Using a laser cutter with thermoform paper

Ben Krasnow did a video on using a laser cutter that was slightly out of the focal plane to cause thermoform “swell paper” to swell up where the beam drew instead of cutting.

I was thinking it would be neat if the GlowForge could support this sort of use as well.

You can see his video on it at: Heat-sensitive 3D paper (swell paper)

The company that makes this is at: AmericanThermoform

The paper’s primary use is for basically printing braille and other shapes for blind people to feel. There are a lot of interesting uses here and the laser cutter gives us a whole set of options. It would be neat if there was a way for the GlowForge to support this sort of ‘just out of the focal plane’ use.


this is cool. I be live that it has been mentioned on some ability to do out of focus work I just don’t recall what thread

I was thinking a setting specifically saying “this is thermoform paper” like they have settings for other materials.

You mean like they have settings for the proofgrade materials? Because unless I’m mistaken, we will be figuring out the settings for our own specific materials. The thermoform paper is cool, but seems a very narrow audience for them to have a setting for it. Unless they sell it themselves, which is always a possibility I suppose.

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Perhaps it was something in the idea hopper - but it was previously mentioned one would be able to save their own material presets.

I’d imagine this paper, at least if buying from a single manufacturer is pretty uniform batch to batch, so it shouldn’t be hard to run a quick test sample.

The caveat would be if focus settings are saved in the material presets. The other question would be how is defocusing set in the manual cutting section of the software - a unit, a parameter, a focus distance. Either way, you should be able to come up with something very replicable.

This looks pretty awesome. Now I have another material to check out when I get my Glowforge. :wink:

Defocusing was talked about before. They don’t talk about this material, but there is some good info in the threads below.


The laser puts all the power of the tube in one tiny dot at some specific distance from the lens. Which is why you need auto or manual focusing to put the material you want to cut or engrave at that distance. So if you defocus you have the surface of the material at some other distance, and the energy spreads out. You can do things like thermoform paper, or bending/welding acrylic, or other stuff that requires a larger, less mindbogglingly-hot spot. Or maybe if you’re willing to lose a bunch of resolution, you could raster-engrave much faster…

Sweeet! If it can’t be a preset, then you could probably build a small stand, like an inch or an inch and a half high, where you place the thermo paper on the bottom, and regular paper on the top, and have it cut through regular paper, and be out of focus when it reaches the thermo paper on the bottom…

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Someone just shared this video on my makerspace page and so I came here to see if anyone has used it. Rather than creating another post, I figured I’d just bump it up!


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FWIW, I’ve done a bunch of defocused stuff, just not this particular application. Beam size at full defocus with crumb tray is only about 1mm, so you might have to build a jig. I wouldn’t worry much about power – you can go really light on paper.

Thanks. I’m more asking about the paper itself than the defocusing. Seems like you could do some pretty cool artistic things with it.

Interesting, thanks for sharing.