Is plastic-coated aluminum safe?

I work in a university library with a Glowforge, and we’re trying to be very safe with what materials we use. I have a student who would like to engrave and cut a sheet of plastic-coated aluminum, sort of like a plaque and that type of material. I haven’t been able to find anything on using anything like it in the Glowforge. From what I’ve read, anodized aluminum is fine, some plastics may be okay, bare metals with certain coatings are fine, and some mirrors/reflective surfaces are okay, but I’m not sure about this. I have no idea what brand the material is, what type of plastic is in the plastic coating, or what other chemicals or materials may have been used in it. Has anyone used this or could tell me if it’s definitely a bad idea? We’re erring on the side of caution with the materials we allow. From what I’ve been able to find so far, it seems plaques and trophies may be made with a fiber laser or other machines rather than a CO2 laser like the Glowforge.


personally, if i don’t know what’s in the plastic, i won’t engrave it. better safe than sorry, since it could damage your machine (and potentially lungs) if it has chlorine in it (like PVC).

for metal plaques ad trophies, yes, it’s normally rotary and maybe fiber.


there are “metallic” looking 2 color acrylics you can use, like flexibrass and metalgraph from Rowmark. other vendors carry similar materials. i’ve used both flexigraph and metalgraph and they both look pretty good to me.


The GF also can not cut aluminum, not even foil.


Aluminum won’t hurt the GF. The only metal you really have to watch out for is copper. You can engrave anodized Aluminum to your heart’s content, no worries.

As others have stated, what you really need to know is the composition of the plastic. Some produce highly toxic fumes when lased. Some produce corrosive gases that will ruin the laser cutter.

You need to know what the plastic is or you should not attempt to lase it.

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Copper is not an issue. Yes, I am well aware it is IR-reflective, but the beam focus range is so narrow, and the surface so irregular, it does no harm whatsoever. Any reflected, scattered IR is not going to do a thing.

I have reversed engraved many items onto copper sheet without issue.


Thank you everyone! Unless I can find out more about the plastic and what it contains, we won’t try it then. I’ll recommend they purchase a material like the metallic-looking acrylics from Rowmark or other vendors and use it instead.

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