Laser Cutter Materials

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This list is not complete, a material not listed here is NOT necessarily safe. Be sure to do your research and ask others in charge if you don't know about the material you are using.

This list is adapted, and to a large degree copied, from ATX Hackerspace.


Material DANGER Cause/Consequence
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather Emits pure chlorine gas when cut! 'Don't ever cut this material as it will ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and ruin the motion control system.
Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate/Lexan Cuts very poorly, discolor, can catch fire Polycarbonate 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.
ABS Emits cyanide gas and tends to melt 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).
HDPE/milk bottle plastic Catches fire and melts It melts. It gets gooey. Don't use it.
PolyStyrene Foam Catches fire It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
PolyPropylene Foam Catches fire Like PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
Fiberglass Emits fumes It's a mix of two materials that can't be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
Coated Carbon Fiber Emits noxious fumes A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying - but not when coated.
Un-coated Metals Reflects the laser While coated or painted metals can be etched to remove the coating, the laser will not mark or cut the metal itself.


Material Cut? Etch? Notes
Wood Yes Yes Avoid oily/resinous wood
Plywood Yes Yes Contain layers of glue which might become exposed
MDF/Engineered Woods Yes Yes '
Paper/Cardstock Yes ?
Cardboard Yes Yes May start fires if too thick.
Cork Yes Yes
Acrylic/Lucite/Plexiglas/PMMA Yes Yes
Delrin Yes Yes
Cloth/Felt Yes ? Not plastic coated or impregnated.
Leather/Suede Yes Yes Real leather only.
Rubber Yes Yes Make sure rubber does NOT contain chlorine.
Magnetic Sheet Yes Yes
Corrugated Plastic Yes Yes Difficult to cut.
Glass No Yes
Ceramic Tile No Yes
Anodized Aluminum No Yes
Painted/Coated Metals No Yes
Stone/Marble/Granite No Yes