Single sheet acrylic tray design- Will it work?

I’m brand new- Machine obtained, pre-first cut, learning Inkscape new. I have about a billion concept sketches for big things I’m excited to try out but I’m starting small for a work project and I have my first of many questions! I’m so excited to join this community, I’ve been reading and learning for months and the way people discourse here has been so educational and inspiring.

I’d like to make a tray that hold a series of vials (4X8 will hold them nicely) with a slightly raised edge as these will be slid with the vials on them. The vials are small but made of glass and collectively hold about 10-12oz of fluid, so there’s a bit of weight there. I’m considering two options to make the tray;

  1. Get a thicker acrylic and use engrave to carve out the center
  • Does using engrave this way generally produce an even/smooth result with the right settings?
  • How thick should my acrylic be? These trays will be moved and carried short distances frequently. Will it buckle or crack under pressure of having this kind of weight on it if its too thin?
  1. Cut the base 5x9 rectangle and then cut a separate piece at the same outer dimensions but make an additional centered cut at 4x8 and then glue the top piece to the bottom

I’d prefer the top option if it’s something that has potential to work- if I can figure out this project I’ll ultimately be making about 80 of them, so the material costs would add up quickly and I’m not eager to incorporate welding acrylic into my very first project… Baby steps.

If the top option IS plausible, is engraving such a large space very very time consuming? I’d likely want to engrave to half of the overall depth of the acrylic itself, and I’d like to go as thin as possible while still being durable enough to last a high volume serving cycle in a restaurant (they wont need to be put through a dishwasher or anything)

I included a picture of what I have in inkscape (red=cut, blue=engrave)

I really appreciate any insight!

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Either option is possible but if you’re making 80 of these I’d personally go with the second one. Engraving time is exponentially more than cutting time- like hours vs just a couple minutes.

If you do want to try engraving - the first pass to get to depth generally ends up rough and most folks run a final defocused pass to smooth it out but you could experiment to see if you like the results with just one pass.

Acrylic is brittle so engraving a large amount so deeply may not be very strong, especially under weight/pressure. Annealing after engraving might help.

For the cutting option, you could avoid welding the acrylic by designing a joint of some sort with vertical pins/slabs/shapes that snap lock. If you designed them with a bit if lift like feet that would help protect the bottom of the slabs. Acrylic also scratches very easily.

Lexan/polycarbonate is a much tougher material - it doesn’t laser as prettily as acrylic but can be done.


I would definitely prefer the second as well. Engraving that much will take a lot of time! I like @ekla 's idea of a joint, however, using the liquid glue is pretty easy with acrylic.


Yeah, that is going to take forever to engrave! Go for the cut.

As for joining the two sheets. If you need to wash these I would suggest gluing them together to ensure no water sits between the sheets and going mouldy or smelly. (I assume that’s why you want acrylic).

If you use opaque acrylic then gluing is really easy.

In order to save material costs, the top border could be divided into four strips that are glued on, rather than cutting a big hole in the middle of a sheet. You can use acrylic from any source - does not need to be proofgrade - that will also reduce your costs. You should be able to make these for $10 or less I would think.


Just because a laser is expensive, it doesn’t make it the best tool for every job.

In this case a router with a round-nose bit - either hand-held, using a jig (which could be laser-cut), or CNC, would be a far better approach.


I appreciate all of the insight so much! I’m specifically needing something non porous and UV reactive so acrylic seemed like the best bet. I’ll play around a bit more, sounds like I’m learning welding right away after all!

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