Laser Cutter/Materials

Materials

[list in progress, not exhaustive - please contact the laser team about any new materials and attempt to provide a Material Safety Data Sheet]

Material Class Material Hazard Status Potential Hazards Special Notes Suppliers
Wood Laser-grade MDF Potential Risks Increased risk of fire on multiple passes Makes the laser filthy which makes it harder to use and reduces the lifespan of parts - preference is for users to not use this material unless it's necessary Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Wood Standard MDF Banned Chemical off-gassing, laser damage Glues use formaldehyde, which is both carcinogenic and damaging to the laser
Wood Laser-Grade Plywood - Birch Ply Low Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Wood Laser-Grade Plywood - Poplar Ply Low Kitronic
Wood Laser-Grade Bamboo Low
Wood Standard Plywood Banned Chemical off-gassing, laser damage Glues use formaldehyde, which is both carcinogenic and damaging to the laser
Wood Balsa wood Potential Risks Potential for combustion, smoldering Pre-soaking with water may be safer Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Wood Paper Potential Risks Potential for combustion, smoldering Light paper can easily become tinder. While etching is 'kindof' possible, it more leaves a carbon dust behind rather than impacting the paper. Cutting is functional and works well. Fred Aldous
Wood Card/Cardboard Potential Risks Potential for combustion, smoldering Channels in cardboard can allow for unseen combustion, please cut and engrave with caution Fred Aldous
Wood General Wood Low Woods with lower resin content cut and engrave better.
Wood cork Potential Risks Potential for combustion, smoldering Channels and gaps in cork can allow for unseen combustion, please cut and engrave with caution, pre-soaking with water may be safer
Plastics Thin Polypropylene sheet (<1mm) Low
Plastics Acrylic AKA Perspex Low Fred Aldous

Kitronic

Hobarts

Plastics Foamcore (non-PVC variety) Low Please check from the supplier that it does not contain PVC - they should be able to supply a Material Safety Data Sheet
Plastics Correx (Genuine non PVC) Low Please check from the supplier that it does not contain PVC - they should be able to supply a Material Safety Data Sheet
Plastics Depron Foam Potential Risks Potential for combustion Fire risk, must be closely monitored
Plastics Plastics containing PVC (e.g. Sintra, Foamex) Banned laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Plastics Plastics containing ABS (e.g. 'sheet styrene', Plasticard) Banned laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polycarbonate Banned laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polystyrene Banned laser contamination, fire risk
Plastics Polypropylene Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Plastics HDPE Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Foam PlastaZote Foam Low Thin material will need weighing/taping down, may cause bounce-back rarely. Engraves and cuts super-well
Textiles Cotton Low Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Hemp Low
Textiles Unwashed/Greasy Wool Banned Fire risk Lanolin in wool can cause fire and smolder
Textiles Acrylic Felt Low 'Welds' the edges and can give a fray resistant edge, although this edge can be rough Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Polar Fleece Low 'Welds' the edges and can give a fray resistant edge, although this edge can be rough Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Stretch Cotton Jersey (t-shirt material) Low 'Welds' the edges on some materials and can give a fray resistant edge Abakhan Fabrics
Textiles Veg Tanned Leather Potential Risks Foul odour, emissions, risks with tanning method Please check from the supplier that it is specifically vegetable tanned - other tanning processes and ingredients can be harmful. Cutting leather can also give off foul smells and be highly anti-social - please be aware of this when using the laser, and of your other hackspace members.
Textiles Leather chrome-tanned, or unknown tanning agent Banned emissions
Textiles Fake Leather Banned laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Textiles PVC Banned laser contamination, emissions Off-gasses chlorine gas when lased
Ceramics Stone Low Engrave only.
Ceramics Ceramic tile Low Engrave only.
Ceramics Glass Low Engrave only.
Composites Fibreglass Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Composites Carbon fibre Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Metals Banned Can cause laser damage
Other Food Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Other Body Parts Banned
Other Lucy Banned laser contamination, safety hazard She might seem really eager, but it's probably best not to listen to her...
Other Fresh Flower Oasis Banned emissions Contains formaldehyde
Other Laser rubber Potential Risks laser contamination Requires immediate cleaning of the laser after cutting - this takes significant time, and takes the laser out of service until its done. Please only do this after consulting with the laser team. Fred Aldous
Other Non-Laser Rubber Banned laser contamination, fire risk, emissions
Other Flexible Magnetic Sheet Banned Emissions (HCl) If you find a supposedly laser-safe version, please contact the laser maintainers for approval
Other Asbestos (all types and products) Banned Laser Contamination, H&S Someone asked, so we had to put this entry in

Suppliers

Hobarts

One source for acrylic for cutting is Hobarts. See the mailing list

Fred Aldous

Another place local within manchester is Fred Aldous

They sell some perspex / bits of wood, and glass paint for experimenting with pcb solder masks

Special Materials / Cutting

Burnable Materials / Mahogany

With some types of material one approach to cutting is to use a low power setting but with multiple passes
However one thing to watch out for is that you may end up with a build up of carbon along the cut line

PCBs

Typically making PCBs on the laser cutter hasn't been that successful
Probably best to check with Bob before trying anything like this (to make sure the laser doesn't get damaged)

One approach found on the internet (haven't tried this yet):

  • Put down several layers of Black Acrylic paint onto a copper coated board
  • use the laser cutter to etch away the paint
  • Use copper etchant to take away the copper layers exposed by the laser cutter

Things to watch out for:

  • CO2 lasers cannot cut copper directly (they don't have enough energy)
  • One gotcha is that the laser cutter can leave behind an invisible layer of paint / chemicals after trying to expose the copper that needs to be etched
  • Another possible problem is that copper is reflective, if the power is too high or the speed of travel is too slow then there's a possibility that some degree of reflection may occur and damage the laser (may be best to check with the laser maintainers before experimenting)