A simple laser cut cuff bracelet in acrylic - the shape is cut out using a laser cutter, and then heated and moulded round a round or oval shaped object. Different effects can be obtained using different types of acrylic and different cutting patterns.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- Small piece of acrylic sheet (e.g. Perspex, Plexiglass). "Duo" works well as it has 2 layers - you can engrave through the top layer to give a 2 colour effect. I got mine from Kitronik (https://www.kitronik.co.uk/catalogsearch/result/?q=duo). Clear and frosted acrylic also work well.
- Measuring tape
- Computer with 2D vector graphics software such as Inkscape
- Laser cutter
- Oven gloves
- Baking sheet and baking parchment
- Something to mould your bracelet round, with circumference just a bit larger than your wrist. I 3D-printed an oval-shaped cylinder, but you could use a small can (Bud bottle works well for larger wrist sizes)
Step 2: Work Out Size of Material to Cut
Measure the circumference of the mould, leaving a gap to get your wrist through. As acrylic can be brittle, it's good to make this gap as big as possible (without the bracelet falling off), so that you don't have to bend the bracelet to get it on and off.
Decide on the depth of the bracelet. Don't make it too thick or you won't easily be able to bend your wrist.
My bracelets were approx. 165mm length and various widths.
Step 3: Create a Design, Using a Vector Graphics Program Such As Inkscape
Use your vector graphics program to create a pattern to be cut out by the laser cutter.
In this case, I've used three colours:
- Green lines show areas to be engraved
- Blue lines show lines to be engraved
- Red lines to be cut
I found the Path - Outset function was good for creating a cutting line around a design element, and Extensions - Generate from Path - Interpolate is useful for spacing out a number of identical elements (e.g. flowers).
The more material you cut out, and the more acute angles you use, the more fragile the finished bracelet will be, so it's best to use engraving for fine detail.
It's worth saving your design in the vector graphics program's native format (.svg format for Inkscape), so that you can go back to it and change dimensions later if necessary.
Save your design in the format required by the laser cutter (e.g. .dxf).
Step 4: Cut Out Your Bracelets
Using the laser cutter, cut the acrylic into bracelet shapes. You may need to sand down any rough edges.
Step 5: Heat the Bracelets
Put the bracelets on a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray and heat very slowly in the oven until they become soft and rubbery. I found that this was about Gas Mark 4 (180C/350F), but as ovens differ, some experimentation may be necessary. Use a designated craft oven or check that no noxious gases will be emitted.
Step 6: Mould the Bracelets Round the Mould
Take the bracelets out of the oven one by one, and bend them around the mould. Hold in place while they cool slightly (about 5 minutes), then remove from the mould.
If you don't get the correct shape first time, you can always put the bracelet back in the oven until it softens again.
Note: In this case, I moulded the bracelets round the inside of the mould. It's probably best to mould it round the outside, as it's difficult to manipulate the acrylic in a small space while wearing oven gloves (and v. hot if you don't).
Step 7: Some Examples
Here's some examples using Duo, and clear and frosted acrylic (the photos also show the mould and a partially bent piece of acrylic).
Laser printed at Maker Night, DoES Liverpool (doesliverpool.com)
Some photos (the better ones) by Lee at Leigh Hackspace (http://www.leighhack.org/).