Laser at work: Engraving solid surface material
By Aaron Taylor
Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
Is there a laser at work in your shop?
We’d like to hear how you’re using it and see photos of the work you’re doing with it. Drop us a note today at email@example.com. Thanks!
A laser engraver/cutter and a CNC machine play together very well. One of the ways we take advantage of this is on wayfinding and informational sign systems that we make using solid surface material, like DuPont Corian, as the substrate. Created and marketed as a countertop material, solid surface materials also make a great sign substrate.
Solid surface material holds up great indoors or out. It comes in a variety of colors and several thicknesses. It’s easy to cut and rout, and it engraves well on the laser.
We’ve made a lot of signs, probably thousands, using our laser engraver, CNC router and solid surface material. We use a simple approach that lets us produce attractive, custom signs efficiently. It involves four basic steps.
Mask the substrate and cut to shape:
We usually start with a sheet of solid surface material that we mask completely with application tape. On a CNC machine, we cut out the blanks. The edges are usually cut with a decorative edge or rounded over. We tape the exposed edges of each sign panel to protect them for the next steps.
Laser engrave the graphics:
Next, Tom laser engraves the graphics into the solid surface material. The application tape protects the material from any flashback from the laser from appearing on the surface of the solid surface material. The application tape gets singed instead of the material.
Paint the graphics:
We spray acrylic enamel over the laser engraved graphics, then remove the application tape. If there has been any bleeding of the paint under the mask, it’s not a problem, because we sand the face with 320-grit sandpaper and a pneumatic random orbital sander to clean things up.
Clear coat the sign:
Finally, each sign gets a coat of Matthews clear polyurethane. This gives it a hard, durable coating as well as a nice matte finish.
These type of signage projects are common for condominiums. A 12-floor condo building might require 200 identification signs like this. The laser lets us create a clean custom look for the package, usually incorporating the project’s logo on each sign.
This approach makes it easy to produce a large number of identification signs with a custom look and feel. Solid surface material makes a durable, easy to maintain sign. It’s also easy to match when they add or change signs, which is important to property managers. Sharing those benefits with customers and showing a few samples makes the sale even easier.