150: Foil Stickers

My work (Jen here) is celebrating its’ 50th anniversary this year, and November 2nd we are hosting a big gala. I was tasked with designing some table placards using a historic photo and a fun history fact. I wanted to jazz it up a bit, and what else is a laser good for but jazzing things up, right?

We have a pile of gold foil stickers laying around from some unknown project from probably decades ago – we haven’t had a real use for them, but I couldn’t bear to dump them. So, in an epiphany, I thought – why not cut out 50th anniversary stickers? I had already designed a laser – friendly sign that will be hanging from the balcony at our event.

Here’s the sign we designed. Our tagline for the anniversary was “50 Fab Years of Fun”

To make it easier to peel up the stickers, I decided to not cut the rosette outline, but instead keep the general starburst shape of the sticker. To simplify it, we just used the “50 FAB” part in the center, dropping the words and fancy acanthus leaves.

Before we started, Ryan and I had a very brief discussion about whether the shiny gold would be too reflective for the laser. I wasn’t mirrored, though, so we decided not to worry about it. We decided not to paper it because peeling sticky paper off a sticker just seemed like a headache I was not willing to take on. Given the sticker sheet isn’t much thicker than a piece of paper, we reasoned we could just cut it like we would card stock. Easy peasy. Except, of course, for the pesky fact it didn’t work.

Try 1: Card stock cutting speed and power: See that faint 50? So cool the laser made it silver!

Instead of cutting through, it actually made everywhere the laser cut it silver. Which is a very cool effect (which I might exploit at the later date) but is not what we intended to do now. So, thinking that the reflection might actually be diffusing the laser enough that it wouldn’t cut, we flipped it over to try cutting through the backside.

Try 2: Flipped it over, still cutting with card stock power, but 50% speed.

So, pass 2, coming from the back side, we used the card stock power setting but slowed ti down to 50% speed. It went through the paper back just fine, but still didn’t cut through the front. So, no, it’s the gold foil material that is the problem. I honestly didn’t think they were real metal! But maybe they are? Though it didn’t cut through, it did do an amazing embossed effect (yet another technique to exploit later!)

Try 2’s delightful embossed effect.

Well, no more playing nice, we knew we needed more power. If the acrylic setting wouldn’t cut through, nothing would. So we cranked it up to full power, 5% speed.

Try 3: full power acrylic setting, 5% speed. Look at that burn! Red hot!
It cut through really well – and it was just the right amount of power. There wasn’t much, if any, melting in the detailed areas. (Also, aligning the stickers from the backside was tricky!)

At this setting, the laser made it through the foil and kept the melt to a minimum. I wouldn’t necessarily call this project a slam-dunk success, though. The top of the sticker was right on the honeycomb during cutting. When we flipped it over, we saw blow-back particulate had landed on the surface. So the stickers were rather grimy, and needed to be (carefully!) wiped down before use. But if you have the patience and want to make an invitation or similar project really over the top, this would really do it.

Sooty stickers

2 thoughts on “150: Foil Stickers

  1. alainb1 says:

    Another great post. I had a similar experience using gold foil gilding on walnut. The hobbyist gold foil [actually some kind of aluminum] is incredibly thin. If you blow on it it crumples, but it was quite resistant to the laser. Eventually I burned through if ran it slow enough at 100% power. I think the frequency also mattered though I couldn’t tell you what I used. The machine was a very beat up Epilog Legend with a 60 watt tube. In the end the effect was quite lovely – scorched walnut and gilt.

    BTW I waited until the adhesive was thoroughly dry since it was some kind of spray on contact cement with a very flammable solvent.

    • Jen says:

      I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting that much resistance! Amazing you made it through the front – but it sounds like a fun project. I actually haven’t tried gilding before, thought I’ve watched it being done.


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