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CNC Machining Guidelines for Acrylic

CNC Machining Guidelines for Acrylic

Table of Content

What is CNC Acrylic?

One of the transparent plastics that CNC systems most frequently employ is acrylic. It is also known as Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). Acrylic is ideal for a wide range of applications because of its improved characteristics. The greatest level of accuracy and surface quality are required for each of these applications. The procedure for creating acrylic materials uses CNC acrylic machining. For acrylics, which are a tough and durable material, CNC machining is invariably the best option. When it comes to obtaining the precise sizes or forms of materials, CNC machining has several benefits. In other words, the output you receive matches the input specifications you gave the acrylic CNC machine. With this method, there is little acrylic waste and a high level of precision.

Considerations when CNC machining acrylic

Although acrylic is a practical and adaptable material, it frequently fails when put to compressive and tensile stresses. This indicates that care must be used while cutting the necessary shapes and cavities from an acrylic panel.

However, this work is significantly made easier by the digital accuracy of CNC machining. Additionally, it significantly speeds up acrylic machining, and the input parameters may be adjusted to meet a variety of requirements. The following are some important factors that facilitate the best outcomes in acrylic CNC machining:

Select the proper cutter.

CNC machine edges must be robust and razor-sharp in order to cut acrylic. This will assist in preventing the melting of acrylic, which has a detrimental impact on look and functioning. Avoid using cutters that have previously been used on metal when CNC milling acrylic since they may have cuts or jagged edges. Poor surface finishes can also be avoided using smooth, sharp cutting blades.

Another key factor is the cutter’s material. For instance, high-speed steel may cut acrylic, but it produces a poor surface quality. Although they are highly costly, diamond cutters will produce a better surface polish. When cutting acrylic with a CNC, carbide is frequently the material of choice. Cutting edge rake angles of 5 degrees and clearance angles of 2 degrees are also advised for CNC machining acrylic.


Utilize the proper bits and ramps.

Select the proper material to make sure your drill bit can efficiently drill holes in acrylic. A lot of producers employ O-Flute End Mill Bits that are especially made for cutting and drilling acrylic, which are made of carbide, which is a terrific material for acrylic drilling.  Additionally, keep your bits sharp; dull bits don’t provide crisp edges and may even lead to tension and crazing cracking.

Use a ramp with your bit when CNC-machining acrylic for optimum results. Plunge down using a smooth ramp to avoid a drill bit from harming the acrylic. In addition to producing a smooth finish, this will assist prevent damage.

Keep track of the cutting depth and direction.

The tool’s orientation is just as important when cutting acrylic with a CNC machine as the depth of the cut. To maintain accuracy in your design features, make sure you are aware of the direction your CNC cutter is spinning or turning, such as clockwise vs counterclockwise.

Set the appropriate feed rate and speed.

Choosing the right feed rate is crucial when using a CNC machine. Acrylic won’t melt if the feed rate is increased. However, if the feed rate is too high, the severe cutting pressure may cause an acrylic component to break. Fast feed rate rates can also cause defects on the part or remove components from the workholding. Similar to sluggish feed rates, rough, unfinished surfaces can be produced on components that are incorrect. The ideal feed rate for your project will depend on the kind of acrylic material you use and the shape of the part.

selecting the appropriate acrylic material

For cutting tools, carbide is unquestionably the best material. Despite the fact that high speed steel can cut acrylic, it typically doesn’t provide a smooth surface. Diamond-coated cutters are used in certain shops however, they are often more appropriate for projects requiring high production levels. Since diamonds are expensive, most job shops are content to use simple carbide.

Coatings and finishes for cutters.

The most useful carbide endmills for acrylic are often those without a coating. This is due to the fact that coatings frequently leave a somewhat rounded cutting edge, which reduces the tool’s sharpness.

A cutting edge that is slightly rounded is advantageous in tougher materials like steel because it strengthens the edge and reduces the likelihood of chipping. However, because polymers like acrylic are made of soft material, the cutting edge doesn’t have to work as hard. Edge sharpness is substantially more crucial in order to decrease heat and avoid friction.

In general, a poly-crystalline diamond, or PCD, coating is the only type of coating that will typically make sense. Since the cutting edge is less likely to wear than carbide, this can increase tool life for high-production items. The fact that acrylic isn’t an abrasive material, however, means that uncoated carbide will often be a decent starting point for the majority of operations.

Consider a polished endmill if you truly want something that will operate nicely. The tool’s surface polish will be so flawless that the chips will easily slide over the flute face, enhancing the appearance of your machined finish.


The workholding requirements for acrylic are the same as those for plastic and metal, respectively.

Using jigs and vises for smaller pieces or an adhesive to secure the entire item to the table for bigger parts, the material must be tightly clamped in all places. If finances allow, a vacuum table is best for cutting acrylic since it can clamp and unclamp the material safely and effectively.

Type of CNC Software

Depending on the application, different types of CNC acrylic machines employ different types of software.

And the purpose of software in this application is to aid in ensuring efficiency in terms of product or item optimization, accuracy, and precision.

Types of CNC Acrylic Processes

Before you ever decide to put CNC acrylic into practice, you need have a deeper grasp of the subject. This essentially implies that you’ll always want to identify the greatest approach that works for the specific application. And among them are the following:

CNC Acrylic Drilling

The machining method mentioned here creates cylindrical holes in the acrylic material using multi-point drill bits. In this specific option, the CNC machine feeds the spinning drill bit perpendicular to the acrylic sheet’s surface. As a result, you get holes that are vertically aligned and have diameters that match the drill bit you used to drill the hole.

Additionally, you have the option to employ angular drilling operations with the aid of appropriate machine setups and work holding apparatus. Reaming, tapping, countersinking, and counterboring are some of the operating capabilities of CNC acrylic drilling.

CNC Acrylic Turning

This method describes a machining procedure that removes material from a revolving acrylic workpiece using rotating single point cutting tools. In this machining method, the CNC machine tends to feed the cutting tool in a fairly linear motion across the surface of the revolving acrylic workpiece. The material around the perimeter is then taken out until the required diameter is reached.

Grooving, thread cutting, facing, and boring are some of the operating capabilities of CNC acrylic turning.

CNC Acrylic Milling

This is a description of the machining process for acrylic, which involves removing material from the sheet using spinning multi-point cutting tools. By default, the machine in this case feeds the workpiece to the cutting tool in the same direction as the cutting tool is rotating. Deep cutting, shallow cutting, and peripheral milling, among others, are some of the operating capabilities of CNC acrylic milling.

CNC Acrylic Engraving

The technique of putting a design, emblem, piece of art, or marker to an acrylic object is known as CNC acrylic engraving. The automated machinery can swiftly and precisely engrave something, so it will seem the same every time.

CNC Acrylic Cutting

In this type of machining, an acrylic workpiece is cut by placing the cutting tool in close proximity to the acrylic substance being worked on. Both the operation itself and the route in CNC acrylic cutting are handled manually by computer programs. So, CNC acrylic cutting atomizes portable electronics

The CNC control equipment is provided the command for CNC acrylic cutting, and the specified program causes the CNC control equipment to automatically cut the acrylic.

The Pros of CNC Acrylic

  • Reduces the cost of manufacturing – Accuracy is achieved through CNC machines. Therefore, they contribute to a reduction in waste, which benefits you as the operator by decreasing losses. In the end, it boosts productivity, which significantly affects both your profitability and efficiency.
  • Increases Production Rate – It usually reduces the number of steps needed to make a certain element out of this material. As a result, you may manufacture a greater number of goods or components faster than you could with traditional manufacturing procedures.
  • Produces accurate stable replication in each acrylic workpiece – Stability is a property of a validated computer program. Since the accuracy of the step-motors determines how precisely the tool moves, you see, the movement is often the same.
  • Increases process automation – Making acrylic material with this technology is essential since it lets you automate all the steps. As a result, as an operator, all you’ll need to do is make sure you know how to combine the different controls.
  • Safety and efficiency are improved – The whole CNC machining process is fully automated. Given that all of the functions are carried out by the machine without the need for an operator, this promotes a considerably safer atmosphere.

The Cons of CNC Acrylic

  • Needs in-depth knowledge – Since running this machine is a tech-based operation, all that is required is that you are aware of a number of related factors. Because it transmits the operator’s orders, you must understand how it works in order to achieve the greatest outcomes. Occasionally, this can be challenging, especially if the machines are a little complex.
  • Relatively Expensive – To achieve the optimum outcomes, you must mix quite a few of the variables involved. It becomes somehow expensive in that regard.
  • Prone to Errors – Another drawback of this method is that it does not completely eliminate the possibility of mistakes occurring while molding acrylic sheet. You see, as the operator, you may frequently unintentionally hit the incorrect button. As a consequence, you will surely obtain different outcomes, which might make it difficult to correct the error after it has been made.

Applications of CNC Acrylic

There are various industrial applications for machined acrylic, but the optical and automotive sectors employ it most frequently.

Glass substitute

In aquariums, submarines, and ice hockey rinks, acrylic is commonly utilized as a glass substitute for window-type structures. Additionally, in the automobile sector, it may be utilized to create illumination components like headlights. But in order to work at their best, lights used in automotive and optical applications frequently take on complicated designs.

Furthermore, PMMA’s optical characteristics make it appropriate for uses such as eyeglass lenses and (less frequently used in modern times) non-disposable contact lenses.

Consumer goods

Some LCD televisions and several types of media, including CDs and DVDs, contain PMMA. Being typically simpler to work with than glass, it is also frequently utilized for modern sculptures and artwork.

Medical and dental

Acrylic may be utilized for many medical procedures because of its high biocompatibility, including cosmetic surgery where it can be used as an under-skin filler.  In addition, acrylic has a variety of uses in dentistry, including dentures and as a bone cement in orthopedic surgery.

At CNC Milling China, we use the most recent CNC machining technology to cut acrylic. We can also advise you on the best sort of acrylic to use and propose CNC machining processes to improve the uniformity and integrity of your item. To learn more, please contact us immediately.

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