What Materials Can You Use With Laser Cutters?

The laser cutting method is becoming increasingly popular due to its versatility. Laser cutting allows welders to cut unique components and pieces out of metal with extraordinary precision by projecting high heat in a very narrow beam. However, not all materials are suitable for laser cutting.

So, what materials can you use with laser cutters?

Laser cutters are capable of cutting a wide range of materials. Laser cutters are commonly used to cut foam, wood, cork, paper, acrylic, aluminium, various glass kinds, ceramics, and various metal alloys.

Laser cutting steel has limitations because of the material's thickness, the lasers' power, and speed. Some materials can even emit harmful fumes during the cutting process. Stick around till the end to know more!

What Materials Can Be Cut Using Laser Cutters?

What Materials Can Be Cut Using Laser Cutters?

One of the significant benefits of laser cutting is accuracy and precision. A narrow and concentrated beam ensures the highest level of accuracy.

And no, laser cutting does not damage or disfigure your material. The whole process is non-contact. The focused beam only affects a small area, so the rest of the area is not damaged.

Consider the thickness of the material and the complexity of the design you want to create before cutting it. Depending on the material, the laser cutter's power and speed settings will vary.

Always check with the laser cutter manufacturer for particular material recommendations that will perform best with your machine. While there are some materials you should never use, the following list provides plenty of options. 

Disclaimer: Always work in a well-ventilated location to stay safe, as laser cutting different materials may emit radiation.

1. Wood

One of the most popular laser cutting materials is wood. Novices commonly use a laser cutter for wood. Even professionals cut out pieces, engrave gifts, and carve out detailed designs. A thinner piece will work better if you're cutting all the way through.

Most wood forms can be laser cut, including plywood and MDF (medium-density fiberboard). Avoid wood with oils or resin because they can catch fire.

2. Plastic And Acrylic

You can create some beautiful pieces of art by laser cutting acrylics. Banners, jewellery, sculptures, artwork, and more can all be made with plastic and acrylic materials. Acrylics come in a greater range of colours and textures than wood.

When laser cut, they all leave a beautiful finish. The edges melt in such a way that they appear to be polished.

All plastics release toxins, so make sure you have adequate ventilation. Vinyl-type plastics are particularly hazardous and emit dangerous fumes. Those fumes can ruin the laser cutter's optics and damage the device.

3. Foam

Foam is light and inexpensive, making it ideal for prototyping and models. It is well suited to laser-cutting for luggage inserts, padding, and seals. You can also use them for children's projects.

However, laser cutting foam is not the best option, although it can be done. Foam has the disadvantage of melting readily and catching fire. Therefore, you have to monitor it continually. However, cutting through foam with a knife is very easy, so that would be the safer option if you can.

4. Leather And Textile

Once you are familiar with the process, you can try laser-cutting leather. It is a pricey material, but the result is stunning. Wallets, belts, bags, accessories, and artwork are all possible. Always properly fasten the leather to avoid warping.

Textile cutting with a laser cutter is a sort of digital embroidery. You may achieve similar results in a fraction of the time. While leather is one material, others include cotton, nylon, silk, and polyester. Compared to traditional production methods, the technology allows for the creation of digital embroidery, which saves time and money. 

5. Cardboard

Cardboard is one of the most cost-effective and easiest materials to laser cut. Corrugated, grey, and cellulose are the most common options. For handicrafts and model building, grey and cellulose are the finest choices.

Cardboard is quite environmentally friendly. It's made of recycled, recyclable, and biodegradable materials. On the other hand, cardboard has a low resistance to dampness and fire unless it is treated specifically.

6. Glass

Since glass is fragile and has reflective qualities, laser cutting it may seem challenging. Although it is difficult, it is possible to slice glass with a laser cutter.

However, only skilled operators should attempt it because of the material's reflecting nature. Additionally, for glass cutting, the laser cutter would also require robust cooling systems.

7. Metal

Most people think of metal cutting when they think about laser cutting in an industrial context. Almost any metal may be sliced using a laser cutter. But the most common metals cut using this method are iron, carbon steel, mild steel, stainless steel, steel alloys, and aluminium.

Sometimes metal cutting can be tricky. Ideally, you should use metals of 0.06" thickness or thinner if you want to cut entirely through the metal. Otherwise, the metal may be warped by CO2-based laser cutters.

Important Note: Never laser cut anything without first conducting a comprehensive study on the substance, as some materials (particularly plastics) might emit toxic gases. When laser cutting, remember to always be careful and utilise the correct safety equipment. For the ideal settings for each material, consult your laser cutter's manual.

Materials You Should Not Cut With Laser Cutters

Laser cutters are not all-powerful machines that can slice through anything. There are some limitations to them that make cutting some materials unsafe. Here are some of them.

1. Plastic

Plastic not only won’t cut precisely, as it will melt rather than cut, but they also release toxic fumes when in contact with heat.

2. ABS

ABS releases cyanide gas when in contact with a high powered laser. And cyanide is a widely known and highly toxic substance.

3. Styrofoam

It catches on fire when cutting with a laser. But these are so soft, you can cut them with a box cutter. No need to bring out a laser machine.

4. Fibreglass and Carbon fibre

They also release a lot of toxic fumes that can either kill or at least harm you.

5. Anything over 1mm thickness

Consumer-grade laser cutters are not fit to cut anything over 1 mm thickness.

Conclusion

Laser cutters are an extremely convenient way to quickly, precisely, and easily make various shapes out of a wide variety of materials. While people associate laser cutting with large-scale industrial applications such as the automobile or aerospace sectors, the truth is that lasers can cut a wide range of materials.

And by now, what materials can you use with laser cutters. Feel free to contact Allwinmac for precision laser cutting. 

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