Materials that aren't certified laser safe



This brings up some issues I’ve been most concerned about waiting to hear about delivery. What materials can I safely prepare to use with the machine when it arrives? (I apologize if this has been addressed before, but the forum isn’t the easiest resource to navigate outside of the pinned topics)

First- when will the Proofgrade market be set up?

Second- does using materials other than Proofgrade, Inventables and Laserbits affect the warranty?

Finally- while I’ve tried to educate myself on the general issues related to different materials online, there seem to be a few absolutes (NEVER cut PVC or materials with chlorine, ALL Proofgrade materials can be considered safe) and a very broad grey area.

(This is a nice chart I’ve found that is helpful but raises as many questions as it answers

I understand legally why GF doesn’t want to comment on any material it does not have a hand in manufacturing (or observing manufacturing), but it would still be nice if they could create or link to additional resources for us to understand the issues in better detail to educate ourselves.

For instance, plywood. I wouldn’t ask GF to tell me to use or not use plywood generally, but think they could reasonably explain some of the issues safety experts might have with it: They contain glue, it is nearly impossible to know which type of glue they contain, which may affect the results. But what are the range of risks that glue pose? Will it release gas that kills me and/or the glowforge, burst into flame, or just produce a lousy cut? The last issue I can live with, the first, by definition, I can’t.

The materials sections I’ve found in this forum ( have a lot of handy possible materials but none of them are proofgrade and therefore according to the quoted section above, pose uncertain, unspecified risks.

As an artist, the entire utility of the machine will be determined by the materials available for me to use. I expect that even if limited to proofgrade materials that utility is worth it, but if I have to resources to educate myself to expand that arsenal it will increase my utility (and the pool of people who can make use of it).

To that end, anything GF can do to assist would be appreciated, whether that be a more robust, pinned section of the forum for users to share experiences (or maybe even a wiki), or easy to locate links to outside sites that do the same. Even just a list of why certain materials might be risky would be useful.

As it is, without even the Proofgrade materials listed yet I am having a hard time envisioning what capabilities I will have when I receive the machine and an ever growing list of questions that I’m not sure where to find answers.

(A quick list of some of these-
Is masking tape safe? Only certain brands?
Paper is very vague. Some papers contain glue. Is there a minimum thickness needed? Is magazine paper safe? Newsprint? Paper with ink?
If acrylic is safe, is acrylic medium? If acrylic medium is safe is acrylic paint safe? Does it depend on the pigment of the paint (I can’t imagine one should cut cadmium or lead based materials)?
If you know the paper is safe and the glue is safe, is it still safe to cut through layers of paper glued together?)

I apologize for the length and number of questions, and if this isn’t the proper place for this, I have tried to find answers to these but have had trouble finding what I need to feel comfortable (or even something that will tell me that my basic assumptions are wrong).

Thank you for your updates and general transparency during this process. It has been appreciated.

Information on pre-release units

I just moved this to its own topic so it wouldn’t get lost.

There’s a lot here, but the short version is that we spent a long time trying to create good advice that would allow a nontechnical person to safely use materials from unknown suppliers. We concluded that we couldn’t. The only advice we could give that would result in safe (nevermind reliable) operation would be frustratingly complex at best and misleadingly dangerous at worst (because there are supplier problems that are undetectable without expensive equipment). Further, we decided that we, Glowforge, didn’t have anything particularly helpful to add to the already-large online body of knowledge about selecting materials for CO2 laser processing.

Ultimately people want to hear this from us because they trust us to provide simple and accurate information, and there isn’t any information about this topic we think is both simple and accurate.

So we decided to focus our energy on where we actually could produce a great, safe, reliable experience - Proofgrade materials.

To answer your question about the warranty: if your unit is damaged by Proofgrade materials, it’s covered by the warranty (although that is improbable). If it’s damaged by material you provide, regardless of where it came from, that’s not covered under the warranty. We recommend Inventables and Laserbits, but if they send you PVC for some crazy reason, the resulting damage to the Glowforge isn’t covered under warranty, nor is damage caused by you putting in a piece of polycarbonate and melting it all over the crumb tray.

Safe materials


I plan on using Proofgrade materials for my Glowforge at work. But for my GF at home, I may have to use some common sense and a little bit of trial and error to supplement the lack of funds every now and then (I work in education, need I say more).
Here is a good list that’s been going for a while now:


Is the problem the filter unit? I.e. if the Glowforge is vented outside can we laser anything that doesn’t damage the Glowforge. I.e. not stuff that produces corrosive fumes like hydrogen chloride.

When the filter is used then, because it has to exhaust into the room, it has to filter out all poisonous substances to a safe level and therein lies the problem because how can it be certified to cut all all possible toxins produced by burning random substances?

When I look at say ABS then some people say it melts too much, some people say it produces hydrogen cyanide and some companies list it as something they can laser cut. Will the Glowforge filter cope with hydrogen cyanide?


Even if the glowforge is vented outside there are probably things you won’t want to laser because “outside” is not an immediate, infinite sink for odors and toxins. Some things stink a lot, and if you have neighbors “close enough” they will notice. Other things will likely not be healthy for animals interested in that nice source of warm air in winter… Probably not a big deal for most people, but if I were GF I wouldn’t want to promise that anything was safe that I wasn’t absolutely sure about (or have people say things that sounded like promises in the forums.)

I would expect the filter to cope mostly with particulates, and possibly with some gases in proofgrade materials. But not with random toxics from plastics that don’t have a proofgrade version.

That said, I’m going to be zapping unvetted cardboard without giving it much of a thought…


Wow. Nice post. It does outline the issues very well. Standards and best practices would be very helpful. I’ve thought about this from way back. And we discussed a Glowforge wiki. Even using discourse’s wiki function hasn’t been too useful. So much has been wait and see.

When folks start getting Glowforges and knowledge is gained, that’s when some type of wiki on its own will come in handy.

I’ll certainly share as much as I discover.


Edit: Just answered the warranty question above.


I’d really like to learn what to look for in a MSDS in the rare instances I find one for the material I’m cutting.


That’s uhm…interesting. So our Glowforge warranty is only valid by using your proof grade materials???

That’s like a sawstop brand table saw voiding your warranty if you run a piece of home depot ply through and it broke when you were only supposed to buy THEIR wood at the inconvenience of waiting for shipment, AND the exorbitant cost of said materials.

You DO realize most people aren’t going to be using proof grade materials correct? So essentially, everyone’s warranty is voided the first day they get it…

There could be a major issue with the Glowforge, and because I ran ply from my local lumber yard, you guys will tell me I’m SOL on the warranty? That can’t be true, right?

If that is true, I gotta be honest Dan…not liking the direction this campaign is headed.


It’s more like sawstop not honoring a warranty because you tried to put an iron bar through it. It’s less about not being able to use the right wood and more about using entirely inappropriate materials - if you cut a bunch of vinyl and ruin part of it because of the HCl gas it’s not really the company’s fault. They’re basically just saying they promise not to send you material that is fundamentally a poor choice for lazer cutting.

This is the downside to making a consumer friendly laser cutter - there’s still a lot of stuff to know to operate one safely; I hope this company does a good job with education for people who aren’t familiar with it.


Only if the material is the reason for damage to the unit. Some materials can put off gasses so corrosive as to eat away at the internal electronics and metal parts. If something volatile bursts into flames and destroys your unit, it’s on you. No laser manufacturer in the world will warranty the unit against lack of due diligence. GF understands that not all of their customers are going to take the time to educate themselves and GF can’t teach you to recognize one plastic or volatile material from another, so they provide you with a safe alternative with proofgrade. Most companies haven’t done that.


Right but more important than providing the materials is making sure users know what they should and shouldn’t cut. I assume that will be covered at least to some extent by the shipping marketing materials, but who can say.


I think you are misinterpreting his statement. You don’t void the warranty by using non proofgrade material. You void the warranty if said non proofgrade material damages the Glowforge. Otherwise they would have to cover damage due to material fires.

On the flip side to this, they are saying your warranty covers damage from proofgrade material. I would be very surprised if Epilog or any other laser manufacturer offers a warranty that covers any material related damage.

Edit: Fire is just an example. Don’t leave you laser unattended! :grin:


Fire isn’t really a concern. I mean it is, but you should NEVER operate a laser unattended, and thus can quickly intercede should a flame not be blown out by the air assist.

The dangers here are a fair bit more nebulous.


That’s all fine, if that’s what they mean. Honestly, the only thing I planned on throwing in mine was plywood. Maybe some wood veneers.

Regardless of where I get the wood, that material shouldn’t be causing the glowforge to corrode etc. So I should hope my warranty is intact. However, as a company, you can’t pick and choose on a warranty. It must be black and white. Which suggests to me if they are going to say Proofgrade materials only for warranty, it has to be across the board. Which is what I want clarification on, because if that’s the case…this is gonna be no bueno.


It is more along the line of, if your Glowforge is damaged by material you are working on - Proofgrade caused damage will be covered by the warranty.

This is an extension beyond the failure of the parts and manufacturing warranty. A table saw warranty NEVER covers materials being processed, just parts and manufacturing. If you ran a piece of plywood through the saw (which had rock embedded in its internal layers) and it shattered the blade which destroyed the motor with fragment and/or the undercarriage (gears and adjusters), that is not warranty covered. User provided material is never part of the warranty.

If the motor died while using it or the undercarriage broke while cutting plywood from anywhere, that would be covered by the manufacturer. Now if Home Depot offered Proofgrade plywood (which thus extended the coverage to material) that shattered the blade and caused damage, then you have a comparison to the Glowforge Proofgrade material.

Incentives to purchase, not first day warranty voids.


I was just using fire as an example, because it’s the most destructive thing that could happen due to material selection.

Edit: looking back, I didn’t convey that at all in my post. That’s what I get for posting before I really wake up. :smirk:


Well obviously I don’t expect them to warranty your glowforge if you up and burn it. LOL


There might be a generic list provided but have never seen any laser company provide any more than that. Doesn’t help you identify similar looking plastics. I have a quantity of generic unmarked very hard plastic like material that I love to use in my CNC and have no idea what it is. I know it’s not PVC but I wouldn’t put it in my laser without identification.