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Thread: Having problem gluing laser-cut acrylic parts

  1. #1

    Having problem gluing laser-cut acrylic parts

    Hi everyone!
    I've been laser-cutting acrylic parts for a year now, mostly for sign letters. Up to now, I used double-sided tape for putting together my work.

    Recently, I was asked to make acrylic displays to protect some collector items, basically boxes with an open bottom. I laser-cut the parts in 1/8'' acrylic and used methylene chloride (a solvent) to glue them. To my surprise, all the smooth, laser-cut edges would immediately crack in contact with the solvent.

    After research, I learned that laser-cut acrylic edges are brittle and under a big mechanical stress, and will crack with solvents or alcohol... unlike routed or sawed edges. Wow, this is a big drawback no one told me about!

    So now, I am looking for a bubble-free, clear glue that will do a nice job without cracking the laser-cutparts... I was thinking about trying Weld-On #16 glue. Anyone as any advice?

    Thanks!
    Fred

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Yes, any solvent will cause cracks almost before your eyes. The same happens to flame-polished acrylic. I have glued laser cut acrylic edges together but only black. With clear, you can still glue flat pieces on top of each other, or clear onto black etc.

    The Weld-On #16 is merely a thicker version of the same solvent based cement, and might still cause the cracking.

    The only thing I have used that works is clear silicone adhesive, but it's not perfectly clear and certainly not as strong a bond. You have to "cut" off the excess that squishes out with a razor blade or xacto knfe.



    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

    "The handyman's secret weapon - Duct Tape" R. Green

  3. #3
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    I Haven't done much quality acryic bonding, other than for underwater camera housings years ago.. (long before lasers).. all the acrylic bonding I do now, is simply to hold jigs together, and I use acetone. The finish is not important, as long as it sticks!
    Is it possble to cut the parts a 'hair' oversized, then sand the edges on a tabletop belt sander etc.. 'Then' glue them? wouldyou still get cracking? how far does the heat affected zone go? Have you ever tried this Joe?

  4. #4

    Clear Glue

    How about Weldbond?

    I think ACE hardware carries it.

    I have not tried plexi with it but I use it on everything else.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Cunningham
    I Haven't done much quality acryic bonding, other than for underwater camera housings years ago.. (long before lasers).. all the acrylic bonding I do now, is simply to hold jigs together, and I use acetone. The finish is not important, as long as it sticks!
    Is it possble to cut the parts a 'hair' oversized, then sand the edges on a tabletop belt sander etc.. 'Then' glue them? wouldyou still get cracking? how far does the heat affected zone go? Have you ever tried this Joe?
    Actually this will work, but I have no idea how far the "zone" is. I have used a 1/4" roundover bit on the router after cutting and that will take the solvents without the cracking. I tested it by rubbing it with denatured alcohol which normally cracks it within less than a second. That bit takes off quite a lot though. Maybe something for Frederic to try and get back to us.



    Sammamish, WA

    Epilog Legend 24TT 45W, had a sign business for 17 years, now just doing laser work on the side.

    "One only needs two tools in life: WD-40 to make things go, and duct tape to make them stop." G. Weilacher

    "The handyman's secret weapon - Duct Tape" R. Green

  6. #6
    Join Date
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    State College, PA
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    I've had this problem even without gluing. After the parts sit and are handled for a few weeks they show cracking along the sides. I wonder (for smaller parts) if tempering them in boiling water might help to relieve the edge stress.
    Next time I'll try.

  7. #7
    Frederic:

    If memory serves it is a mixture of methylene cloride with diacetone alcohol,
    60/40. The alcohol slows the evaporation. Use an applicator for capillary action, or draw in. It sucks moisture out of the air, don't let it sit around a long time after it is mixed or it won't work. Not stress crack proof, but much better.

    Art

  8. #8
    Disclaimer:
    Haven't tried the methylene chloride/ diactone alcohol mix specificly on laser cut parts. However it use to work well on flame polished edges without stress cracking. Cast acrylic, we never used extruded.

    Art

  9. #9
    Tom:

    There is a formula for stress relief by annealing. Check Google or Rohm & Haas. Something like 180 degrees in an oven ( on a flat surface) for an hour for 1/4 inch. Don't trust this, look up 'annealing acrylic'.

    Art

  10. #10
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    Fistly use tensol for bonding , it will ameliorate the stress cracking problems secondly use cast acrylic as its way more resistant to this than extruded and thirdly , use a lower PPI when cutting parts to be bonded so as to put less heat into the edge. You can also scrape the sharp edges with a razor blade or deburring tool.
    The formula for annealing is 180 degree for cast , 1 hour for every mm and 170 for extruded.
    PS routering the acrylic can also put the same stresses into it , unless you keep it cool and use the right tool.

  11. #11
    Many thanks for all the tips.

    Right now, the acrylic sheet I have is extruded, so there is one cause there for sure.

    Pete mentionned Weldbond glue. On their website they have a detailed list of compatible materials, but they don't mention acrylic, so I have doubts about it. And they say that one of the two surfaces at least has to be porous.

    I will do a test with the oven annealing suggestion.

    As for routing or sanding, since I don't have a well equipped shop besides my laser, I'm afraid it would be unproductive.

    I will also check into the alcohol+methylene chloride mix.

    Will keep you posted!

  12. #12
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    I use Weld On number 3 or 4 and have never seen a crack on cast or extruded acrylic. Maybe I have been lucky.

    .

  13. #13
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    Art, thanks for the tip. Thought I post this here for everyone.

    http://www.polyfab.biz/annealing-acrylic.htm

  14. #14
    If you want to anneal you will probably have to make or buy a dedicated oven. Your kitchen oven is not accurate enough (plus your spouse may not approve.) You need good circulation and probably baffles between the element and parts. Plus a better temperature controller and perhaps a timer to ramp up/dwell/ramp down. You could re-work an old range if you were doing a lot of parts.

    I tried a part using a kitchen range some time ago and had poor results. The surface was affected plus the part shrunk. Do some preliminary testing and research before you get too far into annealing as a solution. It creates some new problems. Supporting acrylic at high temperature so it doesn't end up with marks on the surfaces and so it doesn't warp is quite a challenge.

  15. #15
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    I have not had very many cases of the acrylic cracking, except on a very important job. I was cutting Flight Simulator panels, and the windows that go into them. They crazed. I annealed them in my normat kitchen oven, by another table source but very similar in times and temperature. It worked fine except the surface I had them on, a cookie sheet, was not totally flat. I went to the glass shop and bought a 12 X 12 square of plate glass, the stuff like in store windows, it was like 3/16 thick. Annealed again on the glass. Worked perfectly. I think the only consideration is not getting it too hot. I did, and it did melt on one occasion.
    It works for me!

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