Laser Cut Paper
Table of Contents
What Type of Cardboard Is Used for Laser Cutting?
Corrugated cardboard is the best paper for laser-cutting projects that require some structural strength. It is cheap, comes in various sizes and thicknesses, and can be easily cut and even engraved using lasers. The most common type of corrugated cardboard for laser cutting is a 2-mm-thick single-wall, double-face board.
What Is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting refers to the process of cutting materials using a high-energy beam of light that is focused on a precise point. This focused light provides enough energy density to cut through the material — higher-powered lasers are even able to cut metal. A typical laser cutter can automatically move the laser to trace out the part to be cut without any user input apart from the initial setup. For more information, see our guide on What is Laser Cutting.
What Is Paper Laser Cutting?
Paper can be cut into functional or artistic designs using lasers. When laser-cutting paper — or even 3-mm-thick corrugated cardboard — a low-power laser of around 6 watts is sufficient. For more information, see our guide on How To Laser Cut Paper.
What Can You Do With Paper Laser Cutting?
Paper laser cutting is useful for a wide range of applications such as: greeting cards, customized labels, custom packaging, stencils for painting, sewing stencils, cardboard prototypes, and signs and labels. While paper is generally not a very durable material for practical applications, it can find extensive use for artistic and marketing purposes.
Why Use a Laser to Cut Paper?
A laser cutter can quickly produce highly detailed and accurate cuts that would be impractical for other cutting implements like scalpels. A laser cutter only needs some initial setup, after which the designs can be cut simply and repeatedly without any direct user input. Corrugated cardboard or cardstock is generally the best paper for laser cutting.
How to Laser Cut Paper
Paper has a very low ignition point that can easily be reached during laser cutting. As such, care must be taken to prevent the paper from igniting. To successfully laser-cut paper, follow the steps listed below:
- Make sure that your digital art design is in vector format. If the design is only available in a raster format like .bmp, use a free software package like Inkscape to convert the design into a vector format. If possible, use designs that already come in a vector format, i.e. with a .svg file extension. The .svg file type makes it easy to convert the edges into paths for the laser cutter to follow. Vector images can also be scaled without a loss in image quality.
- Select the correct laser power and speed based on the type of paper you intend to cut. Paper can easily burn, so the power must be carefully selected. If there is any uncertainty in terms of the required power, first cut a small sample piece that will not pose a risk to the machine if it catches fire. A 3-mm piece of corrugated cardboard typically needs only a 6-W laser and a speed of 8.5 mm/s.
- Secure the paper to the base of the machine’s cutting bed so the sheet won’t get blown out of position. Once cutting is complete, the paper can be removed for immediate use. Observe the first cutting process (with the proper eye protection) to make sure it doesn’t catch fire.
Is There a Type of Paper That Cannot be Laser Cut?
Yes, any paper that is too thin (tissue paper, for example) cannot be laser-cut. Thin paper can very easily burn or curl when exposed to a laser’s heat. Thermal paper is also not recommended as it will change color when exposed to heat. Corrugated cardboard or cardstock is generally the best paper for laser cutting.
Can I Make a Customized Cut Paper?
Yes, laser cutting is excellent for producing customized paper shapes, especially if the designs are complex and intricate.
Can I Use Laser Cutting for Various Types of Papers?
Yes, laser cutting can be used on a wide range of paper types. Just choose the proper laser power such that it won’t ignite the paper. Corrugated cardboard or cardstock is generally the best paper for laser cutting.
Can You Make Art From Paper Using Laser Cutting?
Yes, art is one of the primary uses for laser-cut paper. Lasers can create very intricate and detailed designs in a wide variety of paper types. Laser-cut paper can take on forms that would be impossible using other techniques.
Can You Laser Engrave Cardstock?
Yes, you can laser engrave cardstock. However, it is very important to set the laser power correctly to prevent the laser from burning through the cardstock. Laser engraving on colored cardstock produces high contrasts which make the engraved sections stand out.
This article presented eight different types of paper for laser cutting, explained what they are, and discussed the applications of each type. To learn more about types of paper for laser cutting, contact a Xometry representative.
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