Introduction: Jig for Laser Engraving Thin Material
Laser engraving is a great way to work with a lot of materials, but holding thin materials in place is often a challenge.
I've been working with a thin 3M 7847 laser marking tape, and tried various ways to hold it still while I was engraving it.
What I finally settled on was a simple jig that I made using two very thick 18" straight edges and a piece of thick acrylic.
I use a very light temporary repositionable spray adhesive on the acrylic to hold the tape in place.
I also made a simple template which I engraved onto the jig itself. This means that I can push the jig flush against the edge of the engraver to get consistent positioning of the origin each time.
I made it at Techshop!
Step 1: Material Acquisition
I used two Stanley 24" straight edges with fluid levels. They're about an inch thick, and are straight and level, as expected.
I also used a piece of green acrylic, 24"x10", that I bought at Techshop. I used ~1/4" thick acrylic so that it would be rigid.
Step 2: Assembly
I wasn't sure how well this would work, so I just used what I had on-hand - and it's stayed together and worked well!
I simply used long strips of wide masking tape to attach the rules to the edges of the acrylic. If you start on the outer edges, the straight edges will match the edge of the acrylic quite accurately. I think it's <2mm error on mine.
Step 3: Template Design
The 3M material that I used came on a roll and is 4" wide. So I decided that I wanted to put two strips of it side by side. I made a very simple template, with two rectangles to show me where to attach the tape, and an X in the upper left corner.
I then engraved this onto my piece of acrylic. I made the lines in my template a couple points thick, and used raster engraving - this meant that the laser engraved a ~1mm wide band. If you just use vector cutting, then you'll get a very precise line but it will be hard to see.
I use Illustrator. The alignment marks are on a separate layer in my template with printing turned off.
Step 4: Using the Jig
Read the instructions for your spray mount. Make sure you get the lowest tack spray mount that works! Some of the spray mounts give you instructions about adjusting the drying time before you attach your material to adjust the level of adhesion.
I use the spray / powder coating room at Techshop to spray the adhesive, then I take the jig into the laser room and attach my material to it.
Once I got a low enough tack adhesive, I've found it to be simple and reliable.