Introduction: Laser Cut Desk Nameplate

In this tutorial, we will be creating a customizable nameplate for your office desk, or as a gift. The nameplate is meant to be fully customizable, so you will learn how to edit its size and text within this toutorial.

For the fabrication part of this tutorial, we will be using a Universal Laser Systems laser cutter, however any laser cutter will do. This instructables assumes you have operators knowledge and access to a laser cutter. For the customization part, we will be using a program called Adobe Illustrator. If you are a student, you can most likely get a free student download from your university. Otherwise, your workshop that has the laser cutter most likely has a license somewhere. If all else fails, you can get a free download for the first month here:

Illustrator is not strictly necessary, however the instructions will be in lllustrator. If you are very familiar with a different 2D design software, feel free to follow along using the analagous software features, as we will mostly be doing basic customizations.

Extract the attached zip file. You will find Solidworks part files for both parts of the nameplate (if you wish to edit dimensions or make more in-depth changes to the model), DXF's of the two parts, and an Illustrator file. The Solidworks files are there for anyone with CAD experience who wishes for more customization options. I will not be covering how to edit the CAD files, however. The DXF's are there for anyone who will be trying to follow along with a different 2D design software other than Illustrator. Go ahead and open both DXF's using your preferred software. For everyone else, open the Illustrator file.

Required tools:

A CNC Laser Cutter


Required materials:

A piece of wood or plastic about 5" x 10"


Step 1: Choosing Your Material

I will be using a piece of scrap acrylic to make a nameplate for the Student Supervisor desk at my workshop. You can get scrap pieces at most plastics dealers (like Tap Plastic) for just a few dollars. If you don't like acrylic, wood works fine too.

The files are set up to accomodate a piece of material ~.25" thick, which is a fairly optimal thickness. Material .125" thick is too filmsy and .375" or higher too bulky. My design is meant to fit acrylic ~.24" in thickness.

Use your calipers to measure the thickness of your material. If your materials is .23" to .25" thick, it will work fine with my design. Any thicker, however, and the supports will not fit into the holes in the front piece. If you can use Solidworks, simply change the hole size to the thickness of your material, resave the model as a DXF, and open the DXF in Illustrator. If you are unfamiliar with Solidworks, I would suggest choosing a different piece as I will not be covering how to use Solidworks due to its high learning curve.

Step 2: Preparing Your File

The Illustrator file (or the DXF's if you are going to follow along in a different progam) are of a blank nameplate. So we will need to add some text! In Illustrator, select the 'T' in the upper left hand command bar (shown in the photo). Click anywhere in the nameplate, and type what you want to be displayed. For example, I can type my name 'Joshua Mouledoux' and select a text size of 72pts to make it bigger. I can also add a subtitle if I want, for example 'Student Supervisor at Jacobs Hall'. To add this, simply select the text tool again and type the subtitle as a separate text string. After you are done typing, select the arror in the top left tool bar. This allows you to select items. Now you can select the text, and reposition it. To do very minute adjustments to the text position, select the text and use the arrow keys to move it around.

After you are satisfied with your text, open the file with your laser software. The easiest way may be to export the file to a .pdf, and open it with your laser's operating software.

Step 3: Laser Cutting the Pieces

As I said earlier, I will have to assume you have access to a laser, and know how to use it. Since each laser varies from the next in terms of both software and hardware, the way I set up my laser to cut this won't necessarily work for you. Once your file is prepared, export it to your laser's software and cut the parts out.

Some reminders: If you are using acrylic, keep the paper backing on. Make sure you tell the laser the correct material type and correct thickness if it is autoleveling and has a materials database. If you have an older laser, make sure to focus it based on the material height and to set the power, speed, and ppi settings correctly for the plywood you are using.

After your cut is done, remove the pieces and head over to a table or somewhere you can assemble them.

Step 4: Assembling the Pieces

First, go ahead and peel off the paper backing. Note the scorch marks on the paper. Without the backing, those scorch marks would be burned into your acrylic, ruining the piece. But thanks to the paper, the acrylic looks pristine.

After the paper has been peeled off, insert the 2 side pieces into their holes on the front panel. They should click into place nicely, without having to be forced too hard. If they are not fitting, it probably means that the material you used was too thick. In that case, try going in to illustrator and scaling the entire file up by 5%. If you know how to use Solidworks, a better fix would be to change increase the dimension for the width of the holes on the front piece.

It should fit together great though for any material with a thickness between .23" and .25". My acrylic was around .24" and its snapped together like a charm.

Enjoy your new nameplate!


Th3rdsun (author)2017-07-21

I've made quite a few desk nameplates and I never thought about making the tabs one the legs that way. I'll have to try it like that next time. looks like it would make fitment easier.

One thing I personally do though is to engrave reverse,second surface so that you are looking though the acrylic to read the name. I just like the way that looks better.

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