Cutting Polystyrene

Polystyrene is second only to polyethylene as the most common thermoplastic used in everyday life and it comes in two forms: foam and solid. Polystyrene foam, commonly used for foam coffee cups and take-out food containers, is a great insulator. Solid polystyrene is that hard plastic that forms the protective case in applications such as […]

Polystyrene is second only to polyethylene as the most common thermoplastic used in everyday life and it comes in two forms: foam and solid.

Polystyrene foam, commonly used for foam coffee cups and take-out food containers, is a great insulator. Solid polystyrene is that hard plastic that forms the protective case in applications such as desktop computers and cases for CDs.

For this application, a 0.027” (0.69mm) thick polystyrene sheet required cutting. The cutting set-up consisted of an XY table equipped with a 2.5” positive meniscus lens providing a 100-micron (0.004”) diameter spot with a 1.8mm (0.07”) depth of focus.

Using 30 PSI of clean, dry air as the assist gas and 25 watts of C­O2­ laser power, the polystyrene was cut at a speed of 225 inches per minute. The white polystyrene sample shows no signs of discoloration after cutting and the edge is clean with only a very slight amount of dross or melt-back on the bottom edge.

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