Update (8 April 2019)
As some of you know or may have heard, our laser cutter operations were shut down by the City Fire Marshal on March 24th after two recent instances of fires that were contained and quickly extinguished. During this shutdown, we reviewed our safety policies and training with the City and Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) and proposed necessary changes.
IDeATe, in conjunction with EH&S, is now requiring that our laser cutters will only be made available during times when they can be staffed by an IDeATe staff member or authorized safety monitor. Also, effective immediately, EH&S is requiring all laser cutter users to complete either the online Laser Cutter Safety module in addition to the previously required fire extinguisher training.
Please note that, while these changes to procedure do allow us to resume operations for now, we may also be required to put additional policy changes into place over the upcoming summer. We will keep you updated.
The IDeATe fabrication facility in Hunt room A5B includes three Rabbit Laser cutters, model RL-80-1290, from Rabbit Laser USA. The laser cutters have 45-inches by 33-inches of usable bed area. The laser cutters have laser tubes rated for a maximum output of 80 watts.
Laser cutters are intrinsically two-dimensional cutting tools: a focused beam of infrared laser light (invisible to the human eye) moves on an X-Y gantry under computer control to trace out curves and lines. The beam is turned on and off to start and end lines during cutting. Laser cutters can also engrave images by sweeping quickly in a pattern and modulating the beam power to vary the depth of cut. Many people appreciate the speed with which you can test an idea: you can conceive a part, create a 2D drawing, output a DXF, and cut material to make a functional part within minutes.
The fundamental laser cutting process is melting or burning a line using the heat resulting from a material absorbing the energy of the light of which the laser beam consists. To assist the cutting action, a compressed air jet blows into the cut area to help move melted material out of the cut before it can re-solidify. The laser table can be moved up or down prior to cutting in order to locate the top plane of the material at the focal point of the laser.
IDeATe’s laser cutters cut flat materials such as cardboard, fabric, paper, MDF, plywood, and acrylic. The IDeATe facility limits laser cutting to a limited selection of materials known to be safe. A detailed listing of safe and prohibited materials may be found here.