Laser Cutter: Settings for different materials & Laserable Material Compatibility

First: Check that the material you have can be laser cutter:  

http://tcmaker.org/wiki/index.php?title=Laser_Cutter_Materials

http://atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

https://www.pololu.com/docs/0J24/3

http://www.cutlasercut.com/laser-cutting-materials-laser-engraving-materials

http://fablabdevon.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Laser_Safe_Materials1.pdf

http://www.lasercuttingshapes.com/materials/

If you are not aware of the compoistion of the material, try the Beilstein test to avoid highly toxic chloro-dioxins : A copper wire is cleaned and heated in a Bunsen burner flame to form a coating of copper oxide. It is then dipped in the sample to be tested and once again heated in a flame. A positive test is indicated by a green flame caused by the formation of a copper halide. The test does not detect fluorine/fluorides. 

Second: This is a list of working speed & power parameters for various materials.

Please note:

  • This is only an indication, you should ALWAYS make tests and ALWAYS look after your material while it's being cut
    • especially considered the machine calibration was changed since our first tests
  • The focal length - the distance between the noze tip and your material - is 6mm .
  • The power should always be above 20%, and for cutting the speed shouldn't go above 100mm/s
  • The power of the laser decrease the further it goes away from the origin of the axes (top left corner of the machine), so if the settings are just enough to cut through the sheet at the top of the machine, they will not at the bottom right of the machine.

 

On the PC machine driving the lasercutter, in the Imal main folder, there is a folder 'LaserCutter Templates' with ready-made settings. You will also find near the laser cutter a few test sheets of cardboard, mdf and plexiglass with cuts at various powers and speed and the corresponding values (thanks to Julien and Hans)

Finally, you can also find some settings and tips below. The speed is expressed in mm/s and the power in %.

 

Cardboard

For thin cardboard, hold the sheet down with something heavy around the cutting area to maintain it perfectly flat.
If you do a cutout around the whole object, make sure the cutout happens at the end. Because of the material, the cutout can move the cardboard, causing imprecisions.

You can change the order by putting the cutout on a separate layer with a higher number (so if your object is on layer 1, put the cutout on layer 2). Make sure the speed settings of both layers are correct.

  • 1.5mm: Speed 80 / Power 25

Paper

  • from AVA : 300gr/m¬≤ square sheet of paper (Scrabooking ?) Cut well with S11 pw 10

 

Wood

MDF

MDF is engineered wood, wood fibers held together by wax and resin. This is why your MDF might appear to "sweat" when cut, ending up a bit sticky and making the blades dirty. Formaldehyde resin, often used in MDF, isn't cool. So don't oversniff it because "it's just wood". It's not.

Cutting

  • 3mm: Speed 20 / Power 35
  • 2x3mm (glued together) = 6mm: Speed 7 / Power 30
  • 6mm: Speed 20 / Power 55  (Speed 10/ power 40 give good result too)
  • We recomend a maximum of 6mm for cutting. For thicker mdf do a small test before buying it.

Engraving

  • Lines : Speed 300 / Power 20 (and that's probably still too powerful.. and a bit too fast, lines aren't smooth)
Pinewood

Cutting

  • 7mm (planks from wine boxes ;) )
    • Speed 20 / Power 65 works, Power 75 seems to cut slightly better
    • Another one needed Speed 12 / Power 100 to get through
  • 12mm 

Engraving

  • Speed 200 / Power 20
Plywood (contreplaqué bouleau)

http://wiki.imal.org/howto/laser-cutter-settings-different-materials-laserable-material-compatibility

"Not all plywood can be laser cut. Make sure your plywood is interior grade with an MR glue line" (src)
MR = Moisture Resistant, don't use WBP (Water Boiled Proof ) plywood for external usage ! 

Plastics

Plexiglass / Acrylic / PMMA

Avoid extruded acrylic. Use cast acrylic.

After cutting, plexiglass can be cleaned with a window-cleaning product

  • 3mm (transparent): Speed 30 / Power 50
  • 3mm (opaque): Speed 10 / Power 50
  • 8-10mm: Speed 3 / Power 100 / Focus 6mm

Different brands and colors have different resistence to the laser beam, so always test the settings before cutting big parts.

Engraving

  • Line drawing  in BMP : Speed 30 / Power Min 0, Max 6, XY scan 0.15mm
Mazzucchelli M49 Bioplastic
  • 4mm : Speed 10 / Power 50 (probably could work with smaller values)

Glass

Glass can only be engraved. After engraving, you MUST run a scrubber sponge on the surface to remove the micro-shards the laser created in the glass.

 

Mirror

Back of mirror can be etched very easly with S20 pw 10 (to be confirmed)

 

Fabric

To be defined

General notes

  • If you have burn marks at the back of your material after cutting, it *might* be caused by the laser being reflected by the steel blades of the laser cutter bed. It certainly seems to happen with plexiglas. According to what I have read on CNC Zone, lifting the material off the cutting bed (for example with pieces of wood at every corner) should help. To be tested and tried.
  • Dirty blades (especially from MDF glue) also make those marks more likely.

Gallery

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