When developing a kit enclosure, avoid designs that require glue. It’s messy, mistakes can happen, and there’s no “undo” for customers. Friction-fit parts are one option, but with the slight variability in material thicknesses, we prefer nuts and screws, tabs and slots. T-slots have become iconic of laser-cut design, for good reason.
Standardize your component selection. Minimize the inventory of tiny parts. We use #4-40 1/2" screws wherever possible. Metric hex-head screws are way cooler, but bog standard #4-40 screws are far more readily available at any hardware store in a pinch…and available trumps cool. Standardized components also make design go faster, as you’re already intimately familiar with the hardware and its quirks.

We’re so standardized on those screws and nuts, that even for mere prototyping I manage to go through entire boxes of the things. I order these from McMaster-Carr.
After cutting a design, keep a supply of the larger leftover scraps around for cutting other, smaller pieces. Sometimes you just need to iterate one small part of an overall design.
Keep a ruler near the scrap box. I have one laid across the top of the lasering computer monitor…it’s real handy for holding up scraps to see if a part will fit within its bounds.
Get to know the local plastics or sign fabrication shop. Buy their scrap as feeder stock for developing designs. For these big shops, anything less than a square foot is just waste to be recycled or discarded, and many will gladly sell it for less than the cost of virgin custom-cut material. You’ll get some truly awful colors sometimes, but that’s half the fun. As a bonus…you might even get some small lasering jobs on the side!
1/8" MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is even cheaper as feeder stock, the thickness is very similar to acrylic, and it smells nice when lasering. The burnt edges can be quite sooty though, giving you that chimney sweep look. Not all hardware stores carry this thickness…I had to scour a few before locating it at Home Depot.

This guide was first published on Mar 26, 2013. It was last updated on Mar 26, 2013.

This page (Materials) was last updated on Mar 25, 2013.

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