Acrylic is manufactured in two different methods, cast (GS) or extruded (XT), and each type will offer its own set of unique properties. Cast and extruded acrylic adapts very well to laser technology and both are an ideal material for laser processing. It is beneficial to have a good understanding of the differences when selecting the right acrylic for your application, because each type will behave differently to laser processing.
Cast acrylic (GS)
Cast acrylic is created by pouring a liquid mass between two glass plates, resulting in a homogeneous, tension-free material with equal mechanical properties in directions x & y. This manufacturing process causes the thickness tolerance to be significantly higher and is approximately ±15%, which must be accounted for with applications that have plug connections. The production process for cast acrylic is more costly than extruded acrylic, therefore, it will typically be more expensive.
Laser cutting cast acrylic produces burr-free cuts on either sides, and laser engraving will offer better processing results than extruded acrylic - a perfectly white engraved image results. All of our ETC Montessori template line is constructed from cast acrylic giving you the clarity needed for in-classroom use.
Extruded acrylic (XT)
Extruded acrylic is manufactured through an extrusion process that pushes an acrylic mass through a nozzle resulting in the desired thickness. This production method creates different mechanical properties in the x and y directions for extruded acrylic, and it offers a lower thickness tolerance of ±5% making it well suited for applications with plug connectors. When laser cutting extruded acrylic, flame polished edges will be created that are typically less sharp on one side. As far as cost, extruded acrylic is cheaper to produce than cast acrylic and is therefore cheaper as a series production.
In general, extruded acrylic requires less laser power to process than cast acrylic with the same overall thickness. Additionally, laser engraving extruded acrylic results in a gray matte appearance and is therefore not the materials we use for our template and curriculum items. Extruded acrylic is used for our silent e products and anything that doesn't require engraving, or embossing.