Organic glass is a synthetic polymer plastic, the main property of which is optical transparency.
The beginning of the use of plexiglass refers to the 30s of the 20th century. Development of the aircraft put before the designers conflicting objectives. On the one hand, the increase in speed and altitude required reliable isolation of the cabin. On the other hand, in a fast-moving maneuvering battle, the pilot needed maximum visibility. To do this, the “lantern” of the cabin must be made of a strong, transparent material, and have a minimum of partitions and supports.
The new material — plexiglass (the original name of organic glass) – completely solved the requirements, providing simplicity of construction and the required rigidity, as well as safety (due to the shatter-free plexiglass in case of damage).
Currently, the main properties of plexiglass, such as high strength (in comparison with conventional glass), impact resistance, low weight, high transparency (up to 92%), easy workability, etc., are in demand in a variety of industries. For small businesses specializing in advertising, design services, construction, souvenir products, organic glass is almost the main structural material.
Organic glass is perfectly processed by cutting. However, this produces a significant amount of small chips. Since plexiglass melts at a relatively low temperature (about 100 °C), the resulting chips tend to sinter and stick to the cutting edges of the tool. This makes it difficult to process and reduces the quality of finished products. In addition, plexiglass is very sensitive to the degree of sharpening of the tool: the slightest wear of the cutter or milling cutter – and processing performance is sharply reduced.
Another disadvantage of mechanical processing is the tendency of plexiglass to contact damage. Moreover, this applies not only to the cutting tool – you can damage the surface of the workpiece when it is fixed on the desktop. But to restore the product, for example, finish polishing, without clouding (“soaping”) of the transparent surface is almost impossible!
The above disadvantages are completely solved by non-contact processing of plexiglass with a laser. CNC laser machines provide a very high accuracy of the cut and the fineness of the seam. The absence of cutting forces eliminates the need to attach the workpiece, which means that there is no risk of damage to the surface by mechanical clamping. Laser cutting and engraving do not produce chips or dust. The point effect of a high-energy laser on the surface of plexiglass causes only evaporation of the material – the resulting gas is easily removed by the standard exhaust system of the machine and does not pollute the environment. Laser processing of plexiglass is carried out at a high speed, and the specific processing costs are the lowest (compared with milling, mechanical cutting, etc.).
Modern models of CNC laser machines are very easy to operate, have a low cost and provide ample opportunities for processing organic glass. However, to select the optimal model for specific technological needs, you should familiarize yourself with the design features of CNC laser machines and processing principles.
The choice of a laser machine “for plexiglass”
As the name implies, CNC laser engraving machines can carry out the entire range of work with plexiglass: paint large-format workpieces, carry out figure cutting on a complex contour, perform surface engraving and even produce 3D-processing!
When choosing a laser products “for a plexiglass” we need to pay attention to:
1) Laser tube type. As a rule, most “budget” models of machines are equipped with laser tubes with an active medium of a gas mixture (so-called CO2 lasers). Gas lasers are characterized by high radiation stability and low specific energy consumption. Therefore, laser machines of this type are perfectly suited for high-quality and economical processing of most types of materials. The only exception is metal, but for cutting and engraving plexiglass “gas” lasers are ideal.
2) The range of tasks to be solved. Will the machine work only with plexiglass, or is it supposed to process workpieces from other materials? Will cutting the blanks dominate? Or will engraving the surface dominate? Or both in equal proportions? Answers to these questions will help to determine the configuration of the CNC laser machine — so as not to be left without the necessary functions, but not to overpay for extra.
3) Shape and size of the processed workpieces. It is always recommended to take the machine “plenty” to the area of the desktop. The limiting factor here may be the budget and the area of the production room where the machine will be located. It should be noted that a machine with a large working area is a more versatile equipment. However, it is also irrational to acquire a known “giant” for the tasks of processing wardrobe numbers. After all, the overall equipment is much more expensive to maintain and more difficult to transport and place.
4) The power of the laser tube determines the thickness of the workpiece. For engraving plexiglass the power of 25-60 watts is enough. End-to-end cutting of workpieces up to 10 mm thick will require a power of 60-80 W. To work with thicker workpieces, as well as parallel processing of workpieces (if there are two emitters in the optical system of the machine), a tube with a capacity of more than 80 watts will be required. It should be noted that laser tubes are “expendable” material and in principle can be easily replaced by units of greater power. However, this will also require changing the power transformer (which works strictly with the “own” tube) and make sure that the powerful tube fits into the body of the existing laser machine along the length.
5) The speed of processing. The higher the productivity of products, the greater the profit will have the company. Therefore, when choosing a laser machine, you should focus on the maximum speed indicator (for through-cutting of workpieces of the maximum thickness for which the existing laser tube is designed).
6) Warranty support and service. These factors are very important because the CNC laser machine is complex production equipment. And its task is to work and not to stand idle waiting for spare parts from an “unknown manufacturer”. Preference should be given to the supplier of equipment, well-proven not only by the line of sold models of machines, but also by high-quality customer service throughout the entire life of the equipment.