Cardstock is a material that is similar to printing paper except that it is much thicker and denser. Cardstock is often characterized by its density to indicate its overall thickness (such as 100g per square meter), with higher densities referring to thicker card. Unlike paper, cardstock is rarely suitable for printing with home printers, and does not have hollow internal space or structure like corrugated cardboard.
Cardstock is an ideal material for cutting with laser cutters for many reasons. The first is that cardstock is thin and highly absorbent of CO2 lasers meaning that it can be cut extremely fast. The increased thickness of cardstock (compared to paper) also allows for cardstock to be engraved with minimal problems, and often the high contrast of the final engraving makes engraved designs highly visible.
However, it should be noted that as cardstock easily burns, laser-cut edges have a burned color. For some designs, this can be aesthetically pleasing, but other designs may require a clean edge so consider this before using laser-cut cardstock.
One of the major advantages of using a laser cutter with cardstock is that laser cutters are incredibly accurate and able to produce extremely fine details. Furthermore, laser cutters apply no force to the workpiece being cut, and this allows for delicate designs to be made with great precision.
Intricate designs can greatly benefit from laser-cut cardstock. Patterns such as snowflakes and intertwining lines with fine holes between shapes can easily be done using Ponoko services. This ability extends very well to uniquely decorated labels for products such as wine bottles and beverages that require unusual shapes.
Cardstock is also used with product inserts that may contain important user information such as instructions. While rectangular card can be used in such applications, laser-cut card inserts would allow for any shape with cut-outs as well as folds for creating 3D product packaging.
Architectural models can also take advantage of cardstock thanks to the structural properties of cardstock. 3D shapes can easily be constructed using 2D cardstock cutouts with glue being used to secure different faces together.
Ponoko stocks a wide range of cardstock with various colors, textures, and patterns. All cardstock provided by Ponoko has a thickness of 0.1 inches and is one of the cheapest materials available from Ponoko. One major advantage to cardstock in the age of climate change and environmental awareness is its ease of recycling as well as biodegradability meaning that environmental waste is kept to a minimum.
The first factor to keep in mind when using cardstock is that it is extremely thin and very easy to cut. This means that cardstock is ideal for prototyping and mass production alike.
However, the thinness of cardstock also means that engineers should be careful when creating small parts. Parts that are very small can get lost in the machine as the material being cut sits on a grid instead of a flat bed. Combined with the fact that air assistance is required during laser operation, cardstock parts that are very light can easily be blown away.
Another factor to consider is that the thinness of cardstock also makes it easy to bend. As cardstock creases very quickly when bent, transportation and handling of cardstock may result in deformation in the cardstock.
Not all materials are nice and easy to cut like cardstock, and some are in fact very dangerous to cut. Unlike mechanical cutting, laser cutting uses a high-powered laser beam to burn material to the point where it either melts or turns to gas. As such, cutting materials that contain harmful compounds can release the compounds into the environment.
One example is PVC that contains chlorine, and the cutting of PVC with a laser cutter can release chlorine gas. Another material that should be avoided at all costs is ABS as cyanide gas can be produced under the intense heat.