Cardboard Laser Cutter: What you need to know
In this day and age, cardboard is used all around us. We use it in shipping, organization, crafting, and more, but did you know that you can use cardboard inside of your CO2 laser cutter? Cardboard is a broad term used to describe extra heavy paper, which is often layered, or corrugated, for extra strength and durability. It is most often used as packaging for transporting products. It is also a cheap, easy to find, material we can utilize to great effect with a CO2 laser cutter system like those found in the Muse Series and the P-Series.
Cardboard Laser Cutter: Properties
Origins: Cardboard can be made of paper, recycled paper, paper pulp or even straw.
Corrugated & Non-Corrugated: Cardboard can be a single sheet, or stacked sheets, of flat material (non-corrugated) or it can contain “s-curve flutes” (corrugated) designed to reduce weight and add strength. Corrugation can be doubled or tripled for extra durability.
S-Curve Flutes: A flute is the curved cardboard layer, between two flat layers, seen when looking at corrugated cardboard from the side. Flutes can be of different sizes and designs for various effects. Smaller flutes make the cardboard lighter but less durable, while larger flutes add weight, strength and thickness.
Cardboard Laser Cutter: Types
Paperboard: Basically, really thick paper, that cuts easily and remains light and strong.
Solid Boxboard (Solid bleached board): Medium density with a white coated surface that is odorless with a hygienic look.
Corrugated Fiberboard: Typical cardboard box with s-curve flutes. Comes in various thickness and strength.
Carton board: Thin cardboard that is often printed on for packaging common items such as toys or cereal boxes. Carton board is semi water resistant and cuts well.
Cardboard Laser Cutter: Applications and Ideas
3D Stacking Sculptures: Create spectacular 3D sculptures with design software like Autodesk 123D Maker or Slicer.
Cosplay and Costumes: Build larger than life costumes with inexpensive cardboard boxes that transform into complex giant robots or vehicles.
Art Projects: Experiment with cardboard art projects before advancing to wood and acrylic.
3D Topography Maps: Implement fantastic 3D wall maps or 3D tactical grid maps for tabletop gaming.
Lamps & Table Decorations: Discover slotting techniques to build unique lighting and office decor.
Stencils: Design and cut perfect stencils and save a giant library of styles.
Toys: From cardboard houses for paper dolls to geometric blocks for toddlers, cardboard toys are cheap, easy to make and fun for all.
Models, Scenery, and Dioramas: Enhance the scenery and create 3D terrain and environments.
Cardboard Laser Cutter: Considerations
Flutes: Corrugated flutes present an issue for rastering cardboard, as they can be exposed unevenly and look bad if you are going for a clean aesthetic, or you can utilize them to give you a more textured or unfinished look.
Highly Flammable: It is easy to get lost in the creative or technical details and overlook any safety hazards, but safety should always be the first thing on your mind when you work with your laser cutter and engraver. Corrugated cardboard is especially prone to catching fire, as the structure creates air pockets that allow oxygen to penetrate the material. Always keep a functioning fire extinguisher within reach and check it frequently. If your cardboard catches fire, immediately open the lid of your machine and use the fire extinguisher. The sooner you can get to the flames the better, since you do not want them to spread to the internal components and damage your laser, or worse, catch the laser on fire and risk your safety.
Cardboard Laser Cutter: In the Laser
General settings for paper will start with low power and high speed. Running two lower power passes on corrugated cardboard is best for output, This way the first pass penetrates the top layer as the second pass goes through the corrugation and bottom layer. This is a precautionary measure as setting one pass with a high power setting to go through the whole piece all at once might flame up.
Engraving doesn’t work well with corrugated cardboard, unless you like the look of exposed flutes. Non-corrugated cardboard can be engraved normally, but also with limited results
Cardboard Laser Cutter: UV Laser
Cardboard marks with Low Power, High Speed settings inside of a CO2 Laser Cutter, but did you know that a UV laser, Like the Muse Series UV Galvo, also marks the cardboard very quickly and with extreme precision? If you are needing to create highly detailed markings on cardboard, the Muse UV Galvo laser system will mark the cardboard with a high contrasting white color, giving you the ability to create complex designs for packages, crafts, and product placement. It leaves a very durable marking that is resistant to being rubbed or wiped off.
Full Spectrum Laser is a leader in easy to use, highly versatile laser cutting and laser engraving machines. Our systems range in size from desktop units and high-volume machines through industrial-grade production equipment. Our machines are running all over the world: from grade schools to National Labs, garage startups and many Fortune 500 companies. Contact us today to learn more.