Full Spectrum 40W Laser Cutter
Cutting materials with LASERS
We have a Full Spectrum 40W hobby laser available for engraving and cutting.
How do I use this?
First, get certified. No one wants to be the person who broke the expensive thing and ruined it for everyone. If you have any questions, *ask*. Don't risk the equipment or your safety. Some things that look safe to cut aren't, and sending a 40W carbon dioxide laser beam into the wrong material is a good way to ruin the machine or endanger yourself. There's a machine set up as a workstation for the laser cutter. It has a Windows installation with the necessary RetinaEngrave software installed to let you cut or engrave to your heart's content. You should also probably read the manuals.
|Dan Meyer||Manifest Destiny|
|Phil Strong||Manifest Destiny|
|Chris Agocs||Phil Strong|
|Allan LeSage||Phil Strong|
|Mason Donahue||Phil Strong|
|Mike Gerges||Phil Strong|
|Nick Taluzek||Phil Strong|
|Jack Pribik||Phil Strong|
|Chris Swingler||Phil Strong|
|Dmitriy Vysotskiy||Phil Strong|
|Diana Smith||Phil Strong|
How do I get certified?
This is a big, finicky tool, and certification is required prior to use. For certification, talk to one of the certifiers mentioned above.
Can I cut--
I'm just going to steal Pumping Station: One's summary of what can be cut, etched, and engraved:
NEVER CUT THESE MATERIALS
- PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride): Also known as "vinyl" "pleather" or "artificial leather." Most adhesive vinyl shelf paper (e.g. Con-Tact Paper) also is PVC. 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.
- Polycarbonate: Also known as "Lexan." Polycarbonate is also often found as flat, sheet material. The case cover window on 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 can also emit flame and chlorine gas when cut, making it a poor choice for laser cutting.
- ABS: 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). Finally, ABS emits cyanide when cut.
- HDPE: "milk bottle" plastic. It melts. It gets gooey. It catches on fire. Don't use it.
- PolyStyrene Foam: It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
- Fiberglass: It's a mix of two materials that can't be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
- Coated Carbon Fiber: Again, it's a mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying. However, once coated with epoxy it will emit noxious fumes.
- The laser can cut or etch. The materials that the laser can cut are things like wood, paper, cork, and some kinds of plastics. Etching can be done on almost anything: wood, cardboard, aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, marble, stone, tile, and glass.
- Many woods up to 1/4" thick. Composite woods like plywood contain glue, and may not laser cut as well as solid wood. Engineered woods like MDF are okay to use but may experience a higher amount of charring when cut. Be very careful about cutting oily woods, or very resinous woods as they also may catch fire.
- Paper cuts very very well on the laser cutter, and also very quickly. Thin paper and single layer card stock and cardboard are perfectly OK. Thicker cardboard, carton, and other papers also cut very well but need to be watched to make sure they don't catch fire.
- Cork cuts nicely, but the quality of the cut depends on the thickness and quality of the cork. Engineered cork has a lot of glue in it, and may not cut as well. Cork thicker than 1/4" should be avoided.
- Acrylic (also known as Lucite, Plexiglas, PMMA) cuts extremely well on the laser cutter, leaving a beautifully polished edge. With care, acrylic material up to 1/2" thick can be cut on the laser cutter.
- Delrin (POM) in thin sheets does cut. Delrin comes in a number of shore strengths (hardness) and the harder delrin tends to work better. Great for gears!
- Kapton tape (Polyimide) : Works well, in thin sheets and strips like tape. 1/16" thick is about as thick as you can cut reliably.
- Mylar : Works well if it's thin. Once you get too far past 1/16" thick mylar has a tendency to warp, bubble, and curl. Gold coated mylar will not work.
- Solid Styrene : Smokes a lot when cut, but can be cut. Keep it thin (1/16")
- Depron foam: Used a lot for hobby, RC aircraft, architectural models, and toys. 1/4" cuts nicely, with a smooth edge. Must be constantly monitored when cutting.
- Gator foam: foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard paper shell. Not a fantastic thing to cut, but it can be cut if watched.
- Cloth (leather, suede, felt, hemp, cotton, polyester, but NEVER vinyl or pleather-- see above) They all cut well. Leather is very hard to cut, but can be if it's thinner than a belt (call it 1/8")
- Magnetic Sheet material cuts beautifully
- NON-CHLORINE-containing rubber is fine for cutting.
- Teflon (PTFE) in thin sheets
- Carbon fiber mats/weave that has not yet had epoxy applied can be cut, very slowly. You must not cut carbon fiber that has been coated!!
- EVA foam seems to be ok, at least up to 1cm thick. If you cut it in multiple passes it can warp though.
All the above can be etched, in some cases very deeply. In addition, you can etch:
- Glass (green seems to work best) .. looks sandblasted. Only FLAT GLASS can be engraved in our cutter. No round or cylindrical items.
- Ceramic tile
- Anodized aluminum ( vaporizes the anodization away )
- Painted/coated metals ( vaporizes the paint away )
- Stone : Marble, Granite, Soapstone, Onyx. Gets a white "textured" look when etched
There's an expensive coating called 'cermark'. This marking compound costs $100 for a small bottle, and must be diluted with ethanol and applied to metal (not ceramics or stone) before being etched to leave behind a permanent dark black mark.
Loans says it's called "Thermark" now, and it costs about $60 for a can that covers either 900 or 1200 square inches.