Laser Cutting Worbla on a Glowforge

Because we are often asked about laser cutting Worbla, we reached out to SmallRiniLady to run tests with her new Glowforge desktop laser printer, as she had previously run tests on cutting Worbla on the Universal & Epilog Laser Cutters for us (that you can see here). You can read her full report with examples below!

Laser cutting with Worbla

Laser cutting with Worbla is an amazing way to create intricate patterns and consistent copies of small details in Worbla.

Glowforge
Glowforge is a hobbyist laser cutting machine that has come onto the market recently. The software is all cloud based so it can be accessed from any browser.

Glowforge Settings
Worbla isn’t one of the Proofgrade materials that is sold by Glowforge so you will not have pre defined settings for the material. SmallRIniLady has done testing and provided a settings chart for Glowforge usage. Pick your material and settings based on your project needs. A lasercutter is burning through the material so there may be some surprises for first time users.

  • Burn residue, which will stick back to the material
  • Edges have been heated, so often they result in a shiny and/or raised edges.
  • Softening of the Worbla. We’re playing with heat and thermoplastics so softening of the material may occur depending on how close your cuts are. Give your Worbla an extra 30 seconds to cool down and harden before picking up

By going slow you can create cleaner cuts with limited residue that would need to be sanded off or painted over. But if you want to get something done in a hurry, Fast settings that can be used. Each Worbla has it’s own behaviors when burned, please refer to the observations found below.

 

Slow

For projects that will not be painted, minimal residue

MaterialThicknessPowerSpeed
Finest Art0.04″80200
Black Art0.04″80150
Mesh Art0.04″100275
TranspArt0.03″80150
Flame Red Art0.04″80150
Pearly Art0.04″80200
KobraCast Art0.02″80500

 

Fast

For projects that will be painted, increased residue

MaterialThicknessPowerSpeed
Finest Art0.04″100225
Black Art0.04″100200
Mesh Art0.04″100275
TranspArtNot Recommended  
Flame Red Art0.04″100200
Pearly Art0.04″100225
KobraCast ArtNot Recommended  

Pre Steps

To ensure the best results when working with any laser cutter with your Worbla it is best to prep your sheets. Please refer to the Prepping the Worbla section in the Laser Cutting Worbla: Creating a Digital Template tutorial

 

Cutting Observations

Worbla’s Finest Art
Finest Art works great with the Glowforge. Folks usually paint over Finest Art so the darkening of the edges should not be a problem.

Worbla’s Black Art
Black Art is good to use with the Glowforge if you intend of painting the piece. It produces a little bit of white smudging which is notable when looking at an arms length away. Because of the vacuum in the Glowforge the white smudge is primarily on the underside, however there is still a bit on the top, especially for corner locations due to Glowforges corner overburn issues (as described below).

Worbla’s Mesh Art
Mesh Art is great for the Glowforge. Very clean lines considering there’s mesh crossing through it. There is some darkening of edges, but folks usually paint over Mesh Art anyways.

Worbla’s TranspArt
TranspArt is extremely aggravating to work with for the Glowforge.
The laser is directed at a pin point location on the Worbla during cutting but the heat will disperse in the process causing the surrounding Worbla surface to heat up and activate the glue. As the laser is cutting away the material there will be tiny particles flying around and landing nearby. These particles land on the activated TranspArt and cool, creating a foggy effect. The vacuum in the Glowforge system also directs most of the particles in a single direction as you can see from the photo results here.
Therefore I do not recommend laser cutting TranspArt with the Glowforge for most projects. Only use this method if the final project does not require clear nor evenly frosted TranspArt.

Worbla’s FlameRed Art
Similar to how a grey colour car will not show dirt as obviously as a white or black car, the same concept benefits FlameRed Art. There may be a slight darkening to the edges which could be mistaken for shadowing. FlameRed Art is great for cutting in the GlowForge and being displayed as is afterwards.

Worbla’s Pearly Art
PearlyArt came with mixed results on the Glowforge. You can’t prevent the dark discoloration that occurs on the bottom side of the cut pieces, however it seems to not be a problem on the top side. If you are planning on making pieces that only show one side of the Pearly Art then this technique will work wonders for you. However if you plan on having the piece visible from both side, prepare for some sanding work.
The corners overburn issues (as described below) can be quite apparent with Pearly Art and can may not produce a clean 90 degree corner. I would not recommend using the fast settings for your final cuts.

Worbla’s KobraCast Art
KobraCastArt is thinner then Worbla so it needs a gentler touch when working with the Glowforge. It must be cut on a lower power. The edges show signs of melting with shininess and raised edges. If your power is set even a little too high then the edges start to melt away like a candle and dissolve. I recommend testing out your KobraCast Art on a smaller sample before beginning with the larger pieces.

Trial Run before you Commit

* Recommended to test a small sample piece before continuing with your larger projects. Glowforge results may vary based on
1) The condition of the mirror and laser tube
2) Cleanliness of your device
3) Flatness of your material; an uneven piece of Worbla may result in an uneven cutting due to the focus being set to an expected height

Overburn Issues

Glowforge has an overburn issue when it comes to corners; a noticeable bump action can be seen when the laser needs to rotate sharp directions. The bump action seems to cause the laser to stay at that point a little longer which results in uneven cutting results. Worbla is no exception to this which can lead to extra melty corners. Please view the photos provided for some example and do some sample testing prior to your final cuts. Many in the Glowforge community get around this by modifying their designs by rounding the corners which will guide the laser a smooth path and avoid the bump action.