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ResourcesSheetPolyimide Laser Engraving and Cutting (Extruded and Cast)
Laser cutting machine. Image Credit: Shutterstock.com/Denys90

Polyimide Laser Engraving and Cutting (Extruded and Cast)

An overview of how to laser cut with polyimide.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
January 13, 2023
 13 min read
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Polyimide cutting is a process that uses a laser to cut and engrave material. A laser cutter is a type of machine that uses a focused beam of light to cut and engrave materials. The best laser for cutting polyimide is a CO2 laser. The power of the laser required to cut polyimide will depend on the thickness of the material. For example, a CO2 laser with a power of 30 watts will be able to cut through a thickness of 25 µm. The optimal settings for cutting polyimide will also depend on the type of laser being used. For example, a power of 30 watts and a speed of 100% are the optimal settings for cutting polyimide with a CO2 laser. Also, take into account the focal length of the laser when cutting polyimide. 

When cutting polyimide, it is important to use the correct type of lens. The lens should have a low focus depth to minimize the amount of material that is heated by the laser. The best way to determine the optimal settings for cutting polyimide is to experiment with different settings and see what works best for your specific material. Kapton® is a type of polyimide that is commonly used in laser cutting and engraving. It is also a good example of a polyimide film that can be used for laser cutting and engraving. Kapton® has a low melting point and is used in a variety of applications in which high-temperature resistance, chemical resistance, and electrical insulation are required. In this article, we will discuss how to laser cut and engrave extruded polyimide, cast polyimide, and more.

How To Laser Cut and Engrave Extruded Polyimide

Laser cutting and engraving extruded polyimide is a popular way to create precision parts and products. Extruded polyimide is a versatile material that can be laser-cut and engraved to create a variety of shapes and sizes. Below are the steps required to laser cut and engrave extruded polyimide:

  1. Select the appropriate laser cutting and engraving settings. 
  2. Position the extruded polyimide on the cutting bed. 
  3. Begin laser cutting and engraving according to the desired settings. 
  4. Remove the finished product from the cutting bed.

How To Laser Cut and Engrave Cast Polyimide

Despite its many advantages, cast polyimide can be difficult to work with using traditional methods such as machining or stamping. However, laser cutting and engraving are ideal solutions for processing this material. The steps below outline the best practices for laser cutting and engraving cast polyimide:

  1. Prepare the Material for Laser Processing: Cast polyimide is sensitive to scratches and other surface imperfections. To ensure optimal results, it is important to start with a clean, smooth surface. Any dirt or debris on the material will cause the laser beam to scatter, resulting in poor-quality cuts or engraving.
  2. Select the Appropriate Laser Settings: The ideal laser settings will vary depending on the specific application and the type of cast polyimide being used. In general, a low-power setting is recommended to avoid burning or melting the material.
  3. Adjust the Focus of the Laser Beam: The focus of the laser beam plays a critical role in the quality of the cut or engraving. For best results, the focus should be adjusted so that the beam is slightly defocused (i.e., blurry). This will help to prevent the burning or melting of the material.
  4. Perform a Test Cut or Engraving: Before starting the actual project, it is always a good idea to perform a test on a small piece of scrap material. This will allow you to fine-tune the laser settings and ensure you are getting the results you desire.
  5. Begin Cutting or Engraving: Once you are happy with the test cut or engraving, you can begin the actual project. For best results, it is important to work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the material.
  6. Finish Up: After the cutting or engraving is complete, it is important to remove any debris from the surface of the cast polyimide. Use a soft brush to remove any loose particles, or a lint-free cloth to wipe away any residual dust.

What Are the Differences Between General Part and Presentation Part Cutting for Polyimide?

The terms “general part” and “presentation part” are used to describe the internal and external structure of the material. General parts are parts that don't require a cosmetic finish, and aesthetics aren't very important in sections such as the internal parts. For polyimide, routine care is necessary to achieve the correct dimensions and specifications. On the other hand, presentation parts are parts that have polished edges for presentation purposes such as the external or exposed parts. In this case, use lower power settings and ensure all parts are free of debris or dirt before laser cutting.

What Is the Best Speed for Polyimide with Presentation Parts?

Laser cutting polyimide can be done at a range of speeds, with the optimum speed depending on the type of laser used and the type of polyimide. The effect of speed while laser cutting polyimide is that it can affect the quality of the cut, with a higher speed resulting in a faster cutting but shallower cut. The reason for this is that too much speed prevents the part from being properly exposed to energy. On the contrary, lower speed results in a slower cutting but deeper cut. The best way to determine the optimum speed for laser cutting polyimide is to experiment with different speeds and different types of polyimide to see what gives the best results. When it comes to speed, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the optimum speed will vary depending on the laser used and the type of polyimide.

What Is the Best Power Setting to Use for Polyimide with General Parts?

When it comes to laser cutting polyimide, the best power setting to use is in the range of 20–40 watts. This range of power will provide the best results in terms of cutting speed and quality. Too much power will cause the material to char and discolor. Too little power, on the other hand, will result in a slower cutting speed and a poorer quality cut. The optimum speed for laser cutting polyimide will vary depending on the type of laser used. For example, CO2 lasers will typically operate at a higher speed than fiber lasers. Additionally, the type of polyimide being cut will also affect the optimum cutting speed. For instance, polyimide films will typically require a higher cutting speed than polyimide tapes. 

What Is the Best Setting for Laser Cutting Polyimide?

The best settings for laser cutting polyimide are those that create a clean, smooth cut with minimal charring or burning. When setting up your laser cutter, it is important to consider the power of the laser, the speed at which it moves, and the focus of the beam:

  1. Power: The power of the laser is important in determining the quality of the cut. A higher-powered laser will be able to cut through thicker materials. 
  2. Speed: The speed at which the laser moves is also important in determining the quality of the cut. A faster speed will result in a cleaner cut, but may also cause more charring. 
  3. Focus of the Laser Beam: A more focused beam will result in a cleaner cut, but may also cause more charring. These are the three main settings to consider when setting up a laser cutter for cutting polyimide. By considering these factors, you can ensure that you get the best possible results.

What Are the Common Mistakes Made When Laser Cutting Polyimide?

The wrong settings can easily damage the material. A well-designed part is also crucial for a successful cut. Those who don't have a good understanding of the laser-cutting process are more likely to make mistakes. Some common mistakes made when polyimide cutting with laser are:

  1. Not accounting for the material's properties.
  2. Not using the proper cutting settings.
  3. Not having a well-designed part.
  4. Not having a good understanding of the laser-cutting process.
  5. Not knowing how to properly handle and store polyimide.

What Are the Best Tips for Beginners When Laser Engraving Polyimide?

When starting with laser engraving polyimide, there are a few key tips to keep in mind to get the best results. 

  1. It is important to use a low-power setting when engraving, as polyimide can be easily burned or melted at higher settings. 
  2. Use a slow-speed setting to avoid burning the material. 
  3. A smaller focused beam will also help to avoid burning the polyimide. 
  4. Use multiple passes at lower settings if necessary to avoid damaging the material.
  5. Keep the area enclosed and well-ventilated to avoid fumes.
  6. Use a coolant or lubricant when engraving to help prevent burning.

What Is the Best Laser Cutter for Polyimide?

The best laser cutter for polyimide is the CO2 laser cutter. Polyimide is a material that is used in many industries because of its unique properties. It is one of the few materials that can withstand high temperatures and has a very low coefficient of friction. This property makes it ideal for use in many applications such as bearings, gaskets, and electrical insulation. CO2 laser cutters can cut polyimide with great precision and accuracy. They are also very versatile and can be used to cut a variety of other materials. There are three main types of laser cutters that can be used to cut polyimide: CO2, fiber, and ultraviolet (UV) laser cutters.

How Does the Thickness of a Polyimide Sheet Affect the Power Requirements of a Laser Cutter?

The thickness of a polyimide sheet can greatly affect the power requirements of a laser cutter. If the sheet is thick, it may require more power to cut through it. Additionally, the thickness of the sheet can affect the aesthetics of the finished product, as well as the duration of the laser-cutting process. This is because thicker sheets will take longer to cut through and may produce less-precise results.

What Are the Polyimide Projects for Laser Cutting?

Polyimide projects for laser cutting include:

  1. Prototyping and custom parts for electronics
  2. Mechanical parts and assemblies
  3. Optical fibers
  4. Medical devices and implants
  5. Jewelry and other personal accessories
  6. Art and sculpture
  7. Signage and branding
  8. Packaging and product display

What Are the Alternatives to Polyimide for Laser Cutting?

There are several good alternatives to polyimide for laser cutting, depending on the application. Some of them include but are not limited to:

  1. Kevlar®: Aramid fiber, known by the brand name Kevlar®, is often used in bulletproof vests and other applications in which high strength and low weight are required. It has good resistance to heat and abrasion, making it a good choice for laser cutting.
  2. PEEK: Polyetheretherketone is another high-performance polymer that has good heat resistance and mechanical strength. It is often used in medical implants and other applications in which biocompatibility is important.
  3. Ultem®: Polyetherimide is another common alternative to polyimide. It has good heat resistance and stiffness, making it suitable for a variety of applications.

Is Nylon the Same as Polyimide?

No, nylon is not the same as polyimide. Nylon is a synthetic thermoplastic polymer, while polyimide is a synthetic aromatic polymer. They differ in terms of both chemical structure and properties. Nylon is strong, durable, and has a high melting point, while polyimide is resistant to high temperatures and has excellent electrical insulation properties.

What Is the Difference Between Delrin® and Polyimide in Laser Cutting?

Delrin® is a homopolymer acetal while polyimide is a synthetic thermosetting polymeric material. Both materials have excellent resistance to abrasion and chemicals. They also have good dimensional stability and low moisture absorption. Laser cutting of these materials is possible, but there are some differences that should be considered:

  1. Delrin® has a lower melting point than polyimide, which means that it can be cut more easily with a laser.
  2. Delrin® is less likely to char or discolor when cut with a laser, while polyimide may discolor slightly.
  3. Delrin® has a higher thermal conductivity than polyimide, which means that heat generated by the laser will be conducted away from the cut surface more quickly.

What Is the Difference Between Polyimide Cutting and Polyamide Cutting?

Polyimide and polyamide are both plastics used in a variety of applications, but they have different properties that make them suitable for different tasks:

  1. Polyimide has a higher heat resistance than polyamide, making it the better choice for applications in which the material will be exposed to high temperatures.
  2. Polyamide is more durable than polyimide, meaning it can withstand more wear and tear. This property makes it a good choice for applications in which the material will see a lot of use.
  3. Polyimide is more resistant to chemicals than polyamide. This means it can be used in applications in which the material will come into contact with harsh chemicals. While polyamide can also resist some chemicals, it is not as resistant as polyimide.

What Is the Difference Between Kapton® and Polyimide?

Though these two words are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between Kapton® and polyimide. Polyimide is the generic name for this class of materials, while Kapton® is a registered trademark of DuPont. In other words, Kapton® is a brand name for polyimide. Kapton® polyimide film was made by DuPont and was the first polyimide film commercially available.

Summary

This article presented laser engraving and cutting polyimide, explained what it is, and discussed the different settings and uses cases for it. To learn more about laser cutting with polyimide contact a Xometry representative.

Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including sheet cutting and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

  1. DuPont™, Kevlar®, and Kapton® are trademarks or registered trademarks of the DuPont de Nemours Company.
  2. Delrin® is a trademark of DuPont Polymers, Inc.
  3. Ultem® is a registered trademark of SABIC Innovative Plastics IP BV (formerly GE Plastics).

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Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.