Laser Cutter Materials

Laser Cutter Materials

NEVER CUT THESE MATERIALS!

WARNING: Because many plastics are dangerous to cut, it is important to know what kind you are planning to use. Make has a   How-To for identifying unknown plastics with a simple process.

 DON’T CUT THESE    
 Material  Danger!  Cause/Consequence
PVC(Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather Emits toxic chlorine gas when cut! Don’t ever cut this material as it will ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and ruin the motion control system.
Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate/Lexan Cuts very poorly, discolors, catches fire Polycarbonate is often found as flat, sheet material. The window of the laser cutter is made of Polycarbonate because polycarbonate strongly absorbs infrared radiation! This is the frequency of light the laser cutter uses to cut materials, so it is very ineffective at cutting polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a poor choice for laser cutting.
 ABS  Melts / Cyanide  ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt rather than vaporize, and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt). Also, cutting ABS plastic emits hydrogen cyanide, which is unsafe at any concentration.
 HDPE/Milk bottle plastic  Catches fire and melts  It melts. It gets gooey. Don’t use it.
 PolyStyrene Foam  Catches fire  It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
 PolyPropylene Foam  Catches fire  Like PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
 Epoxy  Burn/Smoke  Epoxy is an aliphatic resin, strongly cross-linked carbon chains. A CO2 laser can’t cut it, and the resulting burned mess creates toxic fumes ( like cyanide! ). Items coated in Epoxy, or cast Epoxy resins must not be used in the laser cutter. ( see Fiberglass )
 Fiberglass Emits fumes  It’s a mix of two materials that cant’ be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
 Coated Carbon Fiber  Emits noxious fumes  A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying – but not when coated.
 Any foodstuff ( such as meat, seaweed ‘nori’ sheets, bread, tortillas… ) The laser is not designed to cut food, and people cut things that create poisonous/noxious substances such as wood smoke and acrylic smoke.  If you want to cut foodstuffs, consider sponsoring a food-only laser cutter for the space that is kept as clean as a commercial kitchen would require.

 

Safe Materials

The laser can cut or etch. The materials that the laser can cut materials like wood, paper, cork, and some kinds of plastics. Etching can be done on almost anything, wood, cardboard, aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, marble, stone, tile, and glass.

 

Material

Max thickness

Notes

WARNINGS!

Many woods

1/4″

Avoid oily/resinous woods

Be very careful about cutting oily woods, or very resinous woods as they also may catch fire.

Plywood/Composite woods

1/4″

These contain glue, and may not laser cut as well as solid wood.

 

MDF/Engineered woods

1/4″

These are okay to use but may experience a higher amount of charring when cut.

 

Paper, card stock

thin

Cuts very well on the laser cutter, and also very quickly.

 

Cardboard, carton

thicker

Cuts well but may catch fire.

Watch for fire.

Cork

1/4″

Cuts nicely, but the quality of the cut depends on the thickness and quality of the cork. Engineered cork has a lot of glue in it, and may not cut as well.

Avoid thicker cork.

Acrylic/Lucite/Plexiglas/PMMA

1/2″

Cuts extremely well leaving a beautifully polished edge.

 

Thin Polycarbonate Sheeting (<1mm)

<1mm

Very thin polycarbonate can be cut, but tends to discolor badly. Extremely thin sheets (0.5mm and less) may cut with yellowed/discolored edges. Polycarbonate absorbs IR strongly, and is a poor material to use in the laser cutter.

Watch for smoking/burning

Delrin (POM)

thin

Delrin comes in a number of shore strengths (hardness) and the harder Delrin tends to work better. Great for gears!

 

Kapton tape (Polyimide)

1/16″

Works well, in thin sheets and strips like tape.

 

Mylar

1/16″

Works well if it’s thin. Thick mylar has a tendency to warp, bubble, and curl

Gold coated mylar will not work.

Solid Styrene

1/16″

Smokes a lot when cut, but can be cut.

Keep it thin.

Depron foam

1/4″

Used a lot for hobby, RC aircraft, architectural models, and toys. 1/4″ cuts nicely, with a smooth edge.

Must be constantly monitored.

Gator foam

 

Foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard paper shell.

Not a fantastic thing to cut, but it can be cut if watched.

Cloth/felt/hemp/cotton

 

They all cut well. Our lasers can be used in lace-making.

Not plastic coated or impregnated cloth!

Leather/Suede

1/8″

Leather is very hard to cut, but can be if it’s thinner than a belt (call it 1/8″). Our “Advanced” laser training class covers this.

Real leather only! Not ‘pleather’ or other imitations!

Magnetic Sheet

 

Cuts beautifully

 

NON-CHLORINE-containing rubber

 

Fine for cutting.

Beware chlorine-containing rubber!

Teflon (PTFE)

thin

Cuts OK in thin sheets. See https://www.ulsinc.com/materials/teflon ; the issues listed in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymer_fume_fever should not matter because our lasers are fully vented and exhausted.

 

Carbon fiber mats/weave
that has not had epoxy applied

 

Can be cut, very slowly.

You must not cut carbon fiber that has been coated!!

Coroplast (‘corrugated plastic’)

1/4″

Difficult because of the vertical strips. Three passes at 80% power, 7% speed, and it will be slightly connected still at the bottom from the vertical strips.

 

Etching
All the above “cuttable” materials can be etched, in some cases very deeply.

In addition, you can etch:

 

Material

Notes

WARNINGS!

Glass

Green seems to work best…looks sandblasted.

Only FLAT GLASS can be engraved in our cutter. No round or cylindrical items.

Ceramic tile

   

Anodized aluminum

Vaporizes the anodization away.

 

Painted/coated metals

Vaporizes the paint away.

 

Stone, Marble, Granite, Soapstone, Onyx.

Gets a white “textured” look when etched.

100% power, 50% speed or less works well for etching.

Marking

We have a very limited amount of an expensive coating called ‘cermark’ that was purchased by Martin. This marking compound costs $100 for a small bottle, and must be diluted with ethanol and applied to metal (not ceramics or stone) before being etched to leave behind a permanent dark black mark.