Selecting and Procuring Material for the Laser Cutter

Policies  Selecting materials    Generating a DXF file    Loading a file onto the laser cutter    Laser cutting a part Power and Speed settings

IDeATe stocks some of the more commonly used materials for course and student projects. View our Lending Desk price list for more details.

Some material cannot be used on the laser cutter because:

  1. the laser isn’t powerful enough to cut through it,
  2. it is flammable, or
  3. it produces dangerous off-gasses.

Approved materials: acrylic, mirrored acrylic, cardboard, mat board, hardboard, chipboard, museum board, polystyrene, YUPO synthetic paper, MDF (engineered wood), bass wood, plywood, Delrin

Textiles: Good: Felt, rayon, tightly woven cotton, wool, most natural materials; OK: loose weaves, knotted material

Forbidden materials: ABS plastic, mirrored glass (the backing contains mercury), Lexan plastics, polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG), foam (of any type), any materials containing chloride or vinyl (e.g. PVC), and wood thicker than 1/4″ (6mm).  Forbidden textiles: flammable synthetics, vinyl, metallic/reflective materials, neoprene, any material with chlorine. Ask IDeATe staff if you are unsure.

Danger! Chlorine: Do not cut any materials that contain chlorine; they can produce chlorine gas when heated. If you are unsure of the chemical composition of your material, you can check the Material Safety  Data Sheets on the EH&S website. If you have a questions about a material that you would like to cut, please ask a staff member!

Metals: Our laser cutters are incapable of cutting steel, brass, copper, and other metals.

You can also buy material from the CMU Bookstore, McMaster-Carr, Amazon, or a hardware store; however, you are responsible for making sure that the material is on the approved list.

Note: The Bookstore sells both acrylic and PETG.  They look similar, but are quite different chemically. Read the paper label on the plastic to be sure you have acrylic, not PETG.


  • Painted or glued materials must be completely dry before laser cutting.
  • Two high speed cutting passes on low power produce better results for low-melting point plastics and for some types of paper.
  • Fabric must be cut to size before laser cutting (max = 47″ × 35″).
  • Due to the focal properties of the laser lenses, materials must not be thicker than 3/8″ (9.5 mm).
  • Hint: Save good material by testing your settings on a scrap area!

If you are unsure if your material is OK, ask! Only you can prevent laser cutter fires.