A laser cutter gives you a variety of options to create custom items. 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 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.
Introduction to 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 Makeblock’s list of 10 Great Laser Cutter Projects To Make At Home. This will give you a good idea of what’s possible. Just remember, these are just a small sampling of projects.
A 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, paper, metal and more. In fact, the pattern on the heart in our featured image was laser cut onto the leather.
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.
Laser Cutter Materials
Ready to start trying out laser cutting? First, you’ll need to gather the materials you want to use. 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. The only thing to remember is different materials may give off different fumes, so ensure you’re working in a well-ventilated area to be safe.
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 gifts and carve out intricate patterns in a piece of wood. 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.
2. Plastic and Acrylic
When you use a laser cutter for 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. Create beautiful stained glass-style artwork. Much like with wood, you have various thicknesses to choose from.
Foam works well for creating inserts and seals, though you might consider using it for kids’ projects too. For instance, you could laser cut thick foam pieces to create fun, custom puzzles. While it’s not as popular for home projects as much as other materials, it’s still a good option to try out.
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.
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.
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.
Cork isn’t a material you’ll likely work with often. However, it’s fun to use for creating kids’ craft pieces. Of course, if you’d like to make your own custom coasters, cork is the perfect material and you laser cut it into any shape you want. The one thing cork doesn’t work well with is engraving as it’s a weaker material that tends to cut all the way through easily.
Laser cutting textiles 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.
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.
Overall, there aren’t many materials you can’t use. Ideally, you should avoid glass, unless you’re engraving. Any material that contains chlorine, such as vinyl or PVC, isn’t recommended either.
Laser Cutting With Laserbox
While businesses have used laser cutters for decades, you can use your very own desktop laser cutter at home. The Makeblock Laserbox works well with a wide variety of materials and is even kid-friendly.
One of the things that’s most overwhelming about laser cutting is trying to figure out laser cutter settings for different materials. The laser box is designed to eliminate the hassle and learning curve. The machine can auto-identify most materials and adjust settings accordingly.
Whether you want to cut or engrave, Laserbox has you covered. It’s ideal for kids’ projects, making jewelry, creating great gifts and much more. Don’t be surprised if you get addicted to creating stunning laser cut items.
Ease of use is one of the top features of Laserbox. It’s an innovative laser cutter that uses an AI algorithm to identify materials, adjust settings and create patterns based on hand drawings. Whether you’re new to laser cutting or a professional, it’s easy to jump in and get started quickly.
While you can design patterns in the included software, you can also draw on your material or upload a hand-drawn design. Before the machine cuts anything, you get to preview the alignment using the 5 MP camera. You can even extract images to use on other materials later.
For parents, rest easy knowing that Laserbox turns off automatically when the lid is opened so kids don’t get hurt. There’s also a smart smoke purifier for optimal ventilation to prevent overheating. Plus, a built-in warning system alerts you if anything is wrong.
Stop dreaming and start designing custom creations with your very own laser cutter. Check out Makeblock today to learn more about the hardware and software you need to start laser cutting in your own home.