View Full Version : Laser Product Part 10

Tom Buzz Bernard
10-03-2013, 10:28 AM
Creation of a Laser Product

Part 10

NEW EXPERIMENTAL substrate to laser CUT and RASTER for a product! Can you imagine finding a material that has endless possibilities for your laser and a substrate that can be bought locally with no shipping costs and you have 100ís of colors to pick from?

This substrate is very rigid but cuts clean with a paper cutter to whatever size you need. It will also cut with your laser. I found it in solid colors, several marble effects, and even many granite styles. One was a carbon fiber look that could give me many ideas for a product use.


I have cut, burned, and destroyed many types of substrate to see what can be used on a laser. I canít believe I missed this material until now. I donít know if it is the little boy hidden in my brain, but I get excited when I find something I havenít tried before. What will it look like? How will it cut? Will it blow up? :eek: If I had grown up in a state that allowed fireworks, whoís to say if I would even have fingers today! :rolleyes:

Here is how I stumbled on this. I was walking around Home Depot (getting materials for my previous product idea) and I saw a display case with all kinds of countertop samples (see picture). So I picked up 6 or 7 different colors to see if the laser would cut and raster this material. I also tried using my paper cutter to see if it could chop the laminate. It cut clean. One could easily cut smaller tags this way, but why not just use your laser?

This laminate made me remember where I grew up in Maine and one of the biggest factories in our town (Auburn) was Pioneer Plastics. I donít know why they chose this name because they made pionite (their terminology) for laminate counter tops. They had every color you could imagine. At Home Depot they had 3 different manufacturers to pick from. One manufactured brand, called Wilsonart Laminate, seemed slightly thinner than the others, therefore easier to cut I would assume?

Not sure on this, so I will have to test. Just another excuse for the boy in me to burn more things up! :eek: Not much beats owning a laser, although a friend of mine does the pyrotechnics at one of the local amusement parks. I do envy him, at times. :cool:

The real point here is 3 manufacturers mean a lot of choices for finishes. The laminate made by Formica is so rigid it would be strong enough to use as the final piece for a name tag, etc., provided the durability is there.

First thing I did was put one of the laminate samples in the laser to raster. It came out looking good. I tried a darker (marble) color and found it may need to have color-fill for better visual. Although I did find you can play with different powers to give a unique ghosting of an image, it looks cool if done right. I tried overlapping the image and that looked really unique!

Now, for cutting I made a trial cut with one of our LaserBuzz images. I initially turned on air-assist to cut the laminate. I noticed I got some residue on the top of the finished piece that required some wipe down. I hate extra work so I tried cutting with air-assist turned off. The first thing I saw was a flame shooting out to the side like a cometís tail. It was pretty cool, but there was no residue left doing it this way and I did not have to clean the surface at all. Problem gone, no extra work! :)

So letís make something. I have some plaques I bought from a customer to experiment with. I decided to go buy a sheet of laminate from Home Depot. I was hoping to find a damaged sheet to get a smaller quantity (cheaper price) for this trial. I found out something that I did not know.

Did you know you do not have to buy laminate in a 4í X 8í sheet? You can order and buy it in a 2í X 4í piece. They actual had a few in stock of several colors. I paid $12.00 for the 2í X 4í piece. What does that equal out to per square inch for price? I want to check if this material is going to be cost-effective to use. Letís do the math, 24 X 48 = 1152 square inches. $12.00 divided by 1152 = $.01 per square inch. Once we figure out how much we need, we can get a better understanding of total cost and compare it to other substrates we use.

Before you laugh at me I do not design plaque layouts, so I know you could come up with something much better than my example. My goal was to raster and cut on the substrate to see how the finished product might look using both methods.

Because Iím a dog lover and belong to GRRA (this is a rescue organization) I decided to use our LaserBuzz Golden Retriever design. I did a fill with the design to raster then used the normal vector cut to complete the image. On the front I wanted to raster some and try to cut some to see how that would look as well. Check out the picture and let me know what you think?


I used a total of 37 square inches of material, add in a little for trim, and we could easily round up to 40 cents in material cost. Will this work for you? Can you find the many choices of colors to fit your needs? I really like the carbon fiber print just not sure what I would use it for. I think it would really POP with a white color fill.

Actually with using a laser we could fine-cut several different colors and blend them together for a finished product. Sort of like intarsia. I did not buy several color selections to try this, so try to visualize with me. What if I took the carbon fiber laminate, cut it to size, and cut a placement for a ribbon. Using the same cut-out for the ribbon, use a different color and create the ribbon, then place it into the opening of the carbon fiber. You could even layer to get a more unique look. I found the material could be glued down or one could use double-back tape.

You could also cut many different pieces to add raised embellishments to the corners of the plaque. So many others product ideas can be brainstormed given a little time. New ways to use existing substrates only takes a little imagination. I wonder if the laminate can be heated up and bent into different shapes. They do this for counter tops. Would this allow for more uses?

Customers always want something new or a different look. Wouldnít it be nice to create something your competitor does not have? Go have some fun and experiment. I would love to see what you come up with using laminate material.

Martin Boekers
10-03-2013, 11:44 AM
Buzz, your are absolutely right. With plastic sheets (no discount running $16+) Formica is CHEAP... PDU does sell it for about $5 a sheet under Acrylithins, also they do sell solid surface plaques. It may be cool if we could get a contest going here to see what ideas people have used this for....

Dave Sheldrake
10-03-2013, 12:17 PM




Joe Hillmann
10-03-2013, 12:59 PM
If you go to the formica website and click on the case studies tab there are several examples of using lasers to fabricate it. The one I like the best is the drive in theater with the wood burl.

Mike Lassiter
10-03-2013, 3:14 PM
272217272218Here is a close up shot of certificate that I received a few years ago that I lasered into some Formica samples that I got from Wilsonart online. Samples are 8x10 with rounded corners. I bought several to play with. My one complaint of them is they are all bowed in the center. I have put weight on them trying to press them flat and even put them in our heat press (turned off) and closed it on them for a few weeks - but still bowed. The Formica has great contrast and holds details VERY well. The one pictured is from some of their high definition series and looks a good bit like it is carved from a greenish stone.

vic casware
10-03-2013, 5:05 PM
Don't quote me but im almost sure if you sand across the back grain of the formica you might find it will flatten out, i assume because of the tension caused by the lamination process.

Tom Buzz Bernard
10-06-2013, 10:47 AM
A lot of these are articles I wrote for trade magazines (some are older).

Not sure if most of you have read them before? I did a 10 part series on Success Tactics and a series I called Jack & Jill...this was about newbies starting in the laser business. I did travel to their location (several times) to help them get started. Our goal was to pay off their investment ASAP.

Does anyone want to hear more?

The goal is to inspire new ideas, motivate, and hopefully see many succeed. I am always amazed at the creativity of the many entrepreneurs out there. Many have exceeded my abilities of designing and creativity! :) Great job on that certificate...I am surprised at the detail.

Chuck Stone
10-06-2013, 11:16 AM
Don't quote me but im almost sure if you sand across the back grain of the formica you might find it will flatten out, i assume because of the tension caused by the lamination process.

If you're going to apply this to a backer board of some sort, perhaps
a veneer glue would solve the bowing problem. Apply to both sides, let it
dry and then apply weight to flatten it out? Just an idea

john swank
10-06-2013, 1:24 PM
I would definitely like to read more. I get some good ideas from what you put out here.

Rudy Ress
10-07-2013, 9:42 AM
Hi Tom,
Sure would like to read more. Can always learn something new. Thanks.

Tom Buzz Bernard
10-09-2013, 5:40 PM
Hi Tom,
Sure would like to read more. Can always learn something new. Thanks.

I will post some more then.

Doug Novic
10-10-2013, 9:24 PM
It's high pressure plastic laminate. When the samples are cut from full sheets the tension becomes uneven and it no longer lies flat. You will have to glue it to a stable substrate i.e. mdf, particle board, multi veneered plywood. Thickness at a minimum of 3/8" or the substrate will warp right along with the plastic laminate. Larger pieces lay flat. I've worked with it for over 40 years and there are more manufacturers and more color selections than you can count. The Europeans have incorporated more designs and patterns than here stateside. Let your creativity loose and have fun.

Bill Cunningham
10-10-2013, 9:39 PM
25 years ago when I got my first pantograph, I would raid the formica sample boards at various home improvement stores. I would choose the thicker stuff and engrave into it with a carbide engraving bit. Once engraved I would put a piece of un-vulcanized rubber on it, put it in the vulcanizing press, and make rubber stamps using the engraved formica as a mold.
This worked great until I could afford a polymer stamp making unit, and then a laser. Haven't lasered the stuff yet though!