[Sewing] what fabrics can be cut with laser cutters?

Rachel Lyra Hospodar rachel at fernworks.net
Sun Dec 19 21:04:28 UTC 2010

i've done a ton of etching and cutting fabric with the laser.

the biggest thing to look out for is PVC, polyvinyl chloride.  fake
leather, mostly.  occasionally used in coatings.  it releases chlorine
gas when you heat it which is bad for you and the laser.

the lady christie is thinking of, who teaches most of the laser stuff at
techshop menlo, is laura mappin.  she is rad and will gladly answer all
sorts of questions.

i can answer specific questions too.

i have lots of different examples of applique that uses cut shapes.
right now i mostly use leather and cotton broadcloth.  leather is really
great to work with using the laser.  i have tons of small scraps if
anyone wants some to experiment with.

i have some samples of etched images.  etching images is a tricky
process that depends heavily on fiber and weave as far as what kind of
results you will get.  twill weave (like denim) and velours work great.
 cotton will mark lighter with just the right settings, or darker if you
crank it up.  synthetics usually mark darker.

meredith, i've never seamed fabrics together intentionally this way but
when i have layers of synthetics overlapping where i cut it, they often
melt together.  i'd love to know about any experiments you do here.

On 12/12/2010 3:00 PM, Rachel McConnell wrote:
> The laser cutter works by basically making a controlled burn.  For
> things that will burn or melt, the laser can cut them.  All, or nearly
> all, fabrics fall into this category.  You do need to be careful about
> setting fires, or releasing toxic fumes.  I don't know of any fabrics
> that will release toxic fumes when heated and I'd only expect this as a
> side effect of fabrics intended for very specific industrial
> applications.  Most fabrics, intended for clothing, upholstery,
> curtains, etc, are NOT going to be toxic when heated/burnt.
> Fabrics are usually flammable though, and this is a slightly bigger
> concern.  In general, the laser creates a tiny enough heat source that
> if any flame does get started, it won't be able to maintain itself and
> will go out immediately.  Obviously the operator has to keep a close eye
> on it just in case this isn't true, but it's not a big risk
> realistically.  You should do experiments with the laser settings for
> any kind of material to be cut or etched to find the minimum energy and
> speed required to make the cut without being wasteful or damage the
> material.  There have been lots of experiments with various materials
> and you should be able to find starting point settings online without
> difficulty.
> Rachel
> meredith scheff wrote:
>> also, what cannot be cut?
>> Im looking mainly at fleeces and wools, but I'm also curious abut other
>> fabrics.
>> Meredith
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