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What Materials are Unsuitable for Laser Cutting.

When it comes to laser cutting sometimes experimenting can yield the best results. That said there are some materials that you should never use. From emitting dangerous gases to damaging you machine, we’ve rounded up eight materials that you shouldn’t use in your laser cutter. 

  1. PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather – when this is cut not only does it emit chloreine gas which is dangerous for you as a user but will also ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and ruin the motion control system.
  2. Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate – this tends to cut very poorly, discolours easily and there is a chance it will catch fire. Polycarbonate is often found as flat, sheet material. The window of your 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 which means it’s a poor choice for laser cutting.
  3. ABS - emits cyanide gas and tends to melt  It tends to melt rather than vaporise, and has a higher chance of catching fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt).
  4. HDPE – whilst not dangerous this plastic catches fire and melts.
  5. Polystyrene -  It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces of it will cut. This is the number one material that causes laser fires.
  6. Polypropylene Foam - like polystyrene, it melts and catches fire. The melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
  7. Fibreglass - It's a mix of two materials that cant' be cut. Glass  which can be etched not cut and and epoxy resin. If you try to cut this it releases some very unpleasant gases.
  8. Coated Carbon Fibre - A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fibre mat can be cut, with some fraying - but not when coated. When coated carbon fibre is cut it emits noxious fumes.

If you are looking for a little inspiration on new materials to try you can check out our blog on them here.