Laser Cutter/Safety and Training

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Laser Cutter 101 Class

Regular classes are scheduled for training on the laser cutter, check our meetup page for the next one; if there appear to be none currently scheduled, please post a request on the discuss mailing list!

Here are the notes from the class (note that just reading the notes is not a replacement for taking the class).

Safety information and training

We should have a bunch of helpful information here on safe operation of the device and who to go to to be trained on its use here.

  • Please speak to one of the people who is experienced with this laser cutter before using it so we can show you where everything is, how to setup the software, how to use it without breaking it, basic safety tips, etc. The tool steward maintains a list of approved laser trainers.
  • Read the instructions first.
  • Never operate the laser cutter unattended because sometimes things catch fire. A squirt bottle with water is kept next to the laser to put out small fires. A fire extinguisher is in the corner of the room for larger issues.
  • If little flames shoot up off of your material, turn down the power. Little flames can start fires and will fog up the lens, which is difficult to clean.
  • It is easy to make the laser head bang against the side or top of the unit. This causes an awful noise and must be very bad for the gears. If the laser cutter makes a banging noise, stop it immediately and reposition the laser head before the next cut, or resize the artwork.
  • Do not cut plastics which create hazardous fumes when burned. Acrylic is ok. PVC and vinyl releases the very toxic gas phosgene when heated. As a general rule, chemical resistant plastics should not be put in the laser cutter.
  • Be very careful with the silver honeycomb, especially when removing it from the machine to clean little bits of debris off of it. It bends very easily and once bent can not be straightened out completely. It is mostly a cosmetic issue, but pressing your thumb in the wrong place will cause permanent marks (marks in your skin, not in the honeycomb. beware.)
  • Do not laser materials that make an excessive amount of smoke. A little smoke is ok, but a large amount can fog up the lens. If it is making a lot of smoke, use more passes at a lower power.
  • When cutting paper, turn down the power as low as possible (5-10%, if the power is TOO low, it wont be strong enough to even fire the laser), and the speed as high as possible (400 when in Cut mode)

Things that can / cannot be lasered

See the full list here. If any of the banned items are knowingly and purposefully put into the laser, you will be banned from its use (and possibly AMT) for being a danger to yourself and others. The outgassing or fire can kill people.