holographics material would be great - I need to make letters for a small backdrop for my brother's band. I never heard of a "sticky mat" - not completely familiar with the sign industry but I imagine this would be good for several applications. And - I didn't even realize that sign vinyls were the same as PVC - to be honest.

Keith Outten
02-12-2005, 5:59 AM

Yes, Laser Lights are also called Spectrum Lights depending on the distributor. I believe that Rowmark manufactures the material and I keep a fairly large stock of it in my shop. I use it for all kinds of jobs such as stickers and even truck signs. You can engrave and cut Laser Lights for stickers, stick it to magnetic rubber then engrave and cut it for truck signs or stick it to acrylic to make signs for backlighting. Laser lights is so thin it will conform to most any surface shape within reason and it is a laser engraver safe material.

When I first purchased my engraver I made a lot of Laser Lights signs for the lawncare industry. I made company logo signs for lawn mowers and a bunch of magnetic truck signs. Many of the lawncare folks in my area decided to remove the manufacturers decals from their equipment and advertize their own company....maybe this information will prove to be usefull to others who are looking for engraving work :)

Staying on-topic you can use Laser Lights (Spectrum Lights) as an inlay material, it is very thin, adhesive backed and suitable for exterior use.

Linda, the sticky mats are certainly worth looking into for engraving but be carefull and test small samples of each meterial before you use them. I used my sticky mat to engrave AlumaMark material once and I destroyed the sheet removing it from the mat. AlumaMark is one material that for some reason sticks too well, most materials remove easilly and the mat works great.

Gary Shoemake
02-12-2005, 10:54 AM
I believe there are polyester vinyls that you can use with your laser that are laser friend(no pvc) Polyester is the key I know that Signwarehouse sells some and there are probably many other sources. Some are Metalized Polyester, Holographic Vinyl, Endura Lens, Sign Gold and Special Effects Film. You can see them on the Signwarehouse site. Also there is a company that sells laserable polyester sheets for mking stencils. tke a look at grafixplastics.com. They send out one heck of a sample package.