There are a number of different materials to choose from for Laser Cutting and engraving. This is not a complete list, but a list of the common questions and types of materials that we use at Prawn Designs.
Baltic Birch Plywood available in both 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. The thickness is approximate, it is a natural material so there is some variation from piece to piece. Baltic birch plywood cuts and engraves well. I normally ship as raw wood. For my larger game boards I offer an oil finish with Watco Danish Oil in a couple of colors.
For bits, bases, coins and tokens, I offer color staining of Birch Plywood with Minwax Water Based Wood Stain. I currently have Red, Blue, Green, Yellow and White. Adding the stain make the surface a little course and not as smooth as the raw wood.
Do you want or need a different color? I can do other colors on request.
Oak Plywood is available in both 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. The thickness is approximate, it is a natural material so there is some variation from piece to piece. Oak Plywood cuts well. It does not engrave as well as the Birch Plywood, but it does work well. Oak Plywood is a little more expensive than the Birch Plywood.
Mat board is white on one side and colored on the other side. The back often has writing on it. Mat board engraves well. Mat Board is available in a wide variety of colors. It is generally a colored surface over a white interior. When engraved the white turns a very soft tan color. Not all brands of Mat Board engrave as well as others. With some brands the engraved area has a "texture" to it and shops a pattern of small squares.
Acrylic is available in a number of different thicknesses. The most popular thicknesses are 1/16, 3/32, 0.100, 1/8, 3/16, 1/4 and 3/8 inch thick. Not all thicknesses are available in all colors. Acrylic is available in clear and 25 different colors. Acrylic pieces normally ship with the protective paper or plastic still on the parts.
Acrylic is manufactured in two different ways, extruded and cast. Both cut very well. When engraved the results are very different. When engraved casrt acrylic has a very nice smooth white or frosted look to it. When extruded acrylic is engraved the engraved area has a clear or melted look to it and is uneven.
Newsboard is heavy paper. It is gray in color. Newsboard engraves well. It comes in three different thicknesses, approximately 0.032, 0.075 and 0.1 inch. The thickness is approximate and varies slightly from piece to piece.
Thick paper, basically index card paper. It comes in 8 1/2 X 11 inch sheets. It cuts very well and can even be engraved, the engraved area is very thin and somewhat shear.
Solid wood is often used for plaques and awards. Solid wood is typically 3/4" thick and can not be cut, but it can be engraved. I have only tested a couple different woods.
Glass cannot be cut on a typical laser. It can be engraved and it works and looks very good.
PCV cannot be cut or engraved on a laser. The resulting off gas is destructive to the laser cutter.
Styrene does not cut or engrave well. It as a lower melting point and melts more than cuts. The result is an uneven rough edge.
I cannot cut metals, but it can engrave them with limitations. It does not really engrave the metals, but it can "mark" the surface if the metal is prepared correctly. It can also be used to selectively remove powder coating and paint.
I have had varied success with leather. Some leather cuts and some does not. Some leather engraves well and other does not. Basically the laser is burning away the top surface of the leather, this leaves a dark color behind. On light colored leather look nice, but on a dark leather is hard to see. Then cutting soft leather does not cut as well as hard leather.