Laser Manual/Basic Safety

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The laser cutter is generally a very safe machine to use. However, as with all industrial machines, you need to treat it with respect. The main safety concerns are creating fires, hurting your eyes or skin, getting crushed by the machine, and creating toxic fumes.

The basics:

  • Always monitor the laser beam cutting your work
    • Do not stare directly at the beam since it can be reflected to your eyes
    • Use your peripheral vision or stand such that the air assist adjustment nozzle is between you and where the beam is doing its work
  • Pause the machine and open the lid if you see a fire
    • Move the gantry
    • Try, in order: blowing out fire, spritzing it, and as a last resort the haltron fire extinguisher next to the laser
  • Only cut approved materials
  • Make sure the windows by the bathrooms are closed so the fumes don't re-enter the space there

Fire[edit]

Laser cutter with water and estop
The water squirt bottle is sitting on top of the laser, and the estop is the round red button.

You can really hurt yourself or burn the building down with this machine. If you follow the safety rules, the chances of you causing this is close to zero. Some materials are very flammable on the laser cutter, and shouldn't be cut. Never cut an unapproved material, or a material you can't identify. A laser beam can also initiate a fire if the speed of the cut is too slow or the laser power is set too high.


Ways to not cause fires:

  • Always monitor the laser cutter whenever it is cutting as fires can happen. The laser affects your material by heating it. Your job can change in seconds with the accumulation of heat in your material. Never leave the room while the laser is in operation. If you leave the laser unattended, your access to the laser cutter will be permanently revoked.
  • Use reasonable speed/power settings. Start with the recommended speed/power settings for your material. Be patient - resist the temptation to crank the power and speed to rush through your job. This can cause fires.
    • There will be some light when material is cut. This light at the point of lasing may be ok as long as it stays with the motion of the laser. If a flame appears while the laser is in operation, stop your job and try again with lower heat settings.
  • Know where the fire extinguisher is in case of a fire. The ONLY fire extinguisher that should be used on the laser cutter is the halotron extinguisher right next to the laser cutter. Other fire extinguishers are corrosive and will ruin the machine.

How to put out a fire:

  • Push the pause button (if you can't find the pause button quickly, the e-stop will do). (To turn the machine back on after the estop was hit, you need to switch the power switch on the right hand side of the machine off and on again).
    • If paused and not e-stopped, move gantry out of the way
  • Open the lid.
  • If it's small, try and blow it out.
  • If it's smallish, try and squirt it out with the water squirt bottle sitting on the right hand side of the machine.
  • If that doesn't work, use the halotron fire extinguisher to the right of the laser cutter. Aim it at the base of the flame.

Damage to eyes and skin[edit]

The laser beam can instantly and permanently blind you. It can also burn your skin.

  • The lid's window will block the infrared laser beam, but it doesn't block the visible light produced by the burn. The visible light can be bright enough to damage your retine! Do not stare directly at the cut! Use your peripheral vision.
  • You don't ever want any part of your body in contact with the beam.
  • As long as the door is closed, you're safe to look at the laser. There are interlocks on the door that help ensure the laser never operates with the doors open. Don't disable them.

Crushing danger[edit]

The laser cutter is not an intelligent machine. It doesn't care whether your hand is in the way when it's moving. The head can move when the door is open. Always make sure everyone's hands are out of the machine before moving the head.

Also be very careful not to crash the head into other parts of the machine. Be very careful when moving the z-axis to not crash the head into the bed, and to not move the z-axis if the focus length acrylic circle is under the lens.


If you need something to weigh down your material, use the magnetic balls or beanbags that are kept near the laser; nothing else. Do not let the laser head crash into these; if it does immediately stop the job.


Be *very* careful to not put the beanbags (or any other material) in such a situation where they may be dragged by the head. The head should never bump into anything, and *especially* never drag anything.

Fumes[edit]

The laser cutter burns the things it's cutting, which can create toxic fumes.

  • Only cut approved materials. Cutting nonapproved materials can release really toxic gases, including chlorine and cyanide. These are really bad for humans, as well as being very damaging to the laser cutter.
  • The ventilation fan should always be running if the laser cutter is on, even if it's not cutting. It's currently wired such that you can't turn on the laser cutter without the fan turning on, but please make sure it's running.