Can I Use a CNC Router to Cut Acrylic?

One of the great things about cutting acrylic with a CNC router is that you get a beautifully smooth finish. However, it’s important to remember, that as with many plastics, cutting acrylic requires a little more care that when cutting other substances, such as wood. Here some tips to help you use your CNC router to cut acrylic.

Tooling

Tooling is an important consideration, especially if you want to reduce the chances of your cutting bits failing. The first thing to think about is the diameter of the cutters. Increasing tooling diameter from the usual 1/8” to 1/4” range to 3/8” to 1/2″ can leave you with an improved surface finish and greater consistency from project to project. This will also boost your speed and make chip extraction less problematic.

ProgrammingKeyboard and tools

Getting your cutting parameters just right is crucial for clean cutting with acrylic, particularly when you need a smooth edge finish. Getting your feeds and speeds settings is crucial as they are sensitive to even minor variations. Unlike other materials, acrylic has a very narrow chip load change and this can be used to your advantage. Typically these are the best feed rates for a quality edge finish:

  • 1/8” Diameter Tooling: 75-100 ipm
  • 1/4″ Diameter Tooling: 100-200 ipm
  • 3/8” Diameter Tooling: 125-250 ipm
  • 1/2″ Diameter Tooling: 150-300 ipm

Finally, remember that depths of cut are important to prevent tools from breaking and to keep consistent edge finishes. One way to maintain consistency is to use multiple depths of cut then take a last clean-out pass of .015”. You can avoid movement of small parts by using this method without cutting through the masking paper on the underside of the acrylic. This enables the vacuum to retain a grip on the parts.

At CAMaster, we aim to help you increase your company’s productivity and efficiency using high-quality machinery, hardware and software. Our expert team is committed to sharing our experience with you to help you take your enterprise to the next level. Contact us today to discuss our range of Stinger and Cobra CNC routers for cutting acrylic.