While there is a wide range of materials you are capable of printing on, some are unsuitable to use, others downright dangerous. Because of their chemical make-up, certain types of materials should not be engraved or cut with a laser.
Doing so can result in sub-quality outcomes or even promote hazardous conditions for workers, such as dangerous gas or dust emissions during the processing stage. To keep your team safe and ascertain what types of materials can and cannot be used when taking out your laser engraver or laser cutter, check out our list below.
Materials Safe for Laser Cutting
Several materials are considered universally safe for laser cutting. These materials handle well when cut, and offer a smoother, more desirable finish at the end of the process. There’s a variety of safe material types, explained a bit more here.
Extruded acrylic makes for a smoother edge and a better finish overall in comparison to cast. When looking to cut or etch, extruded acrylic offers transparent qualities that make it appear similar to glass, but maintain its plastic-like resistance. Choose from translucent of opaque colors to best meet your needs.
Cloth, Felt, Hemp, or Cotton
With exception to plastic coated or impregnated cloth, materials like cloth, felt, hemp, or cotton generally cut well. Additionally, you can use laser cutting to assist in lace-making.
Variations of Wood
While plywood or composite woods often contain glue and may result in an inferior cut compared to solid woods, many other variations of wood cut reasonably well. Be sure to avoid oily or resinous characteristics when woodworking, however, as using these increases the risk of material flammability.
Easy to work with, magnetic sheets also cut beautifully. A top choice when creating items such as refrigerators or car magnets, magnetic sheets are prime material for laser cutting.
Cardboard and Paper
Laser-cutting cardboard can add a unique twist to your printed marketing materials. Whether you need business cards or laser cut banners or pop-ups, cardboard is easy to work with and is foldable and allows for economical assembly.
Whether you need form inserts for a suitcase or want custom-cut padding or seals, laser foam cutting allows for efficient cuts, aligning with the precise shape of the desired object. There is a variety of foam types you can choose: Depron foam, EPM, Gator foam, Polyester (PES), Polyethylene (PE), Polyurethane (PUR), or Neoprene.
Unsafe Materials for Laser Cutting
Just as there are optimal materials for use in laser cutting, there are some materials you need to avoid at all costs with your laser-cutting endeavors. While innovative safety tools, such as the MCT supplied filtration system, are purposefully equipped to handle hazardous exhausts in the case of an accident, knowing/avoiding the hazard-prone materials when laser cutting is the safest solution.
HDPE or Milk Bottle Plastic
Safety first when it comes to HDPE or milk bottle plastic. First, the material is highly flammable, putting your business’s infrastructure, finances, and employees at tremendous risk. Additionally, this variation of plastic is susceptible to melting under high laser temperature and pressure, which makes handling and control nearly impossible.
Coated carbon fiber lets off noxious, hazardous fumes due to the mix of materials. The edges burn and laser cutting this material emits copious amounts of smoke.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
Chlorine is the main component of PVC materials, causing it to release toxic chlorine gas when cut with a laser. This gas is hazardous to humans and to your machine.
Materials containing fluorine, chlorine, bromine, iodine, and astatine; epoxy; or phenolic resins should not be laser-cut. These materials burn and smoke, creating toxic fumes that could endanger the health of operators and subject machines to time-consuming maintenance.
Materials That Shouldn’t Be Laser-Cut, but Can Be Etched
Some materials are suboptimal for laser cutting but are perfectly capable of being etched. These materials include rock or stone such as GeoStone, ceramic, aluminum and DiBond, glass, or mirrored acrylic specifically.
There’s a wide variety of materials that are highly adaptable to laser cutting, etching, or marking, and can deliver superior results without endangering your team. Other materials, however, simply should not be applied to a laser cutter, as they risk exposing machine operators to harmful toxins, can damage equipment, and potentially halt operations altogether. Consult this list before attempting to cut new materials that you may be unfamiliar with, or reach out to a professional consultant, such as MCT Digital.
With years of experience in the development of digital finishing, MCT’s technological pioneering next-gen engineering platform, and top-notch customer service representatives can help your business learn about, integrate, or benefit from their innovative laser cutting solutions that include patent-pending capabilities that further set it apart.