If you’ve chosen to use acrylic for your 3D printing endeavors, you’ll probably find yourself in a position where you need to cut a sheet of this thermoplastic material into smaller pieces.
When it comes to cutting acrylic, you have several options. In fact, there are 5 main methods of cutting acrylic, each one involving a different tool or utensil.
Each method of cutting acrylic has its own advantages and drawbacks, and you may find that one technique is more suitable for your needs than another.
That’s why we’ve created this short guide to cutting acrylic, where we’ll be answering the question ‘what can I use to cut acrylic?’ as well as other pressing queries on the subject.
Without further ado, let’s get into the 5 different tools you can use to cut acrylic!
5 Methods of Cutting Acrylic
Many of us have a hand saw laying around in the garage. If this is your situation, you can always dig out that hand saw (provided that it’s still in good condition) and use it to cut your acrylic sheets.
However, while a hand saw might be the most easily accessible method of cutting acrylic for many people, it’s definitely not the easiest or the most efficient.
If you’re going to use a hand saw to cut acrylic, you will need to ensure that the teeth are straight and uniform (so as not to create jagged edges) and that you take extra care to cut in neat, symmetrical lines.
Probably the most widely recommended method of cutting acrylic is using a jigsaw. Admittedly, not everybody has a jigsaw ready to use at home, but it’s also not an uncommon tool for those who are involved in crafts and construction projects to own.
A jigsaw will probably help you to cut in straighter, smoother lines than a hand saw will allow, if that’s your intended purpose.
On the other hand, the jigsaw is also the best choice of cutting tool if you want to cut your acrylic into more curved shapes. This is because the handheld nature of the jigsaw combined with the versatile and more flexible nature of the blade allows for all types of lines to be followed.
If you have a 3D printing project that requires your acrylic to be cut into various different shapes, the jigsaw is absolutely the tool for you.
If you don’t trust a standard hand saw with a task as precise as cutting acrylic but don’t have the budget to invest in mechanized cutting tools, you always have the option of using a scoring knife.
For those who aren’t familiar with different crafting blades, a scoring knife is a small, handheld knife designed to cut deep grooves in sheets of certain materials.
The blade of a scoring knife is usually made of a hard metal such as tungsten carbide. This blade is not actually designed to cut all the way through your chosen material, but to make a deep enough groove that bending the sheet will separate the pieces cleanly.
Cutting acrylic using a scoring knife is fairly straightforward. Assuming you want to cut in straight lines, you’ll probably need to use a ruler to mark out the area you’ll be cutting. You might also need to clamp the sheet in place, but otherwise, it’s just a question of following the line(s) to create a groove and bending the sheet to complete the cut.
However, a scoring knife isn’t the best tool to use if you’re working with an especially thick sheet of acrylic because you may not be able to create a deep enough groove.
Another tool you could use to cut acrylic is a band saw.
If you’re using a thick sheet of acrylic (making a scoring knife ineffective) and want to cut in curved, less uniform lines, a band saw is probably the best option for you.
We would recommend using a band saw if your acrylic is more than 0.5 inches thick. Anything thinner runs the risk of chipping or melting if you use the wrong blade or feed rate.
Finally, if you have the budget and technology at your disposal, there’s always the option of cutting your acrylic using a laser.
Laser cutters are fairly expensive pieces of equipment, but they take a lot of the time and manual labor out of cutting acrylic. All you need to do is connect your laser cutter to your computer and let it follow the pattern, just like a printer.
It’s a good idea to use a laser cutter if you need to cut your acrylic into very small or intricate shapes that might be too complicated for a saw or knife.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you Cut Acrylic with a Utility Knife?
Yes, you can cut acrylic with a utility knife, but you run a greater risk of cracking the acrylic than with a scoring knife because the latter is designed specifically for the purpose of scoring.
Is Acrylic Easy to Cut?
Acrylic is not a particularly difficult material to cut, but it comes with its own complexities.
The problem with acrylic is that it’s easy to chip or cut unevenly, which can create serious problems at later stages of your project, so you need to take extra care to make sure that your lines are precise.
How do you Cut Acrylic Without Cracking?
There are many ways to reduce the potential for cracking when cutting acrylic.
Firstly, don’t take off any plastic film that comes on the acrylic. This prevents scratches, which can turn into cracks.
You’ll also want to make sure that whatever blade you’re using doesn’t get too hot since this can melt the acrylic and increase its likelihood of cracking.
Apart from that, it all comes down to using the right tool and technique for the job.
You can cut acrylic using a hand saw, jigsaw, band saw, scoring knife, or laser cutter.
A jigsaw or bandsaw will usually be your best bet for curved lines, with a bandsaw being the better choice for thicker sheets.
The scoring knife is the optimal tool for straight lines, while a laser cutter makes cutting intricate pieces much easier.
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