Laser Cutting, 3D Printing, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC): Which Method is Boss?

We embarked on a journey to learn how to use three different machines (a Dremel laser cutter, a Dremel 3D printer and a ShopBot CNC machine) by using them to create embossing templates. Keep reading to find out which one stood out against the rest!


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Laser Cutting

The first method we tested was laser cutting on acrylic. We designed two plates on Adobe Illustrator with the Beauty and the Bolt Logo. One plate a negative and one was a positive for the paper to be pressed in between. The logo on the positive disk was reflected about the x-axis in order for the paper in between to be pressed on both sides by what was engraved from the laser cutter. We designed two holes on the edge of the template to hold screws so that the positive and negative sides could stay aligned while the paper was being embossed.

The following videos show how we used Adobe Illustrator to design the template, how we used Dremel DigiLab, and then the actual laser cutting of the acrylic.


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3D Printing

Next up was the 3D printer! We used the same source file as the one used for our laser cut template. The following videos show how we used Fusion to create a 3D model of our template for the machine to print and footage of the actual printing of the templates.


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CNC

Last but not least we used our ShopBot, a CNC machine, to cut out our design! As before, we used the same source file. The following videos show how we designed the template for the CNC machine and then some footage of the template being cut out.


When using the CNC machine we bumped into a couple of problems the first try. First, the origin got offset when we moved the spindle past the maximum distance. Second, we uploaded the wrong file. Third, we used the wrong attachment for cutting the material. You can see our first attempt below.

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Thankfully we worked out all the kinks on the second try, having all three templates done we could try embossing with them to see which works the best!

As you can see, the laser cut template beat out the competition! But, using a combination of these tools could create an even better result. All of them have their own strengths and weaknesses for different tasks, and it just depends on the situation.

Stephanie Yen