69: Shaped Magnets

The back magnet does the job, but it's hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.
The back magnet does the job, but it’s hardly an optimal solution. Ignore the irrelevant pin.

For most of the magnets I make for Pixelaser, I use a 1/2″ or 1″ wide roll of magnet cut down to a size that will fit easily on the back of the piece in question. The end result is a magnet that looks pretty awesome from the front but suffers from a significant lip on the back. It can also make preparing magnets for acrylic pieces of more complicated shapes pretty difficult.

The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they're sealed together.
The acrylic and the adhesive magnet layer before they’re sealed together.

One of my laser material suppliers offers a magnet with a cap layer that you can engrave away, and since it’s laser safe you can cut whatever shape you’d like out of it. Unfortunately, the only color options offered are a brushed silver and brushed aluminum—great for some uses, but not great for the icons and dialog boxes I enjoy. But then I found some laser-safe, pre-adhesive magnet sheets that I could stick to the back of any of my acrylics. I knew I wanted to find a better magnet solution for one product I’ve been working on, and this seemed like the right direction, so I ordered some material and got to work!

The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.
The total thickness ends up being 2 mm.

Adhering the magnet to the back of the acrylic was no trouble, but I did have to pay attention to air bubbles and made use of Jennifer’s brayer to flatten the magnet down. In a few spots where air bubbles persisted, I used a razor to cut a tiny incision into the magnet, which made it much easier to squeeze the air out.

A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That's a Super Missile you see!
A stack of icons from Super Metroid. That’s a Super Missile you see!

I had a few different designs I wanted to test with this new magnet backing. One, a selection cursor from Final Fantasy VI, featured a varied edge and would be a good test of how well the magnet can deal with more complicated shapes. Another, a custom magnet design based on a user’s Miiverse posts, is a much simpler rounded rectangle but is much more of an eye-catcher, featuring example Miiverse posts by super artist Drew Wise! For fun’s sake, I also created icon magnets featuring weapons and tools from Super Metroid.

The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.
The magnet covers the entire back regardless of the shape.

Engraving the material worked exactly as it always has, since the top layer is the same acrylic I’m used to working with.  I did have to adjust the depth to account for the new layer of magnet, though, and I had to increase the laser cutting power just a little to power through the magnet. The finished pieces come out pretty messy (nowhere near as dirty as laser rubber) but some isopropyl alcohol fixes that right up.

A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser's Etsy shop!
A new product featuring this new style of magnet is available at Pixelaser’s Etsy shop!

Because this week’s project went so well, I’ve gone ahead and made a listing for the custom Miiverse post magnets. If you’ve made some kick-ass pixel art on the Nintendo 3DS or Wii U Miiverse, you can have it made into a physical magnet for only $12! Got a friend with that artistic knack? Send me their NNID instead and I’ll engrave a magnet you can present to them as an awesome personalized gift. Check the listing for more details.

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