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Learn How to Cut Acrylic with an xTool P2 Laser Machine

In this post we will learn how to laser cut acrylic to make a layered acrylic on wood sign using the powerful xTool P2 laser machine. Acrylic is a versatile material known for its optical clarity, weather resistance, and wide range of applications across various industries.

With the precision and efficiency of a laser cutter, you can achieve the best results for your acrylic projects. Let’s dive into the details of acrylic cutting with laser technology.

This is an image of laser cut acrylic layered on a wood sign. It says the words "I love you" repeated 6 times in black on a white sign.

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Understanding Acrylic Material Types

Acrylic, also known as acrylic glass or Plexiglas, comes in different types such as clear acrylic, cast acrylic, and extruded acrylic. Each type has its unique properties and cutting requirements. Laser technology, particularly the xTool P2 laser machine, utilizes a focused laser beam to cut through acrylic material with high accuracy and speed.

For my project today, I will be using cast black acrylic. It is not transparent (although the P2 can handle transparent acrylic, for this project I did not want the transparent look).

Which Acrylic is Best to Laser Cut and Engrave?

If you are using a CO2 laser, using clear or cast acrylic is your best option. Extruded acrylic is not ideal (smells more, melts, etc.) If you are using a diode laser, stick to cast acrylic only – transparent will not work.

This image is of acrylic that has been cut with a laser machine. It has been layered to create a drink cup topper with the name Laura.

Acrylic topper that I cut with a diode laser xTool M1.

Not All Lasers Are Created Equal When Cutting Acrylic

Not all lasers have the capability to cut all different types of acrylic. For example, the xTool M1, which is a diode laser, can only cut cast type of acrylic in certain colors (for example, people have trouble with white color acrylic). It cannot cut transparent acrylic due to the type of laser technology it uses.

If you are working with a diode laser, you can see my step by step example where I use my xTool M1 diode laser machine to cut cast acrylic sheets with ease. The cup topper you see in the image above was cut using my xTool M1.

While I was able to use my M1 for acrylic, my CO2 xTool P2 laser machine was far more powerful and capable of cutting any type of acrylic and thicker sheets as well (the P2 can cut a maximum thickness of 20 mm vs. the M1’s maximum of 3 mm). 

The Cutting Process: Creating a Layered Acrylic on Wood Sign

Below is my video on how I cut the acrylic with my P2 machine. This is the best way to learn how to cut acrylic because you can follow step by step, specific directions. The written directions below are more basic steps.

Materials & Tools

  • Acrylic
  • Laser machine
  • Laser-ready cut file (SVG or vector files)
  • 3M sheets or adhesive glue meant for acrylic
  • Wood sign base
  • Honeycomb base
  • Honeycomb clips (to secure the acrylic)
This is showing the back of a piece of acrylic with a layer of 3M backing that has been cut with a laser machine. It is next to a blank wood sign.

Directions

  1. Preparation: If you are using 3M, start by removing the protective film from one side of the acrylic and placing the 3M backing on your acrylic sheet.
  2. Next, secure the acrylic sheet on the base of your xTool P2 laser machine with the 3M side facing down. *I removed the protective film from the other side of my acrylic surface as well but I have had success leaving it on, too.
  3. Open your cut file inside of xTool Creative Space or create a new document and design directly in xTool. Place a rectangle around your design to create a frame for easy placement of the design (see the video for help).
  4. Unselect your design by clicking a blank area on your document. This will bring up the collapsable, right panel that has the basic materials settings.
  5. If using the honeycomb base, select Open Plane. Next, select either the acrylic option of your choice in the dropdown materials menu or select user defined.
  6. Click the plus sign looking symbol next to the blank distance rectangle which will automeasure the thickness of the acrylic sheet.
  7. Using the automeasure feature will automatically adjust the focal point of the laser beam using the focusing lens based on the thickness of the acrylic sheet. This step is crucial for achieving straight-line cuts and intricate designs.
  8. Power Settings: Determine the appropriate laser power and cutting speed based on the type and thickness of the acrylic sheet. Higher power may be required for thick acrylic, while lower speed is ideal for intricate designs. If you have never used acrylic before, complete a few test cuts using either a test grid or a simple rectangle.
  9. To adjust the power settings, click on the design. This will open the secondary right menu where you select the machines settings.
  10. Select the Cut option. Change the power and speed settings that work best for your machine and material.
  11. Cutting Process: Start the laser cutting process by clicking on the green process button in the bottom right of the program.
  12. Review the preview of the cut. If it appears correct, click the green start button in the upper right-hand corner of the program. 
  13. Click the start button the P2 laser machine. It is a circular button in the bottom right top of the machine with a blue glowing light circling it.
  14. The laser processing will begin, stay next to your machine where you can monitor it while it cuts. The laser machine uses a high power which can cause a high temperature that can cause sparks or a fire.
  15. Once the machine has completed the job, place painters tape or masking tape across the cut out I love you words while it is still in the machine. 
  16. Next, remove the acrylic from the honeycomb plate. 
  17. Flip the acrylic face down. Remove the 3M backing only from the cut out letters. Leave the 3M on the remainder of the “acrylic frame.”
  18. Flip the acrylic back over and center it on the prepared wood sign base. 
  19. Remove the painters tape/masking tape from the front of the acrylic.
  20. Using tweezers or a thin tool, push the acrylic letters onto the wood sign to ensure they have adhered to the wood.
  21. Once you have ensured all of the letters have adhered to the wood sign, remove the outer acrylic frame template.
  22. And you’re done! Just be careful handling the sign until you’ve given the 3M some time to adhere. 

xTool P2 Laser Machine

If you’re looking for a reliable laser machine for acrylic cutting and engraving, consider the xTool P2 laser machine, known for its high speed, precise cutting, and versatility across various materials. Start your acrylic projects with confidence and explore the endless possibilities of laser technology.

Check Out Everything the xTool P2 Can Offer

See all of the amazing features the xTool P2 offers here: xTool P2.

Save an Extra $80 with My Special Mom Envy Coupon Code!

xTool has been gracious enough to give me my own coupon code for my readers!

Click here to use my coupon momenvy80 to get an extra $80 off a laser machine! 

Need Further Help Turning Handwriting and Drawings into SVG Files?

If you need additional support learning how to create handwriting and drawings into laser cut files, check out my post: How to Turn Handwriting & Drawings into an SVG for Lasers & More.

This is an image of laser cut acrylic layered on a wood sign. It says the words "I love you" repeated 3 times in black on a white sign.

Do You Need Air Assist When Cutting Acrylic?

Air Assist is not a requirement to cut acrylic BUT I do find that when I utilize air assist during the cutting process, it helps to to blow away any debris or fumes, ensuring a clean and smooth cut edge. This also helps in maintaining optical clarity and reducing the risk of toxic fumes.

Benefits of Laser-Cut Acrylic

  • Precise Control: Laser technology offers precise control over cutting parameters, resulting in accurate cuts and detailed engraving results.
  • Smooth Cut Edges: The laser beam produces smooth and clean cut edges, eliminating the need for additional finishing steps.
  • High Accuracy: Achieve high accuracy and repeatability in cutting acrylic parts, making it ideal for intricate designs and detailed cuts.
  • Wide Range of Applications: Laser-cut acrylic finds applications in various industries, including signage, lighting, automotive, and more, thanks to its optical clarity and versatility.
This image is of acrylic that has been cut with a laser machine. It has been layered to create a drink cup topper with the name Laura. There are also 2 additional toppers that are blank.

Safety Considerations and Best Practices

When working with acrylic laser cutting, it’s essential to consider safety measures such as monitoring the project as it cuts and ensuring proper ventilation to minimize exposure to fumes. 

Complete Test Cuts to Minimize Waste

Working with acrylic is very different from other materials. If you have never cut acrylic with your laser machine, it is important to do some test cuts.

It is important to test laser engraving, cutting, and scoring with each new material you use with your machine. By learning your settings on small test areas, you can get a more accurate cut for your large designs so that you don’t waste too much of acrylic sheet.

This an example of a drink topper made using laser cut acrylic. This is showing the name Jaimie in green on a Christmas tree shape acrylic.

Acrylic cup topper cut using an xTool M1.

Use Acrylic for a Variety of Projects

There is such a a wide range of projects and various applications for acrylic, it is one of the most popular material options for laser machines. In my video, I am only showing you one small way to use acrylic which is to cut out letters to make a layered sign.

Using the machine as a laser engraver as well for the acrylic will open your doors even more for the projects you can do – especially when you use acrylic that has a different color core inside so that when you engrave it, another color shows through. 

xTool has numerous product ideas including many free files you can download – check out their acrylic ideas here.

Some additional products you can use a laser machine and acrylic to make include:

  • earrings
  • nightlights
  • keychains
  • acrylic calendar
  • cake toppers
  • drink stirrers
  • frame
  • door hangers
  • jewelry holders
  • drink toppers (like Stanley toppers)
  • ornaments
  • name writing practice boards
  • gift card holders
  • …and so much more

The project ideas with acrylic are endless. It’s such a fun material to work with that comes in a variety of colors and patterns. You can even sublimate directly onto acrylic for even more variety of materials. Just check out how cute this pattern is below (which was used to make the topper seen above).

This is an example of red and white stripped Christmas acrylic.

This is a green arrow pointing down that says: Pin me now & read me later.
In the middle it says how to cut acrylic with a laser machine. Above and below that are images of projects made using a laser machine to cut acrylic.