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Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.

Posted by Yvan256 
Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 28, 2010 02:39PM
Hello everyone,

I've been reading about all those RepRap projects and I was wondering if it would be possible to do a simple XY table with a laser cutter to cut packaging designs.

I have a die-cutting machine, an Accucut GrandeMARK, that can cut parts about 38x46 cm (15x18 inches) in size. But steel rule dies aren't cheap and I'd like to be able to make precise laser-cut prototypes to try things out before having dies made.

My biggest packaging box requires about 60x80 cm before folding, so if possible a 60x80 cm working area for the laser-cutting table would be really helpful.

I realize that people usually build much smaller cutting tables, however I don't really require much precision as long as there's not too much variance between the starting and ending points. This is for cutting corrugated cardboard for packaging prototypes, not cutting traces on a PCB. If I can get 1mm precision without much play in the positioning itself (i.e. the cutter can hit points on a 1mm grid repeatably) then it's good enough in my opinion. I'm sure there's a word or expression for that "play/variance" concept, I just don't know it yet.

Before doing all that, however, I'd appreciate it if those who have lasers could try to do corrugated cardboard cuts (even if only a straight line) on semi-gloss white "E flute" material to see if it's even worth going ahead with this whole idea.
Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 28, 2010 04:24PM
@Yvan256: I don't have corrugated cardboard semi-gloss white "E flute" to try!

I don't even know what "E flute" should be confused smiley
Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 28, 2010 04:43PM
I guess a link to the thicknesses would have helped, sorry about that.

Semi-gloss means it's not matte but not as glossy as, say, a cereals or cookies box (at least the cereals and cookies boxes I've seen in Canada).

I'd rather have the tests done on "semi-gloss, white, E Flute" corrugated boards since that's the only type I have in stock for my die-cutting machine. I would prefer to be able to make the prototypes without having to keep another kind in stock, such as plain, matte, beige/brown E flute.
@Yvan256, I've been using a laser cutter to prototype cardboard boxes before making a die, just as you mentioned in your first post. I've been using single-ply brown e-flute cardboard. The main difficulty is in cutting the creases in such a way as to ensure clean and easy folding.

In my first test I implemented the seams by cutting a series of tiny holes along the line of the fold, perforating it. The density of the holes was about 1 per mm and they were as small in diameter as possible. The resulting box folded with difficulty.

For my next test I am going to try cutting dashes along the fold line. I will also try combining this with a light surface cut that does not penetrate all of the cardboard.

Are you still working on this project? Have you made any progress?

Finally, could you recommend any suppliers for single e-flute kraft white cardboard, at least 14x20?

Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
March 14, 2011 03:42PM
In my experience, at least with steel rules dies, you should try 1/8" dashes (1/8" cut, 1/8" non-cut, repeat). It should result in easy-to-fold but still sturdy edges that won't tear apart too easily.

As for a source for the cardboard itself, it depends where you're located. I'm in Quebec, Canada, but most places that can manufacture boxes should be able to supply you with leftover white e-flute cardboard.
Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 14, 2012 05:56AM
What size parts do you need to cut? How many do you need to cut? It may be in your best interest to outsource the project if you only need a few thousand pieces or less, because you're going to need to invest at minimum $6-8k plus the nitrogen system. You'll need the nitrogen to prevent the cardboard from igniting.

Laser Cutting
Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 14, 2012 10:25AM
Given that a single die is only a few dozen to a few hundreds dollars, I guess investing in parts to build a laser cutter powerful enough for the task doesn't make sense. I'm curious about what a "Bluray laser diode hack" cutter would be able to do, however.
Re: Cutting corrugated cardboard with a laser? Please help.
August 14, 2012 10:36AM
... with a 'BluRay"-laserdiode with 200mW @405nm you can cut paper and thin sheets of plastics when moving slow enough - for 'serious' cutting you'll need much more power.

But they're much more interesting for SLA-type 3D-printer applications with UV-sensitive resins winking smiley

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