Hi. I’m designing some invitations and was wondering about laser cutting heavyweight cotton printmaking paper. I think that it will burn the edges which is fine, but will it burn the back of the paper also? Are there other issues I should be aware of? I was planning to “tear” the paper instead of cutting, which will result in irregular outer edges, is that a problem? I also wondered how much I might expect to pay to get 100, 5 3/4" x 8 3/4" sheets cut with a few initials? Thanks!
You are correct that the laser (since it is burning through the paper) will burn the edges of the paper where it cuts. The color of the burn will depend on the type of paper (there is no way for us to know until we try.)
In particular, we have a section on capabilities and limitations (pololu.com/docs/0J24/4); here are a couple of them that apply to paper cutting:
- The edges of some materials including wood, paper, felt, and cloth, will get charred from the laser. The degree of charring depends on the material. The back side might show more charring or some scorching (the laser bounces off of the metal grill on which the material sits and hits the back of the material, leaving scorch marks). We can mask the material to decrease the charring and scorching on the material surface, but the edges will still be charred. (Most plastics that we cut, including acrylic, PETG, and ABS, do not char.)
- The material sits on a metal grid during cutting. When the laser cuts through the material, it hits the metal grill and bounces back and hits the bottom of the material, causing a small dent or mark. The backs of the parts will usually have small dents along the cut edges of the part wherever the laser, metal grid, and material meet.
Other things to note:
- The back side of the paper might also get dirty from just sitting on the grill, which might have residues from other materials on its surface (we can try putting an extra sheet under the paper, but that can affect the outcome in surprising ways due to air pockets between the two sheets).
- Likewise, we might be able to stack a few sheets at a time to cut, but depending on the paper, you might like the results better when we cut only one sheet at a time.
- Paper can catch fire, so it is always good to send plenty of extra sheets.
Tearing your paper is fine as long as you are not picky about the cuts we make being at a very precise angle and placement relative to the paper edge (if you give us square-edged paper, we could better ensure that each piece has the cuts in about the same spot on each sheet since we can align the paper using the square corners of the cutting table).
The cost for 100 pieces will depend a lot on whether we can stack sheets, the details of how difficult it is to handle the paper, keep it flat, align it in the machine, poke out small pieces, etc. If you have the time and budget, we would highly recommend doing a small sample run before ordering 100 pieces. Our minimum order for plastic parts is $25; the minimum order for paper depends on the design; if you have a laser-ready file (see pololu.com/docs/0J24/5), it sounds like a few samples of your parts (including testing stacking and not stacking sheets) might cost $35-50 depending on the details of what you want to test. Standard turn time is usually 3-5 business days upon receiving material, and we do provide expedited services.
To request a formal estimate, click “request a quote” at pololu.com/catalog/product/749 or email us a file and any specific instructions to “laser at pololu dot com”. Either way, please specify that you need a quote for a sample run as well as a quote for 100 pieces. Also, please let us know if your file is not final, since then we can set up an estimate (which we can supply more quickly than a final quote).
I hope this helps!