We’ve been asked the differences on laser cutting Worbla products and suggested settings to do so. As we don’t have a laser cutter ourselves, we recently reached out to SmallRiniLady and asked her if she would be interested in running some tests for us. This is what she found!
I’m really excited to try using the laser cutter to cut intricate repeated patterns in Worbla for my cosplays. But why Worbla? Acrylics cut great, but are only flat solid pieces. PVC and Vinyl are toxic, let me repeat that TOXIC, it produces gas that does bad things in your lungs. So please be safe and careful.
Worbla’s Finest Art
Finest Art worked amazingly well with the laser cutter resulting in smooth cuts that fall right out of the base sheet when picked up. If your power settings are on too high you may end up with a little soot, but let’s just paint over those XD.
Worbla’s Black Art
Black Art also worked amazingly well with the laser cutter producing smooth cuts. I noticed BlackArt was softer to the touch after cutting which can cause sagging on small pieces when picked up. 30 seconds of patience to let the BlackArt cool down will give it plenty of time to harden back up for handling.
Worbla’s Flame Red Art
Just like BlackArt and FinestArt, the FlameRed came out with cleanly cut smooth lines. A little soot was also noticeable on the edges, but we’ll just paint over those anyways 🙂
Worbla’s Mesh Art
MeshArt needs a little extra effort to work with and doesn’t come out as smooth due to the mesh fibers. Higher power might be needed to cut through the fibers, but it will also cause burn marks. For the pieces that didn’t fall out I either applied extra pressure to pop them out or used a knife which I traced the grooved lines to cut through the extra fibers. Regardless I’m happy that I could create such an intricate pattern with the laser cutter with the added strength of the mesh for my props.
Worbla’s TranspArt (Transpa Art)
TranspArt was more fickle to use than the other worbla products. If laser power isn’t high enough the cut edges melt and stick back together; when you pull on it, it becomes stringy resulting in spiderweb like fibers on your edges. If the laser is too high, it produces burn marks that cannot be removed without sanding. If the laser power is just right it still creates a fogging action that spreads outwards from the cutline. Recommendation is to use the laser cutter for TranspArt only if you are using it for the translucent properties but not crystal clear.
Laser Cutter Settings
Universal Laser Cutter
Epilog Laser Cutter
Universal vs Eplilog
I found that the Universal cut faster and smoother, but often resulted in more soot. Below is a sample of Acrylic cut, left is the Epilog and right is Universal. The cleanup was extremely cumbersome so decide which to use based on the post process steps I will take. If the piece is going to be painted over than I would go with the Universal. TranspaArt is very sensitive so I would go with the lower power in the Eplilog for it.
Flatten your Worbla
Because my Worbla was not entirely flat on the laser cutter the lasers didn’t have an accurate focus to cut through the material at the desired depth. You can see that my argyle pattern below resulted in some uneven cutting. Some of them I could pop out by force, but because of the fiber in MeshArt I would recommend using a knife for smoother edges.
We know that simply unrolling the Worbla straight from the package isn’t going to work out for this, so we’ll need to apply heat methods. I love using my iron (marked for “crafting” purposes) as the direct contact distributes heat quickly and evenly.
• Baking Parchment Paper
• Metal Baking Sheets
1: Place the Worbla under a sheet of parchment paper** on top of a turned over metal baking sheet. You’ll want to be ironing on a hard surface avoid creating waves, so avoid the cushioned ironing boards.
(**Worbla.com Note: It’s tempting to use wax paper instead of parchment paper, but parchment paper is absolutely the better choice: it is less likely to stick to your Worbla as you heat it.)
2: Set the iron to medium with no steam. Steam can cause the parchment paper to wrinkle and create imprints into the Worbla
3: Gentle strokes in a single direction. Do not leave the iron to sit or it will create an impression. Don’t apply additional pressure, the activated Worbla may spread and thin out if pressure is applied.
4: Allow the Worbla to cool on the baking sheet. Adding a second baking sheet on top with some weights can produce even better results.
I noticed that ironing the TranspArt wasn’t a good idea, I think the heat may have been too high and caused parts of it to frost.
What is the thinnest width that the Worbla products could be cut without issue? You will want to consider this when creating thin objects or when placing objects next to each other.
As the laser is cutting the Worbla the heat will spread. If the line cuts are close together too much heat may cause
1) the Worbla edges to melt causing them to stick together.
2) the Worbla to soften; when the piece it picked up the piece can begin to sag. This issue can be avoiding by giving the Worbla a good 30 seconds to cool after cutting.
I tested each of these Worbla products to determine what is the smallest gap I can leave between two cutting lines before issues occur. The numbers cut into the Worbla represent the gap between the two lines in mm(millimeters). You can see in the photo that the FinestArt, BlackArt, and MeshArt have sagging lines for the 1mm test, but for TranspArt the two edges stuck back together.
Laser cutters need to know the thickness of your material to set the focus correctly. Worbla is made to be 1mm (0.039 inches) thick, but because I’ve flattened my Worbla with a heat treatment and pressure I can not be sure that my thickness hasn’t changed. I used a caliper to measure each sheet of Worbla before cutting. Here’s an example of my Worbla measurements. I find it interesting that some of them are actually thicker than 1mm.
For more information
SmallRiniLady will also be writing up articles about Vector Graphics for Laser Cutting settings and other projects for Worbla.com Please check them out. You can also see more of SmallRiniLady’s projects at her facebook and links to her SVG shop and others at her website here.
This is part of our Laser Cutting Worbla Resources list! You can see more here.