Big  Blue Saw


General Updates

We're proud to announce 4 new engineering plastics available for ordering immediately on the Big Blue online quoting and ordering system.

Here's a quick rundown of the new offerings:

  • Polypropylene: A moderately tough, durable plastic. It has the unique characteristic of not fatiguing when repeatedly bent back and forth, so it can be used to make a hinge. The edges get a little bit of melted plastic reformed on them when cut with the laser, but other than that, it cuts cleanly.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): A stiff, strong plastic with good surface hardness. It is suitable for structural applications where a plastic with good dimensional stability is needed for non-moving parts. Laser cutting will leave ABS plastic with a slightly charred edge; we can optionally remove the charring or give you guidance on how to do it yourself.
  • UHMW-PE (Ultra-High Molecular Weight Polyethylene): A plastic with outstanding impact resistance and good chemical resistance, and excellent lubricity. This material is similar to the High-Density Polyethylene used in kitchen cutting boards, where it is used because it can take a lot of abuse and still clean up easily. Its high lubricity means that it makes a good guide for roller chains or conveyor belts. When laser cut, it also leaves a slightly melted looking edge, much like polypropylene.
  • White Acetal: this is like our black acetal, but in a different color. Acetal's high strength and excellent wear characteristics make it an ideal choice when you need a plastic for things like bearings, gears, and slides.

Upload your design now or design your part with the Big Blue Saw Designer to try out these great engineering plastics.

One of our most frequently requested non-stock metals is copper. Our customers love copper for electronic components like bus bars and terminal connectors, as well as for decorative applications like sculpture, jewelry, and picture frames.

We're happy to announce that copper is now available for online ordering. The copper alloy on the website is alloy 110, which is 99.9% pure copper, with excellent electrical conductivity. It is also considered excellent for forming and working operations, such as bending and rolling.

Upload your design now to try a copper part.

Just for fun, I thought I'd share with you some fun clocks that clever makers built using construction toys.

First up is a simple pendulum and escapement mechanism built using the modern plastic Tinkertoys. My son and I made one of these based upon this video, and it's a lot trickier than it looks to get everything lined up and running smoothly.

Next is a two handed clock made from the classic wooden Tinkertoys. I dig the horizontal pendulum, but wish that the video showed more detail so that you could build your own.

And finally, here's the greatest achievement: a K'nex clock that's designed to keep accurate time:

PETG is great stuff. It's clear, making it great for displays, enclosure windows, and artwork. It's far stronger and more flexible than acrylic, but can be cut and engraved on a laser cutter, unlike polycarbonate. If you've recently received a clear engraved business card from Big Blue Saw recently, it was made from 0.02 inch thick PETG.

We have added 0.25, 0.125, 0.09, and 0.02 inch thicknesses of PETG to our online quoting system to complement the 0.063 inch thickness we already offer. As always, if you don't see a material or thickness in the online quoting system, just contact us and we can probably get it for you.

Upload your design or create a new design to try with PETG.

ImageI recently started making samples of the materials that Big Blue Saw offers. Since I knew that I would be showing these to customers, and possibly giving them away, I made the samples in the form of business cards (some of you have received these with your orders).

I ended up with so many samples that I had to figure out some way of organizing them all. A clear acrylic box would be just the thing: easy to make, attractive, and it lets you see all of its contents without opening it. With the techniques in this article, you're not limited to making boxes to hold business cards. You can use this general design to make custom electronics enclosures, robot frames, and more.

I began by creating a design in the Big Blue Saw designer. The base of the box would consist of 5 laser cut pieces 0.118 inches (3 mm) thick that would slot together and be held in place with nuts and bolts. The top would slot onto the base, and be removable for easy access.

Box design in Designer

I then cut the 6 parts (5 for the base, 1 for the top) on the laser cutting machine. Our acrylic comes with a protective paper layer attached, as shown here.


I peeled the protective layer off, and was left with nice clear plastic parts.


I assembled the pieces and used #6 nuts and screws to fasten everything together. I think you'll agree that the brass hardware gives the box a polished appearance.


Here is one box full of samples. It's a little hard to see in this photo, but the brass nuts make little dividers between the cards.


I wasn't done yet, though. I decided to make another box, this time using several different materials. This box was made from clear acrylic, black acrylic, blue and white engraveable acrylic, and the (on the back face, not really visible) brushed nickel engraveable acrylic.


If you want to make your variation on this design, download the design file. One of these custom acrylic boxes currently costs $22.20 or $11.88 each if you order 10.