How do you know if something is bad to lase?

Tons of stuff here of you guys all saying you used this or that, and tons of stuff saying "Don’t use anything with :long chemical formula name: in it. The problem is, none of the stuff at the store lists those ingredients (or any ingredients on most things). So, just a quick clarification?
Acrylic - good
Lexan - Bad
Untreated wood - good?
Treated or stained wood - Bad?
Annodized Aluminum - Good
Other metals?
Natural leather - good
Leather from JoAnn’s fabrics?
Food? (and I read a post that said don’t eat it if you have used your GF for other materials. Can you eat it?)
Adhesives? (Can I spray adhesive a picture onto wood and then cut a puzzle out of it?)
So many questions…so little time!!!

“So little time” is true for everyone, so I have good news!

There are well established lists about what is good and bad to lase, you’re just one forum or google search away.

The third link brings you to a thread that has this:

Which brings you to a list at atxhackerspace:

That link is all over the forum, it’s widely shared. (a quick search on it yields 48 discussions):

Each of these discussions talks about material safety.

If you have a specific question that is not answered, then you can search the forum for things like “can I engrave finished wood”:

…and sure enough, 50+ threads that talk about it. Likewise search for “lasering food” and “anodized aluminum” and “leather”… it’s all out there, waiting for you to read up.

Many questions about laser safety aren’t cut-and-dried. There’s a lot of complexity there, and there’s no great shortcut to rolling up your sleeves and doing to the work of researching new materials as you want to try them. The good news is that the forum is a deep well of almost everything you might ask. You’re in the right place!


And to add to all the excellent links @evansd2 provided, you can also just google “laser safe material” and you’ll find oodles of info out there. There’s nothing unique about the GF and if a material is safe in other CO2 lasers, it’s safe in a GF.


Yeah. I have already been through about a dozen hours of doing those searches. Almost everything says “Don’t use chrome treated leather” or “Don’t use plastics with BPA”, but no one ever seems to say “Plexiglas has BPAs” or “Leather from that store is chrome treated”. It’d be cool if the GF people would actually make a list that was more user/shopper friendly. At Lowes, they have about 10 different materials they call Acrylic…and some of them say Plexiglas and some of them say Lexan, but they all say Acryllic. I just thought someone here, or from GF would have a quick and dirty answer for some of the obvious things, without using technical/chemical or other terms that are really nowhere in existence on the actual materials that we see in the store. I’ll figure it out on my own. Thanks for the lists, though. (that hackerspace list is pretty decent) (p.p.s. Also, it really is confusing when the actual makers say “Yeah…it is totally safe to cut your seaweed wrappers or engrave your Eggos, or write love notes on your banana [that isn’t a euphemism]” and then the hacker list, and another site I found, says “Never cut food in your GF, since you also cut toxic materials in there, you could die”)

Lexan and Plexiglas are registered product names and are not the same material. Lexan is polycarbonate and is not safe for lasering. Plexiglas is acrylic and is safe. Plexiglas and plexiglass may or may not refer to the same material just as Coke and Pepsi are different products, Coke and coke may refer to different drinks.


Lowes does NOT market Lexan as acrylic. It is clearly labeled as polycarbonate.


There’s no substitute for reading an MSDS.

My advice about “there is no simple answer to this complicated question” stands.

It can be confusing at first but you’ll sort it out as you go like the rest of us have.


Yeah. I live rurally, so I was mainly just going by searches. I search Acrylic on Lowes website and Lexan and Plexiglas both show up. But you guys are right. I’ll figure it out on my own. Like you all did.

Well I didn’t say that exactly, I mean you’ve got all the posts that have come before you. None of us are in this alone, we’re a pretty helpful community. I mean, look at how people piped up about lexan vs acrylic… that’s one more material option that you know won’t work, and it’s partly because of the forum gremlins.

We all build on what people have been generous to post here, I’ve learned a ton by reading here, and I hope I’ve given some back. In any case, I look forward to seeing what you make!


Don’t be discouraged!

That is definitely NOT what we are saying! We are just informing you that there is not and easy answer to your question.

Once you learn about your own local suppliers you will know what are good materials for you to work with. And we are here to help you learn, but we cannot give you a simple answer to a complicated question. But, we can help you learn! That is what we do here, learn from each other!!


The atxhackerspace link is the only one I’ve ever needed to refer to, beyond what’s already posted on this forum.


What knowledge is rare here is dealing with chocolate (besides just eating it :yum:) in that you appear to be the expert.

It is certainly true that to have safe food you have to have a laser for nothing else, but as I mentioned you can make stuff in acrylic or Delrin or even hard maple and either use it directly or make a silicone mold for it. Like rolling out dough on an engraved piece of Delrin, or the chocolate molds discussed.

We are likely all waiting to see what you can do and perhaps teach us a bit of how you did it.

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Here is a file with everything, I know I wish I could say I did all of this but truthfully, I am not sure where I found it but I have added to it, so……

Glowforge Settings.xlsx (388 KB)


A few other things probably not safe to laze…

live small animals
hand grenades
your child
someone else’s child
fissionable material


They will never do that because they don’t want that liability.

My son has food allergies and people are always asking for a list of safe things for him and my response is generally to please just read the label. This is because making an exhaustive list of safe things is impractical (also because ingredients are constantly changing). This is the same principle. Making shopping lists for an international customer base isn’t feasible. That said, if you take a bit of time to understand why certain materials aren’t safe, you can typically generalize. For example, faux leather is almost never safe (it’s almost always PVC) unless specifically stated to be laser friendly. Colored leather is almost always chrome tanned so assume that unless specified otherwise. When in doubt, search for (or request) the SDS document and look for unsafe components.