5 Materials That Is Unsafe To Cut With a Laser Cutter
5 Materials that is unsafe to cut with a laser cutter
A CNC laser cutter can work on a wide range of materials. Some of the materials that CNC laser cutters can cut are anything from wood, acrylic, cork, paper, and foam to different types of metals. Laser cutting in Australia very popular because of its versatility. Still, there are specific materials that do not work on laser cutting machines because they may not be able to survive the procedure. Some are extremely hazardous to the machine and humans, as well. It is, therefore, essential that you should check the lists before attempting to cut materials that you have not used before. It is not always apparent which materials will work on which machine.
If you are cutting anything using a laser cutter, it is your responsibility to ensure that your laser machine can cut those materials. Following is the list of material that a laser cutter cannot cut:
- PVC – Polyvinyl chloride: PVC is also referred to as pleather or artificial leather. If exposed to a thermal process, i.e., if we try to cut this with a laser cutting machine, it will produce hydrochloric acid, chlorine gas, and some toxic fumes. Chlorine can destroy the laser machine, ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and distort its control system. Thus, PVC cutting should be left for mechanical techniques instead.
- Thick (thickness >1mm) Polycarbonate/Lexan: Polycarbonate is okay to cut, but even this tends to result in patches of discoloration. Polycarbonate absorbs the infrared radiation, which lasers use to cut materials because of which the chance of catching fire is very high. In some cases, the laser cutter will cut very poorly, and even the material may discolor badly and begin to burn. Polycarbonate/Lexan is often found as flat sheet material. Polycarbonate strongly absorbs infrared radiation because of which the window of the laser cutter is made of Polycarbonate. This is the occurrence of the light which the laser cutter uses to cut materials; that’s why it is ineffective in cutting Polycarbonate. It is a poor choice for laser cutting as it produces long stringy clouds of smoke that drift up, ruins the optics, and tangle up the machine.
- ABS: Generally, the laser beam is hot enough to make the material vaporize, which in turn helps in cutting, but this is not the case with ABS, though. It emits cyanide gas and tends to melt, resulting in a messy working table and a cut with a quality that does not satisfy anybody. ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt somewhat than vaporize and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted cloying deposits on the vector cutting grid, which may harm the material of the machine. It also does not carve well (again, tends to melt). Cutting ABS plastic emits hydrogen cyanide, which is unsafe at any awareness and is harmful to humans.
- Epoxy: Epoxy is an aliphatic resin that is solidly cross-linked carbon chains. A CO2 laser cutting machine cannot cut it, and resulting in a burned mess creates toxic fumes (like cyanide!). Items covered in epoxy or cast Epoxy resins should not be used in the laser cutter. One of the examples which contain Epoxy is Fiberglass. Fiberglass is a mix of two materials – glass and epoxy resin that cannot be cut, and if we will try to cut, it starts emitting fumes, glass (etch, no cut), and epoxy resin (fumes). Even if toxic gases were not released, mixtures are challenging to obtain high-quality cuts/ engraving or etch due to the heterogeneous nature of the material and the significantly various melting points between the fiberglass and polymer matrix composite materials. As a result, it is difficult to find a setting that will work steadily, cutting both types of materials.
- Polystyrene& Polypropylene Foam: Both Polystyrene & Polypropylene Foam catch fire very quickly. Apart from this, there are some other problems also with them, but fire must be enough to prevent you from trying to either use laser marking or cutting those materials. Polystyrene catches fire, it melts, and it can only cut thin piece. Like Polystyrene, Polypropylene melts catches fire, and the melted drops remain to burn and may transform into rock-hard drips. Polypropylene (PP) does not typically produce high-quality engravings as it frequently melts more than it ablates. PP has a low melting point and readily grasps heat, resulting in the bending of thin pieces. Cutting polypropylene foam is a significant fire danger and should be avoided.
The following materials should also be avoided;
- HDPE/milk bottle plastic (catches fire and melts easily)
- Coated Carbon Fibre(emits noxious fumes – it can be cut but with some fraying)
- any foodstuff
- Ceramic Tile
- Neoprene rubber(contains chlorine and is a significant safety hazard).
At ACCU GROUP, we have various laser cutting machines from where you can get the best laser cut designs as per your need. Please contact us to guide you to the most suitable material to suit your application that can be cut with a CNC Laser machine.