Laser cutters give you a variety of options to create custom items. Despite being called laser cutters, they are used to cut, engrave and mark various materials. While you might see a laser cutter for wood quite often, this isn’t the only material you can use. In fact, there are numerous laser cutting and engraving materials.
The best part is most laser cutters are designed to work multiple types of materials. Just make sure when choosing a laser cutter that you choose one that works with the materials you want to use most often.
In This Article
- What is Laser Cutting?
- Best Laser Cutter and Engraver Materials
- What Materials Should Not be Cut or Engrave with a Laser Cutter?
- Laser Cutter Settings for Different Materials
- Laser Cutting With xTool P2
What is Laser Cutting?
When you’re new to laser cutting, you might feel a little overwhelmed. What can you make? What materials should you use? What laser cutter settings for different materials should you use? If you’re first starting out, check out the list of easy diy projects. This will give you a good idea of what’s possible. Just remember, they are just a small sampling of laser cutter projects.
xTool laser cutter allows you to create designs and cut or engrave them onto a piece of material. While you might associate laser cutting more with wood or plastic, you can use a laser cutter for fabric, leather, paper, metal and more. A laser cutting machine transfers a pre-programmed design onto whatever material you’re using. While you’ll need to change settings based upon the material, your options for cutting and engraving are seemingly as endless as your imagination.
What Materials Can You Laser Cut?
Ready to start trying out laser cutting? First, you’ll need to figure out what materials you can use for laser cutting. To really try things out, try your laser cutter with several different types of materials to see how it works. While there are some materials that you definitely shouldn’t use, you’ll find that the following list gives you plenty to work with. Typically, if the laser cutter can cut a material, it can also engrave it.
1. Wood for Laser Cutting
Wood is one of the most common laser cutting materials. It’s common for beginners and even professionals to use a laser cutter for wood to cut out pieces to assemble, engrave and carve out intricate patterns in a piece of wood, which allows you to make gifts or products such as wood wall art, wood annniversary gifts and more.
Obviously, you can laser cut most types of wood. If you’re cutting all the way through, a thinner piece will work better. Plywood and MDF (medium-density fiberboard) are commonly used since they’re cheaper. However, bamboo is a great environmentally-friendly option.
Ideally, practice with MDF or plywood first before trying anything more expensive.Buy Plywood
2. Plastic and Acrylic for Laser Cutting
When you are laser cutting acrylic, you can create some truly amazing pieces of art. Plastic and acrylic materials are ideal for creating signs, jewelry, ornaments, wall art and much more. Believe it or not, you actually have a wider variety of acrylics to pick from than wood. Plexiglass, especially colored plexiglass, is a popular acrylic. By cutting plexiglass, you can create beautiful stained glass-style artwork. Much like with wood, you have various thicknesses to choose from.Buy Plywood
3. Metal for Laser Cutting
Using a laser cutter for metal can be a bit tricky. If you’re planning on cutting completely through the metal, you’ll need to use thinner pieces, such as 0.06” thickness or thinner stainless steel. Otherwise, CO2-based laser cutters might warp the metal. However, a laser cutter works extremely well for engraving metal.
4. Leather for Laser Cutting
Once you’ve practiced a bit with other laser cutting materials, you might want to try your hand at leather. It’s an expensive material, but the results look amazing. You can create wallets, belts, purses, jewelry (especially bracelets) and artwork. When using leather, ensure the piece is held securely to avoid any warping.
5. Cardboard for Laser Cutting
Cardboard is one of the most inexpensive laser cutter materials. It’s also one of the easiest to work with. Create everything from impressive business cards to model-building pieces. Typically, you can choose between corrugated, grey and cellulose. Grey and cellulose are the best options for crafting and model building.
6. Fabric for Laser Cutting
Laser cutting fabrics is a newer option. Using a laser cutter for fabric works as a form of digital embroidery. You get similar results in a lot less time. While leather is obviously one type of textile, cotton, nylon, polyester, and silk are all options too.
7. Paper for Laser Cutting
In most cases, when you use a laser cutter for paper, you’ll likely be cutting a type of cardboard. However, thick card-stock paper works well with laser cutters. A creative project to try with paper is custom cards with a laser-cut center scene. These are beautiful and make great gifts.
8. Rubber for Laser Cutting
Rubber is another laser cutting material that can be cut or engraved using a laser machine (CO2 laser, to be specific). Though it is a widely used material for various purposes but is not very common in laser cutting. But with a laser, you can use it for making stamps, keychains, mats, and other items that require rubber.
Laser is the right option for rubber cutting because it offers fine and perfect cutting results. The edges are smooth and perfect, which cannot be achieved by any other method. It can cut various types of rubber, including natural rubber, silicone rubber, and synthetic rubber. However, you need to make sure proper ventilation because of the fumes produced during laser cutting.
What Materials Should Not be Cut or Engraved with a Laser Cutter?
Undoubtedly, laser cutters can cut a wide range of materials. But there are some materials that you should never try cutting using a laser. Avoid these materials because they can catch fire and produce harmful gasses/smoke.
PVC stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride. It is a polymer that produces chlorine gas when exposed to a laser. First of all, the gas is irritating, which causes irritation and burn in your eyes, nose, skin, and respiratory tract. Secondly, the nature of the gas is corrosive. It can harm the frame of the machine, which is made of metal. It can also harm the laser as well as other parts of the machine. Thus, if you want to use the machine for a long time and keep yourself safe, you should never cut or engrave PVC.
The second prohibited material is Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene(ABS). When cut through with a laser, it produces cyanide gas, which is a toxic gas that can lead to death if it is in a high concentration.
The special feature of polycarbonate is the absorption of the laser beams of infrared laser or CO2 lasers, so there is almost no effect for it being laser cut. Besides, there is a possibility of catching fire. Never attempt cutting polycarbonate using a laser. Besides, there is a possibility of catching fire. Never attempt cutting polycarbonate using a laser.
4. Polystyrene and Polypropylene Foam
These are two types of foams, and both are not suitable for laser cutting. Firstly, they catch fire quickly, and when you try to cut them using a laser machine, they only melt; no cutting at all.
You cannot cut it with a laser because it melts and gets gooey when exposed to a laser. Secondly, it can also catch fire.
6. Coated Carbon Fiber
If the carbon fiber is coated, then its coating can release various toxic gasses. These fumes are very harmful and can lead to respiratory diseases.
Laser Cutter Settings for Different Materials
If you want perfect results from your laser machines, you need to choose the optimal settings. Otherwise, the laser won’t cut/engrave or offer the result you need. If the power is too high or the speed is too low, it might burn the material. On the other hand, if the power is too low, the machine won’t be able to cut. Thus, choosing the right settings is essential.
There is no hard and fast rule or exact numbers that you can use for different materials. The settings depend on the optical power of the laser machine. The best way to know the right settings is by running a power-speed test. It will give you a better idea of the settings, then you can choose the best one.
The right settings of a particular laser machine can be guessed by experiments. xTool has created a detailed list of power and speed settings for different materials. You can check the values in the material settings list and give it a try.
Laser Cutting With xTool P2
When it comes to laser cutting, the right equipment can make all the difference in achieving high-quality results. One such piece of equipment is the xTool P2 CO2 laser cutter, a powerful CO2 laser cutter, which is known for its versatility and precision in cutting a wide range of materials.
With its high power of 55W and 0.01mm precision, this laser cutter is particularly well-suited for cutting thicker materials like acrylic, wood, leather, paper, fabric, and even some metals. Its powerful laser beam is capable of cutting through 20mm acrylic and 18mm plywood in one pass. On top of that, it can reach a maximum engraving speed of 600mm/s, making it a popular choice for both hobbyists and businesses alike.
Additionally, this laser cutter is equipped with a range of features that make it easy to use and control. Its two built-in 16MP cameras allow for precise and easy positioning, while its air assist system and exhaust fan system help to blow away debris and fumes, keeping the laser lens clean and ensuring better cutting and engraving results and a safe working area.
One of the standout features of this CO2 laser cutter is its ability to perform rotary engraving. This allows cylindrical objects like tumblers, wine glasses, and pens to be engraved with ease, opening up a world of possibilities for personalized gifts and promotional items. But the versatility of this laser cutter doesn't stop there. This machine can also support curved engraving.
And with its 600*308mm working area, which can be further extended with its passthrough feature and riser base, it allows for larger materials processing.
Overall, the xTool P2 is a great investment for businesses that need a versatile, precise, and efficient machine for laser cutting various materials.
A laser machine is capable of cutting a wide range of materials. We have discussed some of the common materials that can be cut using a laser, so you can pick these materials confidently for your projects. We hope this article will make picking the right material and its optimal settings easier.