View Full Version : Laser plastics for car badges

James Terry
04-01-2012, 1:08 PM
Hey folks. I suspect that my answers can be found with some digging here but I thought I would simply ask the question. I'd like to experiment with doing up some "badges" for car lovers so I am looking for the plastics that I can laser for this purpose. Some I'd like to be able to mount outside with dbl-sided tape or epoxy and some I'd like to mount inside a window with tape, so they can be thinner and less rigid.

For the outside deals I am thinking of finding the thinnest acrylic I can; ~1/16?
For the inside, is Mylar safe and would it stand up to heat from the sun or would it warp?
What are other choices for rigid and semi-rigid?
I'm also looking for a clear laserable anti-scratch to use with keychains.

Could you guys give me a brief and simplistic view of laserable plastics that I can run with? We have Regal Plastics here in the Dallas area that I am going to phone on Monday but I'd like to be a little bit prepared so I dont get into the wrong stuff again.

When is Sawmill going to activate their community wiki? I'll bet I could find this in there pretty easily...

Doug Griffith
04-01-2012, 1:58 PM
For rigid badges that are laser cut, your best bet for edge quality is acrylic. 1/16 is going to be hard to find much less in many color choices. Another choice is a laminated product such as Romark.

You should add UV stability to your list of concerns for the plastic as well as the window adhesive.

Also, acrylic is quite brittle.

James Terry
04-01-2012, 2:48 PM
Well one thing I could use is a simplistic and bulleted list of plastics to use and to NOT use with the laser. ie: If I recall, PVC is bad for fumes. I dont want to become a plastics expert, I just want some experienced advice. Once you start adding brand names into the mix, it becomes confusing quick.

A thin plastic that I like is often used for those really thin flexible cutting mats. I wonder if it is polypropolene?

So how about it? Do we have a spreadsheet to help introduce plastics to the laser community?


For instance, I wasted my effort with Lexan to realize that best effort is to laser that into a yellow bubbly mess. So general plastics advice is very welcome.

Joe Pelonio
04-01-2012, 2:50 PM
You can add adhesive mylar film (a sign product that's not vinyl) to 1/16 or less acrylic, or ABS which holds up better and cuts fine when that thin. The film comes in mirror or brushed gold and silver, and some places carry it in really cool patterns such as holographic, metal flake and carbon fiber. Simply apply to the sheet, and cut through both plus the transfer tape.

Michael Hunter
04-01-2012, 7:03 PM
For simple 2-colour badges (with a limited colour-way), then Romark Laserlights works well.
Very thin, flexible and already has an adhesive backing.
I find "brushed silver"-over-black and black-over-"gold" work well.
It does not last forever outdoors, but OK for at least a year or two.

As for plastics in general, there are just too many types and trade names to cover properly.
Google "plastic identification" - there are some useful charts based on burning a sample and that gives a hint as to how it might go in the laser.

Avoid chlorinated and flourinated plastics (PVC, PTFE and similar) as these will kill both you and your machine.
Be aware that PVC is so cheap and useful that it is often mixed with other plastics (including acrylic) - if in any doubt get hold of the manufacturer's data sheet and/or MSDS.
Most plastics (including the commonly lasered ones) produce really nasty byproducts when heated (or lasered), so you need an efficient exhaust system and a good dose of common sense!

Mike Null
04-02-2012, 8:39 AM
Extruded acrylic is readily available in .040" and possibly thinner at the home improvement stores. It is more brittle than cast and doesn't cut as cleanly (it's quite easy to smoke the edges). Cast acrylic is more expensive but ideal for most laser applications. It is available in many colors and thicknesses, transparent, translucent and opaque depending on where you shop.

Darryl Hazen
04-02-2012, 11:18 AM
I thought I'd post this in case you decide to go with Rowmark as the material. These test pieces were exposed to the elements for 1 year. (Utah weather, sun,snow, freezing rain, etc.) As you can see, the only one that showed any degradation was the gold on black in upper left corner. The rest showed no deterioration.