While there is a multitude of materials that are safe to use with CO2 lasers (like Glowforge), there are also many materials that are not safe. Some can damage the laser or cause a fire, some can be sensitizing (causing an allergic reaction) and some can be very dangerous to your health.
So what materials are safe? This seems like a pretty straight-forward question, right? Unfortunately, it’s not always a straight-forward answer. For example, many types of hardwood can be used, but not all hardwoods. Some hardwoods create noxious fumes and some can damage lasers. Genuine leather is safe if it’s veg tanned, but not if it’s chrome tanned.
Another complication is that materials can vary by manufacturer, batch, lot or even shipment. The easiest way to get around this is to find reliable stores to buy materials from that can be trusted. Recommendations from other Glowforge owners in the community forum can be very helpful with finding places to buy safe materials.
Glowforge has a list of materials that can be used on their website. There are also other lists online, such as this page, the table on the left. For details about specific items, it’s important to research materials before using them. Referring to a material’s Safety Data Sheet (SDS), is the safest way to know for sure if a material is safe to use with a CO2 laser.
Materials Safe to Glowforge
Examples of materials that can be cut:
- EVA foam sheets
- acrylic (plexiglass)
Materials that can be engraved, all of the above, plus:
- ceramic tile
- anodized aluminum
- rubber stamps
- devices (like a laptop)
What materials are NOT safe?
This is not an exclusive list, but here are a few items you never want to laser. I will expand this list over time.
- PVC including vinyl and pleather (emits chlorine gas)
- ABS (emits cyanide gas)
- PU “leather” or other faux leather that is not manufactured to be laser safe
- HDPE/milk bottle plastic
- Coated carbon fiber
- Materials that reflect the laser like chrome or copper
- PolyStyrene Foam or PolyPropylene Foam (not to be confused with EVA foam, which is laser safe)
I hope this information about what is and isn’t safe to laser is helpful! For examples of materials I love to use, check out my list of favorite things, including materials and some places to buy them! What is your favorite material to use with Glowforge? What materials do you have to add to the list of unsafe materials? Is there a particular material you would like to learn more about? Drop a comment below!
Your safety is the top priority!
Until next time,
PS. Sign up for my free newsletter below – I’ll also send you the password to access my free design library where you can download free design files to use with Glowforge!