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Which foils can you laser cut?

Welke folies kan je lasersnijden?

Do you need a stencil? An insulation sheet? A seal or protective cover? Or a flexible lampshade? In short, a foil, cut according to your own design? In this blog you can read which films you can have laser cut and which are suitable for your application.

What is a foil?

We are talking about thin plastics (100 microns to approximately 1mm) and other "nonmetals" that you can easily bend and sometimes fold without breaking. The flexibility varies per material but mainly depends on the thickness. The thinner a material, the easier it is to bend. That is why you can sometimes also consider rigid materials such as acrylic, as long as they are very thin, as foil.

Why should you laser cut foil?

With laser cutting you can have small details and complex shapes cut into foils. The start-up costs are low, so it is also interesting for prototyping and one-off projects . The cutting width of the laser is approximately 0.1mm so you can make sharp corners . Because laser cutting is a contactless technique, no force is exerted on the foil during cutting. This means that even small details of your design remain intact. Finally, there is a minimal " heat affected zone " (the part along the edge where the material has been affected by the laser). This means that the edges remain neat and strong. All in all, this makes it perfectly possible to create details of the order of 1mm and sometimes less.

Laser cutting a foil according to your design is very simple. With your digital design you can request a price from us in just a few clicks and, if desired, order online. So you never have to wait for a quote and you can quickly see what design adjustments will do to the price. If you are ready to order, you can arrange this yourself online.

How much does it cost to have a foil laser cut?

TLDR; From around €20 you can have a custom laser-cut foil at home. In quantities, the price can drop to €0.05 per part.

The price for laser cutting consists of:

  • Price per m² of material - Usually the material costs are only a small factor in the price. Material costs do become important if your design is large (>200x200mm) or if it involves series work.
  • Machining costs - The costs of the actual laser cutting mainly depend on the total length of cutting lines. For serial work or complex designs (e.g. a stencil with a large hole pattern) this can be the most important factor in the price.
  • Start-up costs - these are between €10 and €20 depending on the material. For single pieces and prototyping, this is often the largest factor in the total price. It is therefore worthwhile to place multiple tests or designs in one assignment.
  • Shipping costs - from €6.50 within the Netherlands.

The best way to find out the price for your design is to upload a (mockup) drawing. You will then immediately see the price and you can also compare materials. Uploading is free and there are no obligations.

As a rule, single pieces, prototypes and small projects made of laser-cut foils cost €20- 50 depending on the size.

Prices vary in series, but you can order small foil parts (in quantities of several hundred or thousands of pieces) for €0.05.

This makes laser cutting of films ideal for projects, research and prototypes. And also for products that are often modified, because with laser cutting you are not tied to a mold or die.

Laser cutting foils in series

Larger print runs or serial work involve more work than a prototype. After all, everything must be correct and remain correct; tolerances, quality of the finish, but often also packaging and the delivery schedule.

We see that more and more customers with a production demand are choosing to produce serial work in smaller quantities, and preferably close by, as opposed to mass production in low-wage countries. On the one hand, this is made possible by increasingly cheaper digital production techniques such as laser cutting and 3D printing. On the other hand, it offers advantages because you as a buyer run less risk , can switch between manufacturers more easily , and can make adjustments to your design more often .

To further increase the quality and consistency of laser cutting in series, we have developed a special production line for series work . This allows us to offer even higher quality at low costs.

When is it better to punch?

Die cutting is a technique in which a die is used to cut and sometimes also shape materials.

Before punching, a punching template must first be made. This results in one-off high start-up costs. You can also make not so small details with dies.

A major advantage of stamping is that, once the mold has been paid for, the cost per part is very low. This makes it ideal for mass production. Die-cutting is therefore the best choice for projects with very large print runs. But also when materials are needed that contain toxic components such as PVC, and thermosets such as polycarbonate that cannot be laser cut properly or safely.

In short, die-cutting is especially a good option for fully developed designs in large quantities.

What do you use laser cut films for?

Foils are used by our customers in engineering, product design, and remarkably in the renewable energy sector. But you can also do a lot with foils in creative projects, hobbies and education. In industry, for example, foils are used as cell separators, acting as an insulating layer between cells in battery systems to prevent short circuits. Or they are used to make seals and gaskets, which provide an airtight seal or filling of spaces in various mechanical and industrial applications.

There are also many foils that you can use to make good stencils. Lasered stencils can be extremely detailed and complex.

Membranes made of plastic films are used for filtration, separation and protection of various materials and systems. In addition, films serve as protective layers in devices, where they protect sensitive components against damage and external influences.

Finally, the materials below are also used as protective covers and windows, where they serve as transparent and protective layers for various products and systems.

What films are there and what are the differences?

Acetate foil

A thin, strong and transparent foil with good insulating properties.

We have this foil in 100, 250 and 500 micron thickness, making it the thinnest foil that you can have laser cut. Due to the small thickness tolerance, this foil is suitable for filling spaces, for example. But also as a protective layer and as an insulation sheet. The laser cut is neat and there is little melt formation along the edge. This makes very small details of the order of 1mm possible. You can therefore also use this material for detailed stencils.

Polypropylene film

This is a flexible and tough plastic that can easily be bent. It has a structure on the surface on one side, making it scratch-resistant (scratches cannot be seen due to the texture). This makes laser-cut polypropylene film ideal for products that are often touched and seen. It is used, for example, as a front plate for appliances, installations in public spaces, but also as an intermediate insulation layer in appliances. PP is relatively inexpensive.

The cutting edges may have a small melting edge of 0.1-0.2mm. If you want it completely without a melting edge, choose laser cutting with protective film. If you have it cut without protective film, you can easily wipe away any laser spots with a damp cloth.

PP film is available in white and black in 0.8 and 1.2mm thickness.

PETG or polyester film

Polyester is transparent and impact resistant. It is also economical, strong and flexible. For example, the windows of our splash guards are made of polyester. In model building it is used for windows, although precision acrylic is actually a better choice for this. Lasered polyester is supplied as standard with protective film on two sides. You can make fairly small details, but pieces that are too thin can warp when cutting. If you fold polyester along a ruler (aka "cold forming") it will stay in position. This means you can easily create 3D shapes. A disadvantage of polyester is that it is relatively soft and therefore sensitive to scratches.

Polystyrene

Thin polystyrene is flexible and soft. It has a matte surface. It is easy to cut by hand and easy to glue. This makes it suitable for model making and model work.

A disadvantage is that it is less strong and stains are difficult to remove.

POM

POM. In a word; Strong. POM is a high-quality plastic and one of our bestsellers. It can be considered flexible, but it is considerably stiffer (less pliable) than, for example, polypropylene. The surface is smooth and feels slightly waxy. With excellent sliding properties and wear resistance, POM is a solution for many mechanical applications. It is a more expensive option than, for example, pp. It is difficult to glue POM (but double-sided adhesive foil works). Cutting with a box cutter is also not possible.

Precision acrylic

Actually, precision acrylic does not fall under the category of films, but it is an excellent choice if you need a super smooth surface, small details and a transparent material. Compared to PETG, you can make much smaller details in precision acrylic. Dating or slots of a millimeter or smaller are perfectly possible. It is crystal clear, UV resistant and comes with protective film on both sides. However, be careful, as acrylic is fragile, especially in small details. It can also scratch easily, so handling with care is required. The thickness tolerance of precision acrylic is better than that of regular acrylic.

Laser board

Finally, we would like to mention a special material: Laserboard. It is a composite material of paper soaked in resin. This makes it water-resistant, strong and flexible. What sets laser board apart from plastics is that it does not deform or melt when heated. This means that you can laser cut even the smallest details (such as hole grids with only a few tenths of a millimeter spacing) in laser board, without it deforming due to heat. The surface has a slightly fibrous structure.

Double-sided adhesive foil

 

 

You can optionally have this foil applied to your laser cutting work to make it self-adhesive. But did you know that you can also have it loosened by laser?

It is a very thin, semi-transparent plastic film with high adhesive strength. You will receive it flat, with a paper protective layer on both sides. This way you can easily apply it to your own products or parts.

 

Perhaps also interesting:

Silicone laser cutting

PE foam laser cutting

Neoprene laser cutting

Laser cutting gasket paper

 

Want to laser cut another foil?

We have a lot of experience with laser cutting foils and in some cases can order specialist foils for you, or you can supply them yourself for laser cutting. In that case, please contact us. A few examples are:

  • 3M foil laser cutting
  • Laser cutting Mylar foil
  • Laser cutting other colors and thicknesses of PP film
  • Laser cutting polycarbonate foil
  • Laser cutting polyamide foil

Do you have any questions or would you like to discuss what the best choice is for your application? Contact us and we will be happy to help you!

 

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