[Noisebridge-discuss] PLEASE READ: Laser Cutter Threat Model

Martin Bogomolni martinbogo at gmail.com
Tue Apr 10 05:58:51 UTC 2012

>> The threat model is "When used with the wrong substance, laser cutter
>> fumes can potentially contain cyanide gas that can kill everyone in the
>> room."
>> http://www.atxhackerspace.org/wiki/Laser_Cutter_Materials

Heh.. as the person who wrote the wiki page for ATX Hackerspace, let
me expand a bit on this...

=== CHLORINE ===

The laser cutter will produce noxious fumes and gases when cutting
just about anything.   If someone tries to cut PVC or other
chloride-containing materials, it will emit a //vanishingly small//
amount of chlorine gas.   Chlorine is bad for you, m'kay?   But the
amount released is not deadly, and I would be very surprised if the
machine could emit enough chlorine gas to be detectable by anything
but a sensitive sensor.

HOWEVER:  The amount of chlorine is enough to cause damage to the lens
over time.  IR laser lenses are very soft, softer than soapstone, and
easily eroded by chlorine gas.   The coating on the lenses and mirrors
generally is gold, which also is easily eroded by the presence of even
tiny amounts of chlorine gas.

SO.  Enough to kill you?  No, not likely.   Certainly not in one
session or even a handful of sessions.   Enough maybe to cause a
chronic condition if you cut PVC every day, and were constantly
exposed to it day in and day out.

=== CYANIDE ===

The laser cutter will produce an even -smaller- amount of cyanide gas
if you try to cut ABS on it.  Cyanide is, just like Chlorine, bad for
you .. m'kay?  Again, the amount is vanishingly small, and you would
need a very sensitive detector to register the amount created.

Cyanide isn't likely to damage the machine, but exposure to cyanide
over time //will// cause chronic conditions.   Again, you'd need to be
using the laser cutter day in and day out on ABS, with absolutely no
ventilation, to be in any danger at all.

SO.  Enough to kill you?  No... again not likely.  Not in one session,
and not in a handful of sessions.


Cyanide is bad.  Chlorine is bad.  Many people who use the laser
cutter don't know ABS from PVC from a hole in the wall.   The best way
to avoid these potential issues is simply to make sure that we use
approved materials like bone, stone, glass, acrylic, cardboard, wood,
rubber stamp material, and such from known good sources.

If you don't know what it's made of .. consult with an expert and get
it identified.   If you still don't know, dont' go sticking it in the
laser cutter.


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