Inappropriate materials in the laser cutter

I found this in the scraps bin next to the laser cutter this morning. It may have been there for a long time, though.

This is clearly labelled “Polycarbonate” which is not a safe material for the laser cutter. There is a list of allowed materials at Laser Cutter - Hackspace Manchester Documentation and on a printed sheet next to the laser cutter.

There doesn’t appear to have been any damage this time, but if this happens repeatedly the laser cutter could be damaged. Don’t assume any materials in the laser cutter scraps bins are laser-safe - check for a backing sheet or label which indicates what it is before using them.

Secondly, this selection of polycarbonate appeared by the laser cutter recently:

This appears to have been put here in good faith (polycarb is expensive, so it’s good that someone thought to save it) and there’s no indication it has been cut, but it’s not OK for the laser and as such should not be here. I’ve bundled it up and moved it to large project storage.

So, please:

All Hackspace members:

  • Please don’t leave any materials next to the laser cutter unless you know they’re laser-safe. It’s still the responsibility of the laser cutter operator to check materials are safe, but accidents happen and I’d like to reduce them as much as possible.

Laser cutter users:

  • Don’t even try to cut polycarbonate!
  • Check all materials you use are laser-safe. Don’t assume that unlabelled sheet plastic is acrylic. Polycarbonate and polystyrene, just as examples, both look a lot like acrylic but can damage the cutter.
  • Do a test cut and watch the cutter carefully while it’s operating. If you’ve accidentally misidentified a bit of plastic, then excess smoke, charred edges (as in the above picture) or cuts not going though are all extra clues that you have the wrong material.
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