Laser Cutting

How a Laser Cutter Works

A laser cutter/engraver works by burning or melting a hole or slot in material. The heat comes from the infra-red light of the laser. The designer chooses the path the laser follows and its power setting to make cuts and patterns. For a more detailed explanation see ESAB Education.

Laser Safety

  • If you don’t know what the material is, then don’t cut it. It can poison you, cause a fire, or damage the laser system
  • If a material you want to cut isn’t listed on the approved list below, please consult with a Peer Mentor and have an MSDS sheet ready for the Peer Mentor to look at.
  • Never override any safety interlocks on the laser.
  • A Peer Mentor must be present during the setup and operation of the laser.
  • Always make sure the exhaust fan is on during the operation of the laser.


Pre-approved materials:
  • Plywood, balsa, softwoods, hardwoods
  • Acrylic
  • HDPE – tends to melt for sheets thicker than 1/8″
  • Cardboard
  • Cotton fabric / felt / genuine leather
  • Paper / cardstock
  • Poster board / foam board
  • Trotec brand materials
  • Uncoated metals

Consult with the Peer Mentor on:
  • Coated metals
  • ABS
  • Carbon fiber
  • Any material containing carbon, zinc due to potential fire or poison
  • Polycarbonate or Lexan
  • Any materials not listed elsewhere

Prohibited materials:
  • Any unknown material – you must know what you are cutting
  • Materials containing bromine – usually anything flame retardant
  • PVC
  • PET
  • Vinyl
  • Fiberglass
  • Polystyrene / polypropylene foam