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'[OT]: Cutting acrylic/lexan/plexiglass'
2002\05\14@184320 by Pic Dude

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Looking for suggestions on making smoother curved cuts in 1/8" and
1/4" acrylic. urrently I use a Dremel rotary tool with a Roto-zip type
cutting bit (rotary/spiral saw bit) but get very jagged edges.

Anyone know if there a better bit I could use for this?  Perhaps a
Dremel 194 high-speed cutting bit would work better?

Or is there another process I could use for this?  Scoring/snapping
and circular saw with carbide-tipped bit are the only other processes
I know for this, but they are just for straight cuts.

Cheers,
-Neil.

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2002\05\14@190022 by Andy Shaw

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I've cut lexan and PVC sheet using a Jig Saw with a special plastics blade.
The blade has teeth on both leading and trailing edges so that the trailing
edge teeth clear the cut. Using normal blades you often end up just melting
the stuff and getting the blade jammed in the plastic. 1/8" might be a bit
thin for this type of saw though. Perhaps a smaller hobbiest version could
be used? Not sure if the blades are available for those though.

Andy

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2002\05\14@192316 by Jinx

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> Looking for suggestions on making smoother curved cuts in
> 1/8" and 1/4" acrylic. urrently I use a Dremel rotary tool with
> a Roto-zip type cutting bit (rotary/spiral saw bit) but get very
> jagged edges.

I use a Dremel jigsaw with a fine mini-hacksaw blade that has
around 20 tpi (teeth per inch) ground down, er, with a grinder, to
about 2mm width (from the original 5mm).Also, it is important to

(a) support the underside of the cut with a piece of scrap board

(b) not cut an exposed acrylic surface.This depends on which way
you have the blade - electric drill type jigsaws (and circular saws)
cut on the up stroke, the Dremel can cut on the down stroke, if that's
the way you put the blade in. I use paper-like packaging tape (if
the original protective paper is gone), particularly on the surface
that the blade is cutting towards

(c) use a sharp blade that has a reasonable offset to remove
waste. If you don't you'll just end up melting your way through and
the cut closes up behind the blade. Triangular teeth are not as
good as shark-fin teeth as they don't remove waste so readily
and the plastic tends to clog the blade

(d) don't cut at a speed that causes the plastic to melt

(e) if possible, pre-score the cutting line with a scalpel or
modelling knife. This stops any chipping into the required
finished area, just as you would do so if chiselling wood. You
can leave 0.5mm or so excess outside the line for sanding
or filing

Taking these precautions I can satisfactorily cut acrylic even on
the bandsaw, which has a nasty 6 tpi wood blade, although for
finer work I prefer the Dremel

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2002\05\14@194000 by Pic Dude

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The Home Depot folks could not find a jig-saw blade
for this purpose, and the local acrylics place told
me they don't get good cuts with a jigsaw, so for
curved cuts they use a router, though they couldn't
find out what bit they use.

This is the first time I've heard of a blade with
teeth on both sides.  I need to go search for this.
Do you have a source for this blade?  I would guess
that it has very fine teeth?

Thanks,
-Neil.



{Original Message removed}

2002\05\14@195053 by Jinx
face picon face
> curved cuts they use a router, though they couldn't
> find out what bit they use.

A router does work, but you have to be very confident with
your tools and jig. Acrylic will shatter all over the place. I've
used a 6mm carbide flute a couple of times making cut-outs
for LCDs but didn't feel terribly comfortable doing it. You
can get 3mm flutes, although that probably wouldn't make
a lot of difference generally unless you're interested in the
internal radius of corners (that you could finish off with a
square or rat-tail file anyway)

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2002\05\14@205657 by Spehro Pefhany

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At 11:49 AM 5/15/02 +1200, you wrote:
> > curved cuts they use a router, though they couldn't
> > find out what bit they use.
>
>A router does work, but you have to be very confident with
>your tools and jig. Acrylic will shatter all over the place. I've
>used a 6mm carbide flute a couple of times making cut-outs
>for LCDs but didn't feel terribly comfortable doing it. You
>can get 3mm flutes, although that probably wouldn't make
>a lot of difference generally unless you're interested in the
>internal radius of corners (that you could finish off with a
>square or rat-tail file anyway)

One really nice way is with a table saw. Micromark in FL (USA)
has a little table saw or you can use a full-size one with
the proper blade. I think it should be carbide, but check.

And be particularly careful that you don't lose any fingers.

Best regards,

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2002\05\14@215206 by Chris Loiacono

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Machine cutting of plastic is not much different than cutting metals. The
cutting tool applies pressure which increases the temperature of the
material just ahead of the cutter. The sharp edge then peels away the heated
region. Since acrylic materials don't conduct heat well, the region just in
front of the cutter will heat very quickly, and will stay hot longer than
say, aluminum or steel. The two things to master in cutting plastics is to
make sure the cutter doesn't stay in one place too long - meaning that the
feed rate has to be pretty high, or else it will make an ever-increasing
pool of molten plastic from which chips can't escape; and that the feed
isn't too fast, or a tooth will try to peel off material that is still too
cold and hence hard, causing a fracture. The same is true with rotating
cutters and reciprocating or band saws.

I second the comments about work holding. Good clamping will prevent
fractures from the occasional blade hang-ups that can occur. I routinely cut
acrylic sheet with end mills, band saw & saber or jig saw, depending upon
the thickness and complexity of the cut. I have developed my own speed &
feed technique with two-flute end mills or blade tooth pitch similar to what
I would use for aluminum, and my feed rate is between two to three times
that which would be used for cutting aluminum. Once you start a cut, you
have to just keep going without hesitating once you have found a comfortable
feed rate.

A router or rotating Dremel tool should work, but the super-high RPM's would
make the needed feed rate higher than I would want to try by hand. I would
think that with a good speed controller one could get good results.

If you want to calculate where to start, figure somewhere between 1 & 2,000
surface ft per minute cutter speed, and no more than .010 in. of feed per
tooth. For example, if a round cutter is used, try: rpm = 4 x sfpm/dia.
This should give you an idea of how fast to feed thru the plastic at various
RPM's. You can approximate the surface feet for saws and it should work just
as well.

Chris

> {Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@012119 by Bob

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I used to do this way back when....  Use a bandsaw to cut it out a little over
sized (you can cut several clamped together sheets at one time, depending on
your blade), then use a 1" vertical belt sander to fix/smooth the edges.

To keep from scratching it, leave the plastic sheets on it until your done
sanding it.  When sanding, sand edge at 90 degree angle from flat surfaces
(perpendicular) hard enough to get off any edge cracks from bandsawing.  Then
sand at 45 degrees from both sides, then run "very lightly" (on part of belt
sander that has no steel backing) at 90 degrees again (perpendicular) to get rid
of residual flashing.

{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@035147 by Alan B. Pearce

face picon face
>This is the first time I've heard of a blade with
>teeth on both sides.  I need to go search for this.
>Do you have a source for this blade?  I would guess
>that it has very fine teeth?

I have a blade like this that came in a Black and Decker blade pack that I
got for my jigsaw. I cannot recall what it is described as, but it has quite
coarse teeth, i would say about 6/inch.

It may be worth seeing what is in a blade pack at your local DIY. My
experience is that there are not many staff who have real knowledge of what
advice to give when you start asking these sort of awkward questions.

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2002\05\15@095632 by Roman Black

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Hi Neil, ring around the local signwriters,
they almost all have CNC flatbed machines set up
for acrylic which they do all day every day.
If you take in your acrylic and a decent drawing
they can cut your shapes neat and exact in
whatever quantity you need. The operator is
usually skilled enough to whip up basic geometric
shapes in minutes, although they may ask you to
leave the job until off-peak. For a few small
pieces they'll probably charge about $10.
:o)
-Roman


Pic Dude wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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2002\05\15@103547 by Gary Tompkins

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I have used dish soap as a coolant and lubricant when cutting Plexiglas with
a saber saw or dremel tool. Works great and keeps your hands looking younger
too.

Gary

{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@105633 by Rex Byrns

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I have to say that unless your arc or cirlce is very small, the table saw is
the tool of choice.  The portable  high rpm type are great.  I have made
lexan router faces to use on a router table (so you can see clearly) for
years with this method.

By tilting the blade one can also get a nice beveled edge at the same time.

{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@130354 by Pic Dude

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Lots of options here, so I need to start experimenting.
The curves will be fine, and I intend to make a jig.

The options I have are now many:
- Heated wire -- need to locate proper wire.  Power
       supply etc is easy to get, but will need to
       experiment with settings.
- Router/dremel with appropriate bit -- easiest to
   start with since I already have one.  Two bit
   options are now available to me.
- Jig-saw or equiv -- need to find the right bit.

I'm avoiding sanding, etc cause I will be making
multiple copies of a piece and want to make it a
repeatable process vs. say, an art. :-)

Thanks for the options everyone -- I now have my
homework to do and will let you know what the outcome
is.

Cheers,
-Neil.



{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@150419 by Andy Shaw

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Alan B. Pearce" <.....A.B.PearceKILLspamspam.....RL.AC.UK>
>
> I have a blade like this that came in a Black and Decker blade pack that I
> got for my jigsaw. I cannot recall what it is described as, but it has
quite
> coarse teeth, i would say about 6/inch.

Yep that's the one I use came in the same pack. Seems to work well with
thicker lexan and other plastics not sure how well it would work on thinner
stuff though. When I first tried this I was cutting about 15mm thick soft
poly-something-or-other sheet. I carefully marked things out got out my
Jigsaw and made the cut great! Then I tried to push the section I had cut
out of the surrounding material it wouldn't move the cut had effectively
self healed behind the blade!

Must say that next time I have much of this to do I may take up the idea of
visiting a local sign maker! I build model r/c subs for a hobby (hence all
of the plastic cutting). I often end up buying things like servo activated
air valves, lexan tube, pumps etc. I've always found that once you tell the
guy (and it always seems to be a guy!) behind the trade counter what it is
you are doing they go way out of their way to help you, much more so than
any profit they are making would justify. Often doing stuff for free. I
guess it just makes a change to get a request for something out of the
ordinary. A bit like the piclist I suppose people just like to help when
they can!

Andy

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2002\05\15@153513 by tundra

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Andy Shaw wrote:
{Quote hidden}

One word of caution is in order here.  I do a bit of woodworking and
occasionaly need to cut plastics like Lexan with a power tool.  You
have to be *very* careful because this stuff will splinter and kickback
and cut you badly if you don't stay out of the way of the direction of
travel.

Also, when these plastics are cut or milled, they emit a gas which is
very bad news.  If you must cut this material, I strongly recommend
moving the cutting machine outdoors if possible and avoiding inhalation
of the resultant fumes in all cases.


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2002\05\15@171233 by Pic Dude

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Spehro Pefhany wrote:
"And be particularly careful that you don't lose any fingers."

Heh, heh, heh.  With the bandages still on my crushed index
finger from my hydraulic-shear incident a few weeks ago, I
can only shiver at this statement.

Cheers,
-Neil.



{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@174036 by Jinx

face picon face
> Lots of options here, so I need to start experimenting.
> The curves will be fine, and I intend to make a jig.
>
> The options I have are now many:
> - Heated wire -- need to locate proper wire.  Power
>         supply etc is easy to get, but will need to
>         experiment with settings.

Don't bother - hot wire doesn't remove waste and you'd
need the wire insanely hot to make any progress, with
the added side-effect of monomer fumes. I tried it once
and what a messy job it did. The cut will seal behind the
wire even worse than a bad blade and the molten plastic
makes a ridge. Hot wire is only suitable for a limited
range of materials, like polystyrene foam

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2002\05\15@181626 by Martin Baker

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FWIW, I have watched the shop next door cut stuff for me, and they use a
1/8 " dia., 1" long carbide flush trim bit in a router. A high speed
router. Seems the best way. They use a template or guide.

I have used jigsaws ( a pain) , Bandsaws ( also a pain and dangerous),  a
dremel tool with saw blade ( slow, messy and not very accurate) and a small
dremel router( worked great, but slow).

Good luck, and as noted before, be careful, wear safety gear, and use lots
of ventilation. I also recommend cutting jigs, and gloves, because the
stuff can bind and whack your fingertips. Not that I have ever been that
clumsy. Er, at least not more than a few times.

M.


At 09:40 AM 5/16/02 +1200, you wrote:
{Quote hidden}

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2002\05\15@213830 by Pic Dude

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Well, I just found this as well, and am threatening to pick
up a pack... http://store5.yimg.com/I/ecomplastics_1688_7109681

Cheers,
-Neil.



{Original Message removed}

2002\05\15@215547 by Jinx

face picon face
> And be particularly careful that you don't lose any fingers.
>
> Best regards,
>
> Spehro Pefhany

Oh, he'll be alright. Look, I can count on one hand the
number of fingers I've lost through industrial accidents.
Or I used to be able to

You might want to think about safety glasses though,
especially with any high speed rotating tools like a
router

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2002\05\15@232248 by Tom Messenger

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At 01:53 PM 5/16/02 +1200, you wrote:
>You might want to think about safety glasses though,
>especially with any high speed rotating tools like a
>router

How's that go? "Don't look into LASER with remaining eye...?"

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2002\05\15@233650 by Jinx

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>
> How's that go? "Don't look into LASER with remaining eye...?"
>

he he, "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger" is not a
universally applicable tenet

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2002\05\15@234942 by Jinx

face picon face
> How's that go? "Don't look into LASER with remaining eye...?"
>

Actually, you've reminded me of laser or water jet cutting. I've
got some acrylic components that I need cut out and had
intended to check out the local company to get a costing. I
think this will be a better option than molding or milling for
the shapes and quantities I need

Some years ago a friend had acrylic boxes fabricated and
square holes cut for switches - he reckoned it was reasonably
cheap after the set-up costs. I've got one of the boxes here
and it looks like a pretty good job, clean and accurate cuts

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2002\05\16@020153 by John Dammeyer

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Yes,  If you 've got a laser cutter company somehwere near that is the
best way.  Reminds me of an 8085 assembler project I did many decades
ago.  We demo'd a laser cutter system for GM by cutting through 2" thick
Plexi.  Made a perfect circle with a gantry type XY system.  Was given
the project on a Friday, worked all weekend on it and demo'd on Tuesday.
Too cool.

John Dammeyer


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> {Original Message removed}

2002\05\16@033146 by Alan B. Pearce

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>Some years ago a friend had acrylic boxes fabricated and
>square holes cut for switches - he reckoned it was reasonably
>cheap after the set-up costs. I've got one of the boxes here
>and it looks like a pretty good job, clean and accurate cuts

I knew someone who was into making stereo amplifiers for the "high end
market" and they had black Perspex laser cut for them. The front panel push
buttons were done by cutting a square in the Perspex, but one side was not
cut the whole length, and became the hinge point for the button. I saw one
of these panels, and the laser cut was real fine.

I believe about the only thing that is difficult to cut with a laser is
aluminium, because the melting temperature and thermal conductivity is such
that the molten metal will not flow away and solidifies in the cut behind
the laser. :)

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