Alternative to Acrylic Cutting?

Does anyone have any materials that are clear and that DONT smell like acrylic? I literally cannot cut this at my job (at a school) its just too insanely pungent, even though its “laser safe” I am constantly nervous a kids gonna be allergic or if we are exposing ourselves to any crazy harmful fumes.

I only cut 9 of these for the maze project and its just so insanely overhwleming. This is a cool project, but I cant keep doing it if the fumes persist. My classroom is 2 parts, we even have a door and wall and the fumes just leak through, all windows open etc.

Any ideas for alternatives?


Yes, use cast acrylic rather than extruded. (Proofgrade acrylic is cast acrylic.) It smells better by about a factor of ten.


What is your venting arrangement? It sounds like you need to really look at your venting arrangement; I use mine in an 800 Sq Ft condo and don’t have anything like that happening.


Funny thing, that…my dad was big into making things from acrylic when I was a kid. He had to rely on the usual shop tools, of course, but the smell was pretty much the same. So now, while other people are holding their noses and fleeing the area, I’m the one taking long, deep sniffs and feeling all nostalgic for my childhood. :wink:

(EDIT: I’m frighteningly close to 60, and still have all my parts and am overall pretty healthy, FWIW. So there’s a good possibility your kids aren’t in imminent danger. But it’s wise of you to be concerned!)


Are you sure that you are just not not sensitive to acrylic like some people are here haha? I have used the outside vent as well as the portable filter.

Thought I had purchased that. Also if i remember right with proofgrade there still was significant enough smell for class disruptions, maybe im wrong, nervous to check again!

No, you’re not necessarily wrong…acrylic is going to stink no matter what. I just find that extruded acrylic is about ten to a hundred times worse than cast. I can tolerate cast. Extruded gives me a flaming headache.

And there isn’t any kind of plastic that I know of that you can laser that doesn’t stink. So…it’s the least obnoxious choice.

i also agree with @ben1 though…you need to check your exhaust setup and make sure it’s air tight to reduce the incursion into the classroom. And the other tip is to immediately remove the masking and put it into a ziploc bag. A lot of the smell clings to the masking after the cuts.

It smells bad. There’s no doubt of it. And it lingers quite a while.
I must say, last year I did several hours of acrylic cutting over several days. The smell lingered on. UNTIL I cut some basswood. Not only does that stuff smell amazing, it completely covered the smell of the acrylic. Obviously it’s one smell for another. But basswood is literally the best-smelling material I’ve ever lasered. And I don’t like most smells AT ALL.


True, does glowforge cut through 1/8th inch glass do you happen to know? Not sure if I could even find that.

No. You’ll be able to engrave most glass. Not cut it at all.

No, a laser beam cannot cut through glass. It’s like running into concrete…stops it cold.

(The heat will fracture out a tiny chip though…it’s how we etch it.)

I think I am sensitive to acrylic - even Proofgrade gives me a headache if the smell gets too strong in the house - and anything with plastic masking is worse, but with proper venting it isn’t much of a problem. I also have an air filter that runs right by the vent hose to help cut down on the smell. Based on what you have said, the venting is the issue since it is getting into the neighboring classroom. Either the classroom is pulling outside air downwind of your exhaust or you are getting so much exhaust into the room that it is permeating the air. In the former, look at your exhaust and the outside air intake. In the latter, your vent is full of holes or your filter is full.

Cedar planks are that way for me. :blush:


Classroom windows for sure blow all air back inside.

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Even if it could cut glass, you’d not want to use glass on a toy for children!!

Old school solution to smell…burn a few matches. (The sulphur compounds in the match heads are one of the easiest to recognize smells for our brains to process or something…removes/reduces other odors.)

I would stick with the filter for acrylic, use the vent outside for other materials. And remove the masking promptly and get it into a ziploc bag. That gets rid of the smell much more rapidly.

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There are plastic table saw blades that cut acrylic beautifully. If all you’re making is rectangles, you could do that easily.

Or, you could buy acrylic custom cut to shape. Professional plastics and others can get highly accurate custom cuts for you.

Or you could buy small rectangles at a set size and then design to that size. Here you go:

The laser is slick and all but it is massive overkill to just cut lots of the same rectangles.


Are you just running the included venting tubing out the window? I replaced the stock aluminum tubing with an insulated tubing from Amazon and there was a marked reduction in smell. The noise outside my house was also dramatically reduced. My understanding is that there are micro holes in the thin stock tubing.

I also wonder if you set up one of the recommended fan systems that I have heard mentioned here numerous times would help. I haven’t done this myself yet so can’t speak from experience, but I’m planning to eventually just for the reduction in noise level.

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The insulated vent hose is also available locally at Home Depot. About $25 if I recall.

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Yeah, since our schools don’t have a budget for A/C, open windows are a must in the warm months.

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