So I am a classroom teacher, we have to be very careful about fumes and smells in school. I am wanting a cheap, safe AND STRAIGHT material to cut for pretty much all my projects. Some would be painted etc.
The draftboard is perfect, however way to expensive. I have about 500 students. I looked at chipboard that was like 1-2 dollars per 12 x 12" size, which would be amazing, however not sure on safety of lasercutting that.
Is there a material that is straight and very safe to cut thats cheap?
Does cutting all materials pretty much expose us to health risks? For instance I was cutting acrylic, which was great at first, however then the fumes with windows open were just so overpowering. IT seemed to be after I made the cut, fine while i was cutting etc.
I am just very paranoid about fumes and risks… Do I need to seal my glowforge more to eleminate etc. Any good mtl suggestions?
Chipboard is laser safe as a rule. You should check the MSDS to be 100% sure.
Heavy paper stocks are safe too, poster boards, mat boards, etc.
But to get back to “safe”. Fundamentally you’re applying a laser to flammable, organic materials. There is a certain amount of risk no matter what. I can start a fire with almost any material if I use the wrong settings or a poorly-designed SVG.
Cardboard is a perfect example. It will catch on fire if you do the wrong things to it, but if handled correctly, it’s not very risky at all. I use it as a jig material all the time, it cuts easily and quickly.
Anything organic that you cut is going to smell a little. But you might want to try engraving on slate or cheap ceramic tile from Lowe’s and Home Depot. There is no smell, although there is a slight amount of dust, so venting is still necessary. And once the tiles have been engraved, the kids can color them with Sharpie markers.
The boxes of tiles are dirt cheap, and if you stick some little felt circles on the back they make great coasters that the kids can take home with their own artwork permanently on them. There are quite a few examples of how to work with it in the forum.
I would pick up something like .070-.080” thick chipboard from Dick Blicks. They have free shipping over $35, I believe. You’ll have to break the larger sheets down, but you should be way under a buck or two (like 40 cents/square foot). It’s thick and dense enough to be pretty sturdy compared to cardboard and cuts very consistently.
I wonder if you and @jbmanning5 are talking about the same thing. When he’s saying chipboard, he means a compressed cardboard paper product. Like what cereal boxes are made from. I get the feeling you are thinking of a wood product, like what sub flooring is made from.
That was my read since it was in reference to an alternative to MDF. The paper version of chipboard is more commonly known to artists and crafters. The more common use of the term is for the building product which is made up of various sizes of wood chips impregnated with a glue/resin that’s sometimes used for house sheathing and is just crap for lasering.
I always explain that I’m talking about the cardboard type product that’s used as the backing for notepads and things - people usually know what that is. Even cardboard seems to need explanation with examples because it seems most people I run across only know it as the corrugated type
Everything has a bit of lingering smell after you cut it, especially if you don’t quickly get rid of the paper backing and scraps. But I don’t think it should be that overpowering. Make sure your ventilation setup isn’t leaking and isn’t dumping into a place that gets sucked back into the building.
I’m more worried about the health effects of particulates than I am from the smell of melted acrylic. One thing I did to provide some reassurance, or at least tracking, was to purchase a relatively inexpensive air quality monitor. In my case I got a FooBot, but there are plenty of others that do similar things. I keep it near my Glowforge and if it turns red I know I have a problem. This helped me to realize I had a leak in my vent hose at one point.
I also help maintain a (non-Glowforge) laser cutter in a makerspace at my office. There are fairly strict environmental health and safety restrictions. We have a BOFA filter, which is large and expensive, but it completely eliminates any detectable odor from the laser cutter, without having to vent it outside.
Chipboard is great stuff and can be had very cheap. Check Amazon and don’t settle for the first thing you find. Costs vary widely.
In my experience, the different weights of chipboard are like this.
“Light” is 30 point, or .030". It’s a little thicker than a cereal box, and pretty flexible. It would make a decent jig or light duty decorative item. I wouldn’t use it for an item that gets handled a lot… (Maybe a notebook cover. It would hold up in that application, but feels cheap. Start cutting designs in it, and it gets really floppy.) I use .030 as backer for rhinestone templates.
“Medium” is 50 point, or .050". It is much stiffer than .030" and makes a good notebook back cover, or an inexpensive front cover. It would also be good for semi-sturdy jigs and prototyping. Items made with .050" can be handled OK in my experience.
I’ve been happy enough with .050" for things like notebooks that I have not sought out anything thicker.
By cost per square inch this is the cheapest .030 chipboard I have found.