Is it possible to laser cut paper without burning?
by Scott Vogel, Paper Production Director, lasercuttingshapes
I’ve heard many people in the paper industry say they have had mixed results in the past with laser cutting on paper. In turn, their experiences might have put a “bad taste” in their mouths and caused some to avoid the process all together. This is unfortunate as laser cutting technology and methods have improved so much in the last ten years. It is true however that there are many variables that come into play for high end paper projects that can be very demanding on the makers within the industry. These variables usually come from concepts from a designer or planner that might not be familiar with all manufacturing methods and limitations; as well as from the paper manufacturers coming up with new paper formulas.
This makes it difficult on the project managers to find a good resource solution to provide quality laser cut paper products that will meet their clients’ needs. In the laser cutting industry, there are many different specialized vendor options to choose from and not all are capable of cutting paper well. Some laser cutters approached with a paper job will try to take it on using a laser system that was never intended to cut paper. This results in a burnt looking article that would be immediately rejected by the client. This is usually one of the major causes when seeing overly burnt laser cuts in paper and is why the industry had a bad reputation in the past. It takes a very experienced laser cutter that is familiar with the paper industry and client variables to anticipate possible issues so they can achieve the desired aesthetic from the artist. For that reason, not all laser cutting businesses are appropriate for this type of work.
Another impacting variable would be the paper stock itself. Now it’s true that some papers will not perform well with laser cutting even if using the proper machine. They are just not formulated to withstand the thermal environment that happens during the laser cutting process and will not provide a clean look no matter what is done. This variable means that it is recommended to run “testing” on any given stock to confirm that it will cut cleanly especially before going to print. Most papers however, will provide very good results using the proper laser being run by a skilled operator.
A third even more unpredictable variable would be the art and file setup provided by the client. In my experience, most designers are not taught the specialized techniques used when creating or setting up a file for laser cutting. Many times the design could have areas that are too small, too sparse or that are not structurally sound resulting in an unstable design. Trying to cut a file like this could result in a huge fireball on the laser. This is why it is smart to find a laser cutting company that is also skilled at file creation and setup for laser cutting paper before diving into a job.
In conclusion, achieving clean results laser cutting on paper can be tricky but very rewarding if handled by a skilled team that can anticipate and navigate the many variables inherent today in the high end designer paper world. There is nothing more amazing than an intricate, clean laser cut paper design to give that “next level” status to a project.
For questions about laser cutting paper contact Scott Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org.