Our laser will handle material up to 12-by-24 inches. We start by nesting all the letters in Illustrator for the most efficient use of the acrylic. As you can see, we cut them in reverse. A sheet of letters will take one to two hours to cut on our 35 watt laser.
We cut the acrylic on the metal grid in the laser. There’s a small spark when the laser touches the metal, which causes flashback. You can see the burned areas on the masking. By cutting in reverse, the masking protects the glossy acrylic face from the flashback. You get a certain amount of it on the back, but that doesn’t matter.
Next, we apply the stud mounts to the back. We get the stud mounts from Gemini. We put a little Weld-On No. 3 adhesive in a small jar and dip the face of the stud mount in it, then position it on the letter. It fuses to the letter in a few seconds.
The stud mounts aren’t in the identical place on each letter, so we number the back of the letters and note that on the pattern later. That way we can make sure each letter is installed in its correct location.
We print a paper pattern on our large format printer that shows the position of the lettering. We ink the back of the stud mounts on a large stamp pad, position the letter on the pattern and press it down to mark the paper. This shows us clearly where we will drill the substrate. Note that the number of the letter used to stamp the pattern is written below each letter.
Once the pattern is positioned on the substrate (or the wall, if necessary), we drill a hole that accommodates the stud snugly. These panels will be mounted to the wall using screws, so we hid each screw behind a letter. We install all the other letters by injecting a little adhesive into the hole using Loctite Power Grab Express Pack. It’s in a pressurized canister and is much easier and neater than using a caulk tube.
We also printed the wallcovering with bubbles on it on 3M 40C film on our HP Latex printer and laminated it with 8509 film. It’s applied over 1/4-in. fiberglass panels that the contractor applies over the plywood used to rough in around the coolers. It’s a very durable substrate with a great finish for graphics. The vinyl graphics on the Beer Cave door were cut on our Summa cutter.
Here’s a similar project done with a different color scheme for another location. Beer Cave is laser-cut acrylic with blue Oracal film applied to the face. The door graphics are printed on Clear Focus perforated film with a visually clear laminate. The posters were printed on 3M IJ35 film with 8509 laminate.

Laser at work: Acrylic letters step-by-step

Dimensional graphics add to a shop’s potential

By Doug Bergstrom

Posted on Monday, April 25th, 2016

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There’s a big need for — and a market for — dimensional letters and graphics, yet it’s a type of work that some shops do very little of, or outsource. Our laser engraver/cutter lets us produce dimensional graphics in-house, opening up new markets for us and giving us a broader range of graphics to offer our customers.

This project is a good example. We do a lot of graphics for convenience stores, inside and out. This is exactly the type of work we bought the laser for. It’s a hassle if you have to wait for outsourced letters when you’re dealing with tight deadlines. Or if you crack a letter, which happens, you have to wait for replacement, rather than just having the laser cut another.

Most of the work we do with the laser is cutting out letters, but we’ve dabbled in other work like awards and trophies. We just did 200 keychains for a customer, and several plaques for another, but most of the time it’s cutting out letters.

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