FAQ-Materials that can damage the Glowforge

I’m waiting for the delivery of my glowforge. In the meantime, I was reading through the FAQs. One of them mentioned that using the wrong materials can damage the unit. It did not name the materials. What materials would damage the unit?

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Chlorine containing compounds for sure! Definitely a no-no.

Which materials contain chloride?

Most vinyl does nowadays as it is PVC based, the C being the chlorine. It would be important to look at the MSDS of anything you can that you want to laser and see what its made of and potentially what it turns into when burned.

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Also not a bad idea to google “laser safe material”, like “laser safe acrylic” or “laser safe copper”. You worry generally about 2 major things: poison and chemically active stuff. Poison is bad for you, chemically active is bad for the glowforge.

(in general acrylic good, copper bad (copper reflects CO2 lasers) )

As always, caveat emptor when using rando google results.

Some materials are always sketchy though: anything liquid or powder-based is asking for trouble, you don’t want to glitterbomb your glowforge. (hence I wouldn’t try sintering)

Anything particularly flammable is also not a great idea. corrugated can flame up pretty badly, but “flammable” is a relative scale, and if you’re careful about what and how you are lasering those materials, you can generally get away with it. Just watch like a hawk.


When in doubt, do the flame test with a piece of copper wire.

Thanks for the information, I would have been trying to engrave PVC pipes. Thank you.

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Thanks for the much needed information.

Very interesting reading and video. I have to add blowtorch to my set of tools. It was very informative. I would not have known otherwise.
Thank you.

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And things like corrugated cardboard can be fire hazards. (The fire can start between the layers). That’s not to say you can’t use it, just don’t walk away while it’s running, and be standing by with a damp rag to put out the small fire if necessary. In general with unknown materials that might burn, start with fast speeds and low power and work up to a setting that works.

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Polycarbonate will flame up and burn as it cuts, also you want to void any ABS plastics.

Thanks for asking!

There are a wide variety of materials that are laser compatible, including many (but not all) woods, plastics, leathers, and papers. Like a microwave, though, you have to be careful what you put inside. Using the wrong materials can cause damage to your Glowforge or harm to you or others.

We’ve extensively tested Proofgrade materials for safety but if you are considering printing on materials from another source, you’ll need to determine if the material is laser compatible. This can be tricky: for example, many plastics look alike, and some plywood is made with glue that isn’t laser-compatible. You need to contact the manufacturer, inspect their safety data sheet (SDS), and/or consult an expert to determine if each material is compatible with the CO2 laser inside the Glowforge unit. (As always, make sure you understand and follow all warnings and instructions in the user manual that comes with your Glowforge.)

Unfortunately we can’t offer more specific advice on particular materials provided by other vendors, since we don’t know enough about them. You can post questions about other materials in Beyond the Manual so other folks here can help. Should this happen with a print on Proofgrade materials, please open a new ticket in Problems and Support and we’ll help you right away!

I’m going to close this thread - if you have any other questions, go ahead and post a new topic. Thanks again for letting us know about this.