Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Discuss all things diode hobby lasers. Project settings, materials, hardware, tips & tricks, etc.
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LAHobbyGuy
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Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by LAHobbyGuy »

There are a wide range of materials that the Blue and Red Lasers can cut, etch or mark – but some simply don’t work (i.e, metals) and some are extremely hazardous to either humans or the machine itself (i.e., PVC and Vinyl). It is therefore imperative that you check this list before attempting to cut materials that you have not worked with before.

It is not always obvious which materials will work – for example polycarbonate sheets (Lexan) produces flames, creates long stringy clouds of soot that float up, ruin the optics and mess up the machine and are extremely hazardous to your health.

Yet acrylic – which looks just like Lexan, cuts smoothly and cleanly and is one of the best materials to use with the laser! So double check what you’re cutting. If you aren’t sure, test the material.


MaterialDangerCause/Consequence
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) Vinyl Artificial leatherEmits chlorine gas when cut!Don’t ever cut this material as it will ruin the optics, causes the metal of the machine to corrode as chlorine is released and ruins the motion control system.
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Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate LexanCuts very poorly, discolors, catches firePolycarbonate 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. It creates long stringy clouds of soot that float up, ruin the optics and mess up the machine.
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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). Cutting ABS plastic emits hydrogen cyanide, which is unsafe at any concentration.
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HDPE – Milk bottle plasticCatches fire and meltsIt melts, it catches fire, don’t use it.
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PolyStyrene FoamCatches fireIt catches fire quickly, burns rapidly, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!
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PolyPropylene FoamCatches fireLike PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
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Epoxyburn / smokeEpoxy 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)
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Fiberglass Emits toxic fumesIt’s a mix of two materials that can't be cut. (etch yes, cut no)
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Coated Carbon Fiber Emits noxious fumesA mix of two materials, thin carbon fiber mat can be cut with some fraying, but not when coated.
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Material with Sticky Glue Backing Coats lens, cracks lensExamples include cork tiles, thin wood laminate, acrylic tiles, and paper stickers. Never cut these materials in the laser cutter if they have this backing. The glue will vaporize forming a coating on the lens that will coat it, cloud it, heat it, and then potentially crack the lens. The glue residue is worse than resin, and can’t be removed without risking damage to the lens, requiring a lens replacement.
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by Benjones »

Oh my gosh! I'm glad I found this! I been doing sticky back cutting!
Thanks!
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by LAHobbyGuy »

Benjones wrote: Thu Jul 01, 2021 10:40 pm Oh my gosh! I'm glad I found this! I been doing sticky back cutting!
Thanks!
Glad to help!
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by bigsmith56 »

Any known issues engraving luxury vinyl flooring used for coasters?
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by LAHobbyGuy »

bigsmith56 wrote: Sun Sep 05, 2021 3:00 pm Any known issues engraving luxury vinyl flooring used for coasters?
I would say that since it contains PVC, I would avoid it.
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nickm324
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by nickm324 »

Is this the guy you posted on Facebook that they found on his garage floor from cutting vinyl flooring?
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by SaturnSG »

great notes for us! :oops:
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by hmbfly »

New member here. This is the first post that I read. Great info. What about etching/cutting MDF. I always wear a dust mask when cutting it with my table saw because of all of the resins.
Are the MDF resins a problem with the laser also?
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by LAHobbyGuy »

Yes, you need good ventilation with MDF, and really with any material.

Rich
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Re: Diode Hobby Laser Etching & Cutting Warning!

Post by hoosier436 »

Thank you for the advice and waring...
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