List of unsafe materials

So for many GF owners this will be their first laser cutter and are probably a bit intimidated as to how safe a material they might want to laser is. I have seen that most peoples answer is to google it, which is always a good idea however there is a lot of false info and bad sources also being a newbie they might not know exactly where to look. I thought it might be a good idea since its a good chance those people will look on here first to give people one place to go and see if the material they want to cut is unsafe. Im sure it might be on other sites and forums but I have yet to see it here. So if you have experience I think it would be beneficial if you could post materials you know to be unsafe and why exactly it is that they are bad.

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Waiting for that wiki. It will come, I have no doubt. No doubt you have seen this posted several times. Just linking for the new folks.
http://atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

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Some things will be listed, but they have to be careful as if they list something as “being safe”, and later someone cuts something that they thought was “safe” and turns out to be “not so safe”…, Some people tend to like to place blame on others and not take any responsibility… It’s a fine line, a very fine line, but a hot one :smile:

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I was hoping that people would only post about materials deemed unsafe and if you see the material here and choose to cut anyway so be it.

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That is a very helpful link thanks for posting it.

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I see, good point.
In that case… It is unsafe to breathe any fumes from any cut material from your laser,… Except bacon… Bacon is always good for you…

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What I have learned by reading every post in this forum:

  1. Do not use pvc. Chlorine gas is not good.
  2. Chrome tanned leather. Chromium is not a nice substance.
  3. Some exotic hardwoods have some nasty stuff in it. Mainly from woodworking forums and being careful with sawdust and residue. Be careful with this.
  4. Know your adhesives.
  5. Know your vinyl.
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very true if Bacon is your material of choice I kind of hope the filters arent good enough to filter it out.

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Unfortunately it’s hard to discriminate between safe materials and not - for example, the glue in some plywoods can be a problem, and some unsafe plastics can look like (and even be mislabeled as) safe ones.

If you’re very careful and don’t mind a lot of research, you can definitely sort it out yourself, but this difficulty is a big part of the reason we decided to sell materials ourselves. (You can also buy known-good materials from places like Inventables and Laserbits).

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I like the idea of having a thread devoted purely as a space people can come to for saying “this material is bad to laser cut because…”! There are already a bunch of scattered threads about individual materials themselves and some where people are posting really nice links to charts made by makerspaces. My two cents:

  1. PVC: poly vinyl chloride- stuff like vinyl records, fake leather (so no cutting moleskine journal covers, which made me very sad) and vinyl sheets are a big no-go. The material will emit chlorine gas, which is bad on all accounts both for you and your laser.

  2. PolySytrene Foam- The stuff that makes packing material, blue foam, and the inside layer of foamcore (just a few examples) is also very unsafe. My university’s laser cutter room has a huge scorch mark on the wall where someone tried laser cutting foamcore once…catches fire like crazy and melts.

  3. Fiberglass- an usual material, but just in case: bad for laser cutters, since it’s made up of glass (which you can etch, just not cut) and epoxy resin (which you can neither cut nor etch due to fumes).

  4. ABS- more commonly used for 3D printer filament spools. It will emit cyanide gas, and also melts into a gooey mess rather than actually cutting or engraving. So no sticking 3D prints using ABS into your laser cutter…though I’m not sure why you’d want to? lol

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This is very helpful to me. I would not have thought twice about PolyStyrene Foam, you just saved my Glow Forge as I commonly use it for modeling.

Looks like i need to dive deeper into materials over the next few months.

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Glad to help! I got the foamcore rule drilled into my head at college- to the point where I was afraid to even CARRY some into the laser cutter room, haha. I’m 100% positive this link was posted elsewhere in the forum, but here it is again for reference: super super helpful.

http://atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

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And probably Glowforge at some point in the future, right?

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Absolutely from Glowforge at some point:

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While it is useful to have a list someplace, it is also worth noting that the people who compile them often have differing intentions.

A busy makerspace in a university is going to have a very different definition of “safe” then an individual artist who will be watching their machine carefully and wants to experiment.

Let your personal work style be your guide.
If you are interested in quickly exploring a wide variety of design concepts then pick a material that is “known safe”, and is cheap to get (think thin cardboard).

If you are looking for interesting ways to augment an existing art practice, you may need to be more experimental.

Be safe, be careful, do your research, and experiment, or buy from a trusted source. Both of these are valid approaches.

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Not to sidetrack but to demonstrate that each material requires research. Moleskin covers TBD:
http://community.glowforge.com/t/laser-safe-notebooks/994/2?u=marmak3261
I wonder if @JeremyNielsen heard back from them.

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I am also waiting to hear back from them on this.
Hard to find on their website, but I was able to get this little blurb from within the “contact us” form-dialouge:

Most of the covers in our collections are made of synthetic material. In particular, the hard covers are made of polypropylene while the soft covers are polyurethane. Other collections are made of cardboard. Some special editions include different materials (eg. fabric).

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Nice find!! I had found the PVC concerns in a bit of google research one day, which was what led to me listing it as bad- here’s to hoping all pvc has been removed!

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Good point on the varying definitions depending on where the laser cutter is housed. A good example of that is corian, which as far as I’ve been able to find is safe to cut, but many makerspaces or schools with high traffic on their laser cutters ban it because of the dust build-up if it isn’t cleaned up.

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Thank you. I bookmarked this website for future access!

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