Can CNC Machines Cut Acrylic?

Last Updated on October 12, 2023 by assistant

The answer is yes. Why? Don’t worry, please read it slowly according to the editor’s writing method. In this article, the editor will explain in detail why CNC machine tools can cut acrylic. Before this, I assume you are not familiar with acrylic.

What is acrylic?

To meet the needs of the processing market, some companies or researchers develop materials with different properties such as color, strength, and flexibility. However, there are more types of materials and more choices for users, which is definitely a good thing. However, many ordinary people sometimes get confused and cannot figure out what the difference is between them. Not the same material. Therefore, many people have questions about commonly used acrylic. It looks like glass from a distance and plastic up close. Its name is acrylic. Is it glass or plastic?

So, before I answer the cutting question, I want to tell you a little bit about acrylic. Acrylic, also known as plexiglass or acrylic plastic, has many aliases. Its full name is polymethylmethacrylate. Nowadays, everyone is accustomed to abbreviating PMMA. Acrylic is a polymer material and a thermoplastic. Yes, you read that right, it’s plastic.

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Advantages of acrylic panels

What we often use is called acrylic board, which is synthesized from materials such as acrylic particles and resin. It has high transparency and visual clarity. The light transmittance of ordinary glass can reach about 85% of the transparency of optical glass, but acrylic sheets can actually reach an astonishing light transmittance of more than 92%, and still have good transparency even after dyeing. This is the aesthetic effect that the special properties of acrylic bring to it.

Acrylic, on the other hand, is more than ten times stronger than regular glass, so parts made from acrylic will be very durable. Generally speaking, transparent products are most afraid of scratches, but acrylic products are not. It is the most durable. One of the wear-resistant transparent materials, it has the advantage of high strength. In addition, acrylic products are highly resistant to both acidic and alkaline substances and can easily cope with changes in temperature and humidity.

Disadvantages of acrylic

1. Low melting point
The melting point of acrylic is 160°C, but it begins to soften at 113°C. When exposed directly to flame, it will melt and eventually burn. Combustion also releases toxic fumes, so cutting with power tools can cause severe heat generation. Easy to deform and bend.
2. The price is more expensive than glass because its performance is better than ordinary glass, so the price will be more expensive than glass. Therefore, it is difficult to replace glass with acrylic.

How to Cut Acrylic with CNC

After understanding the acrylic material, I think everyone should have a clear understanding of acrylic, that is, acrylic boards are afraid of fire, or high-temperature fire. Therefore, when we do acrylic cutting, we most often use a CNC mill or CNC laser cutter to make precise, clean cuts on the acrylic sheet.

Due to the particularity of CNC machine tools that are not limited by materials, their precision, and repeatability are very suitable for cutting acrylic. It’s worth noting that acrylic produces smoke and dust particles during the cutting process, which is where CNC milling is most appropriate as it allows for the use of cooling and lubrication during the milling operation to prevent overheating and ensure a smoother cut. Water-based coolant or cutting oil can help dissipate heat and reduce friction.

Apart from this, CNC laser cutters are another common option for cutting acrylic. These machines utilize a high-powered laser beam to melt and vaporize acrylic material along a programmed cutting path. Lasers provide clean, precise cuts that typically require no post-processing or finishing. Laser cutting is particularly effective for creating intricate designs and sharp corners on acrylic.

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If you are an individual who wants to cut acrylic on a CNC machine, you may want to pay attention to the following:
Feed and cutting speed
The feed rate and cutting speed should be adjusted based on the thickness and type of acrylic being cut. Faster speeds may produce more heat, potentially causing melting or scorching, while slower speeds may result in cleaner cuts.

Tool selection
Choosing the right cutting tool is crucial. For routers, it is recommended to use a sharp drill bit designed for plastics. For laser cutting, a CO2 laser is typically used as it is ideal for acrylic materials.

Stable
Properly securing the acrylic sheet to the work surface of the CNC machine is very important to prevent any movement or vibration during the cutting process. Clamps or vacuum tables can be used to hold the material in place.

Chip and dust management
Cutting acrylic produces chips, chips, and fine dust particles. Having an effective chip evacuation and dust collection system is important to maintain a clean working environment and ensure operator safety.

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Cooling and lubrication
Cooling and lubrication can be used during milling operations to prevent overheating and ensure a smoother cut. Water-based coolant or cutting oil can help dissipate heat and reduce friction.

Finishing and polishing
After the CNC cutting process, the acrylic edges may require some post-processing. Sanding, flame polishing, or using solvents like acetone can help smooth and refine the cut edges to provide a polished surface.

Final thoughts
Overall, CNC machines offer precision and versatility for cutting acrylic sheets and creating a variety of shapes and designs. With the right tools, correct setup, and safety measures in place, CNC machining services can efficiently produce high-quality acrylic parts, prototypes, signs, and other products. If you would like to enjoy parts manufacturing and production services, please feel free to contact us. Not only can we cut acrylic materials, but we can also provide you with cutting services on metal, wood, or other materials.