Many laser cutters can work on numerous materials, but there are some that there isn’t a definitive answer on. Like, can you cut carbon fiber with a laser cutter and can you engrave it? Continue reading as we go into the details.
What is Carbon Fiber?
In order to answer the questions above, we must first know what carbon fiber is.
Carbon Fiber is a polymer (a molecule made from numerous small particles called monomers joining together). It’s made of thin strong crystalline filaments of carbon. Despite being lightweight, it is very strong. In fact, it is five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff. This is why Carbon Fiber is so popular and widely used for parts. Tubing, bike frames, propeller blades, car parts, all use Carbon Fiber in some way.
Laser Cutting Carbon Fiber
Now that you have some general info about Carbon Fiber, it’s time to figure out if you can cut carbon fiber with a laser cutter.
Technically…yes. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that laser cutting Carbon FIber is a good idea. When cutting, the laser will melt the epoxy (class of adhesive, plastic, and other materials) faster than it can have an impact on the actual Carbon Fibers.
This means that only a few fibers will actually break and the cut line will be very poor. So yes, a laser cutter can cut Carbon Fiber, but it’s so poor that it’s not worth the effort.
BUT, there is one more thing. There have been some high-quality Carbon Fiber cuts. This was done by using a 10.6-micron wavelength CO2 laser beam along with a 1.06-micron fiber laser beam and combining them into a single laser beam. The issue is, not everyone has access to this kind of technology so if you can’t do this, you are stuck with no choice.
If you are one of the people who have access to this type of technology, you very well can laser cut Carbon Fiber.
Materials That Can Be Cut By a Laser Cutter
Well if Carbon Fiber results in poor cuts, what materials result in high-quality cuts? A lot of materials as a matter of fact. Some of the most common materials are wood, stone, rubber, and glass. Some other materials that can be cut or engraved are marble, tile, steel, plastic, aluminum and cardboard.
One of the best-known materials to be used for laser cutting is acrylic. This is because when cut, the laser will vaporize the material and create a smooth, glossy, and thin result. There are two types of acrylic: Cast acrylic and Extruded acrylic. Both are good to use but they produce different results.
With cast acrylic, it will turn a white color when engraved but don’t expect the flame-polished edges.
Extruded acrylic is the more preferred option among people because it can be cut smoothly, cleanly, and have a flame-polished edge.
When a stone is being engraved, there is usually a sad reason behind it. The most common time you will see a stone engraved is at a funeral. All the things you see on there such as the deceased person’s name, the year they were born and died, and other additional info was done by laser engraving. Of course, this isn’t the only time this is done. A lot of stone decorations use laser engraving for the writing or picture that is on the stone.
Wood is probably the most common material used for engraving and with good reason. The cuts look nice and precise and they are a number of different types of wood to choose from. Generally, the lighter colored wood is better to use as you can see more detail and get a better cut, but you may end up with burn marks.
Another reason for this being so widely used is that it’s affordable. As you know, wood is one of the most common materials on the planet. It’s much easier to acquire while keeping the expenses down which is why almost all laser cutting companies have some type of wood as a material option for the engraving.
It goes without saying that although wood is nice, it doesn’t have the best look to them in my personal opinion. Certain materials such as glass or stainless steel(think Yeti Tumbler) really make the engravings stand out which is why many people like to use this as an option.