Laser Manual/Materials

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Only approved materials should be cut with the Noisebridge laser cutter!

BANNED MATERIALS (NEVER USE THESE)

These materials must not be used in the laser cutter.

Bad materials
Material Notes
PVC Contains chlorine. Will produce hydrogen chloride gas when used which is extremely toxic and also damages the laser optics.
Vinyl Most contains chlorine. Will produce hydrogen chloride gas when used which is extremely toxic and also damages the laser optics.
PVC Foams Most contains chlorine. Will produce hydrogen chloride gas when used which is extremely toxic and also damages the laser optics.
Foam Core Usually made with PVC which is harmful as listed above.
Styrofoam Can cause flash fires
Polycarbonate Does not cut. TAP plastics sells both this and acrylic. Be sure to read your labels when purchasing material. Lexan is the trade name for Polycarbonate, while Plexiglass is the trade name for acrylic.
ABS or PETG Gives off hydrogen cyanide which can kill you and also may damage the laser optics.
Fiberglass Contains complex epoxies which will cause fires, chlorine, and cyanide. Also contains glass which will not cut.
Metals Cannot be etched by this type of laser. Also is harmful as the reflective surface may cause the laser to be reflected back up to the head, damaging it. If someone claims to be etching metal using this type of laser then they are etching a metal with a plastic coating, anodized surface, or some other etchable surface on top.

Known good materials

These materials are known to be ok for use with the laser cutter. The speed and power of the laser cutter will need to be set appropriately for the material and thickness in use. Below is a table showing the suggested settings when cutting or etching them.

Since upgrading the laser cutter to 150W, we have not tested and updated most settings. Please start at HALF the power as before and test carefully, increasing the power until you get a clean cut, and don't use power greater than 55% to prolong the life of our tube. (you probably won't be able to cut wood or MDF thicker than 1/4 inch or 6mm)

Old 100W Laser Cutter Settings for Known Good Materials

Good Materials
Material Engraving Cutting Scoring Notes
Speed (mm/s) Power Speed (mm/s) Power Kerf Width Speed Power
Acrylic (2.3mm or 3/32 inch) 400 5 50 55
Acrylic (3mm or 1/8 inch) 400 5 30 55
Acrylic (4.8mm or 3/16 inch) 400 5 20 55
Acrylic (6mm or 1/4 inch) 400 5 15 55
Cardboard (3-4mm, single corrugated) 200 55 400 10
Cardboard (6mm, two layers corrugated) 50 55 400 15
Cardstock (white, 100lb) 200 20 400 5 The higher speed reduces the amount of browning on the edges.
Fabric - Heat N Bond woven fusible 100 12
Fabric - KONA cotton from Fabric Outlet 100 7 You do have to pull the cut fabric apart (it's not a clean cut), but it rips at the cut cleanly.
Fabric - Silky fabric from Fabric Outlet 100 7 lovely clean cut
MDF (3mm or 1/8 inch) 400 5-10 depending on darkness 50 55
MDF (6mm or 1/4 inch) 400 5-10 depending on darkness 15 55
Plywood, Birch (3mm or 1/8 inch) 400 5-10 depending on darkness 50 55
Plywood, Birch (6mm or 1/4 inch) 400 5-10 depending on darkness 30 55
Rubber, natural (McMaster Carr #8525T53) 20 55
Silicone (McMaster Carr #1460N24) 10 55 Doesn't cut through all the way -- only enough to rip the pieces out by hand.
Sorbothane Rubber (1/8 inch) 13 50 Creates an inky black liquid. Washes away easily with water.
Sorbothane Rubber (1/4 inch adhesive backed) 6 50 Adhesive side up


The Laser Gallery contains some past projects and cutting tests.

Sourcing Material

In general, Amazon and eBay are pretty good resources.

For plastics: Tap Plastics is nearby Noisebridge, but is expensive. The Tap Plastics offcut bin is a great resource and a great deal. eplastics online is another option, and Mr. Plastics is cheapest but is in San Leandro.

For woods: Discount Builder Supply is nearby.