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General Laser System Information[edit]

What can you do with a laser system:[edit]

A laser system uses a focused beam of light to burn or etch a material. Our laser systems use CO2 based lasers and range from 40W (Full Spectrum) to 60W (Epilog Fusion 40). The maximum material size is 40"W x 28"H x 13.5"D. Currently there is no capability to etch on round objects.

You will need to complete the Basic Laser System Training before you are able to use these machines. Contact the GJmakerspace or visit the website to find information on times.


The Shop Managers are the only authorized personnel allowed to troubleshoot, repair, and service the laser systems. The are listed below in the Maintenance-Training Authorization table below.

Members have their authorizations listed in the table below. See Policies for more information.



Our laser system uses a high intensity beam of light that can generate extremely high temperatures when it comes into contact with the material being engraved, marked or cut. Some materials are extremely flammable and can easily ignite and burst into open flame setting the machine afire. This open flame is very dangerous and has the potential to destroy not only the machine, but the building in which it is housed. Experience shows that vector cutting with the laser has the most potential to create an open flame. Many materials are susceptible to igniting, but acrylic, in all its different forms, has been shown to be especially flammable when vector cutting with the laser. Please read the following warnings and recommendations and follow them closely at all times!


*Stay with the laser. Never operate the laser system while unattended.

  • Keep the area clear. Clean around the machine and keep the area free of clutter, combustible materials, explosives,or volatile solvents such as acetone, alcohol, or gasoline.
  • Be prepared with a fire extinguisher. Always keep a properly maintained and inspected fire extinguisher on hand.
Epilog recommends a Halotron fire extinguisher or a multi-purpose dry chemical fire extinguisher. The Halotron extinguishers are more expensive than a dry chemical, but offer certain advantages should you ever need to use an extinguisher. The Halotron extinguisher discharges a clean, easily removable substance that is not harmful to the mechanics or wiring of the laser system. The dry chemical extinguisher discharges a sticky, corrosive powder that is very difficult to clean up.
  • Use Air Assist (laser system option). Always use the system’s Air Assist feature when vector cutting.
  • Use caution when vector cutting. Many materials have the potential to suddenly burst into flames when cut with a laser – even materials that may be very familiar to the user. Always monitor the machine when it is operating.
  • Clean the laser. A buildup of cutting and engraving residue and debris is dangerous and can create a fire hazard in its own right. Keep your laser system clean and free of debris. Regularly remove the Vector Cutting Table to clean any small pieces that have fallen through the grid.

Specific Laser System Information[edit]

Epilog Fusion 40 - 60W CO2 Laser System[edit]

Full Spectrum - 40W CO2 Laser System[edit]

How To[edit]


Material Usage[edit]

There are many materials that can be cut or etched with a laser system. The are some materials that are hazardous to humans or may damage the machine. Please review the materials in the next table to know what not to use. This does not cover some materials, the usage of material is at the discretion of the GJmakerspace staff, who have been trained to error on the side of caution.

!!WARNING!!: Because some materials can be hazardous to use in the laser system, make sure you know the material you are cutting and the staff is aware you are cutting it. Here is a way to identify unknown plastics. !NOTE!: Burn testing must be performed outside.


Material DANGER! Cause/Consequence
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride)/vinyl/pleather/artificial leather Emits pure chlorine gas when cut! Don't ever cut this material as it will ruin the optics, cause the metal of the machine to corrode, and ruin the motion control system.
Thick ( >1mm ) Polycarbonate/Lexan Cut very poorly, discolor, catch fire Polycarbonate is often found as flat, sheet material. The window of the laser cutter is made of Polycarbonate because polycarbonate strongly absorbs infrared radiation! This is the frequency of light the laser cutter uses to cut materials, so it is very ineffective at cutting polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is a poor choice for laser cutting.
ABS Emits cyanide gas and tends to melt ABS does not cut well in a laser cutter. It tends to melt rather than vaporize, and has a higher chance of catching on fire and leaving behind melted gooey deposits on the vector cutting grid. It also does not engrave well (again, tends to melt).
HDPE/milk bottle plastic Catches fire and melts It melts. It gets gooey. Don't use it.
PolyStyrene Foam Catches fire It catches fire, it melts, and only thin pieces cut. This is the #1 material that causes laser fires!!!
PolyPropylene Foam Catches fire Like PolyStyrene, it melts, catches fire, and the melted drops continue to burn and turn into rock-hard drips and pebbles.
Fiberglass Emits fumes It's a mix of two materials that cant' be cut. Glass (etch, no cut) and epoxy resin (fumes)
Coated Carbon Fiber Emits noxious fumes A mix of two materials. Thin carbon fiber mat can be cut, with some fraying - but not when coated.

Vector Cutting Materials[edit]

Material Max thickness Notes WARNINGS!
Many woods TBD Avoid oily/resinous woods Be very careful about cutting oily woods, or very resinous woods as they also may catch fire.
Plywood/Composite woods TBD These contain glue, and may not laser cut as well as solid wood.
MDF/Engineered woods TBD These are okay to use but may experience a higher amount of charring when cut.
Paper, card stock thick Cuts very well on the laser cutter, and also very quickly.
Cardboard, carton thicker Cuts well but may catch fire. Watch for fire.
Cork TBD Cuts nicely, but the quality of the cut depends on the thickness and quality of the cork. Engineered cork has a lot of glue in it, and may not cut as well. Avoid thicker cork.
Acrylic/Lucite/Plexiglas/PMMA 1/4"+ Cuts extremely well leaving a beautifully polished edge. Multiple passes at a lower power is necessary to cut through materials thicker than 1/4"
Kapton tape (Polyimide) TBD Works well, in thin sheets and strips like tape.
Mylar TBD Works well if it's thin. Thick mylar has a tendency to warp, bubble, and curl Gold coated mylar will not work.
Depron foam TBD Used a lot for hobby, RC aircraft, architectural models, and toys. 1/4" cuts nicely, with a smooth edge. Must be constantly monitored.
Gator foam Foam core gets burned and eaten away compared to the top and bottom hard paper shell. Not a fantastic thing to cut, but it can be cut if watched.
Cloth/felt/hemp/cotton To raster use 8% Laser power and 100% Speed. This will most likely will be a good start. Start at 4% and work up from there. Not plastic coated or impregnated cloth!
Leather/Suede TBD Leather is very hard to cut, but can be if it's thinner than a belt (call it 1/8"). Real leather only! Not 'pleather' or other imitations, they could be PVC!
Magnetic Sheet Cuts beautifully
NON-CHLORINE-containing rubber Fine for cutting. Beware chlorine-containing rubber!
Teflon (PTFE) thin Cuts OK in thin sheets
Carbon fiber mats/weave
that has not had epoxy applied
Can be cut, very slowly. You must not cut carbon fiber that has been coated!!
Coroplast ('corrugated plastic') TBD Difficult because of the vertical strips. Three passes at 80% power, 7% speed, and it will be slightly connected still at the bottom from the vertical strips.

Approved Etching Materials[edit]

Material Notes WARNINGS!
Glass Green seems to work best...looks sandblasted. Only FLAT GLASS can be engraved in our cutter. No round or cylindrical items.
Ceramic tile
Anodized aluminum Vaporizes the anodization away.
Painted/coated metals Vaporizes the paint away.
Stone, Marble, Granite, Soapstone, Onyx. Gets a white "textured" look when etched. 100% power, 50% speed or less works well for etching.

Materials referenced above were taken from the [ATX Hackerspace]. Not all materials listed there are approved for usage on the GJmakerspace laser systems