Plastic Laser Cutters

Before we get started looking at equipment, it’s essential to learn the nature of the material, its properties, varieties, and whether it can be processed. Optionally, you can check out our articles as well for a thorough understanding of manufacturing leather and paper.

What’s a plastic? 

It’s a hand-made material that is in great demand in numerous businesses. There are various forms of it, each has its own thermophysical properties and amount of production complexity. Moreover, harmful chemicals may be released on contact with some types of them. 


  • Elastomer;
  • Thermoset;
  • Thermoplast.

The last one softens or melts when heated, but the thermoset stiffens until they reach their maximum temperature. Elastomer is non-melting, insoluble, swellable.

cutting plastic with laser

What types of plastic are cut properly with a plastic cutting machine?

Knowing which materials are safe and comfortable to work with is essential before starting work. So let’s see some common ones:


This material can be used in place of glass. Here’re some common acryl types in manufacturing.

  • Сast: excellent yet expensive.
  • Extruded: polished edges, cheaper than the cast one, but the result may look greyish.

Plexiglass does not release any hazardous, or even toxic vapours during beam processing, yet prolonged exposure may irritate human lungs.

Due to the smooth, clean results, a strong CO2 laser cutting machine’s the best choice. Since it produces no toxic emissions, acrylic can be flawlessly processed using a variety of techniques, except for marking.

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They belong to the polymers based on fluorine and carbon. They are both resilient and sustainable. As the CO2 laser gives off no pollutants, it is a good option for treating fluoropolymers. The edge is clean and the edges are beautifully polished and remain uncoloured.

Because fluoropolymers don’t give off harmful fumes, they can be manufactured in different ways with the help of plastic laser cutters.


It’s regarded as robust. To process Mylar, a CO2 plastic cutting machine is commonly used. When marking, there is no damage to the BoPET structure, leaving white, smooth surface markings. When cutting Mylar, smooth edges can be achieved. For a proper result, beam power and processing speed should not be set too high, otherwise a risk of burnt or melted edges may break out.

So, this substance’s quite OK for cutting, and marking or engraving goes slightly worse than the first process; it doesn’t emit harmful vapours.


laser cutting plastic

It is translucent, thermo-softening, and resistant to impacts. This material should not be manufactured by a plastic cutting machine. Low power laser engraving works well on polycarbonate.

Although it generates a lot of smoke and causes the edges to turn yellow, a CO2 laser can cut polycarbonate with an even, smooth surface. For this reason, using a fibre laser is preferable if you want a high-quality outcome.

Polycarbonate is therefore ideal for marking but somewhat less so for engraving. It smokes a lot and cuts poorly.


One common high tensile plastic used in the production of gears, pumps, and bearings is polyformaldehyde. POM releases trace levels of formaldehyde when it is laser cut. Good ventilation is essential because these vapours have a disagreeable odour but are not hazardous.

For clean edges that don’t require extra finishing, a CO2 laser is the ideal option. For marking, a fibre one works better.

As a result, polyformaldehydes emit fumes, work well for cutting, and are passable for marking and engraving.

An Lee
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Contact us now.
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Thermosetting polymers known as polyimides have excellent mechanical properties, strong heat conductivity, and resistance to chemicals and electricity.

Laser cutting this kind of plastic will cause the edges to carbonise and require post-cleaning. Conversely, polyimide can be marked with a low power beam without worrying about the structural integrity being compromised. It’s often utilised in the aerospace industry because of its high temperature resistance: it can withstand temperatures from -256 to 400⁰C.

This means that polyimide should not be used for engraving and cutting, but it can be marked. It does not give off any harmful fumes.

Which kind of plastic is difficult for a plastic laser cutter to manufacture?

engraving plastic with laser

Many varieties of it are incapable of being etched. Here are a few examples and the reasons they shouldn’t be laser cut.

ABS/Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene

Low-power equipment can occasionally be used to process this thermoplast, but only under strict supervision because it melts into a sticky mess and releases fumes that can irritate mucous membranes, the skin, and the lungs.

Coated carbon fibre

Lightweight, strong, and stiff polymer substance is carbon fibre. Because of its propensity to absorb energy readily, the machine may catch fire while in use. Additionally, this material has an epoxy coating on top, which releases harmful vapours.

PVC/Polyvinyl Chloride

High-strength thermoplasts include PVC. It can be used for many different things, including as wire insulation, flooring, blood storage bags, plumbing tubing, and some types of artificial leather. Its vinyl evaporates and releases poisonous vapours and fumes when heated. This substance is not utilised with a laser cutting machine since the vinyl it contains evaporates and releases dangerous fumes of hydrochloric acid and chlorine.

What’s the best plastic laser cutter?

laser tube of cnc machine

Selecting a machine that satisfies your needs and specifications is crucial for high-quality, quick, and effective processing.

Let’s examine which lasers are fine for manufacturing plastics:

  • Diode;
  • Fibre;
  • CO2.

This material can be engraved using fibre and diode ones. They aren’t the best option for this use, though. Thick ones can only be processed by them in multiple passes, which is inefficient.

CO2 lasers that produce more than 40 W are more suited in this sense. The fact that they can operate on a variety of polymers with varying thicknesses is another benefit of using them.

Another option is to engrave, which entails cutting through the material. For this kind of processing, there are even specialised two-layer polymers that have one colour on the product’s surface and a separate colour on the area that has to be engraved.

What stuff is made with plastic laser cutters?

cutting plastic on cnc machine

Parts of any complexity with a given configuration can be produced by laser cutting. This material is used to manufacture:

  • Toys, puzzles, souvenirs;
  • Templets, labels, badges;
  • Stands, signboards;
  • Household goods, décor;
  • Accessories;
  • Disposable medical supplies (gloves, tubes, containers);
  • Machinery and technical equipment parts.

It turns out that the applications are diverse: medicine, electronics, design, tourism, marketing, aeronautics, shipbuilding, astronautics, etc.

What are the pros of plastic laser cutting?

  • Non-contact, fast working;
  • Resilience, abrasive resistance;
  • Low probability of errors, always quality results, accordance to the planned layout;
  • No consumables required;
  • No additional machining required;
  • Suitable for both high volume and single piece processing.

How do I choose a plastic cutting machine?

Now that you know which kind of material to choose, you need to understand what type of laser machine is right for you and what parameters you need to consider when choosing. It is also important to determine why you need it, and what kind of and how much stuff you want to process?

So let’s have a look at each criterion a little bit more.

Laser power

Generally, a CO2 machine with a power >30 W is utilised for cutting and marking plastics.

Additionally, fibre ones are only used to brand specific kinds of them.

Laser wavelength

The ideal wavelength range is between 9.5 and 10.6 microns because this is when the material best absorbs beam energy, leading to excellent engraving or cutting.

Cutting rate

The workpiece’s thickness, kind, and laser power all affect speed variations. At low speeds, the cut will be well-finished and seamless. For example, for smooth edges while cutting 5mm thick plastic, use a 30W CO2 laser at a speed of 5mm/sec.


Flash can occasionally occur while transparent plastics are being machined. As a result, the workpiece’s reverse side begins to show flaws. When choosing a laser bed surface for CO2, it is preferable to use a honeycomb table since this lessens the possibility of this issue developing.

Blowdown system

It is advised to use a low-pressure flush system for edge polishing and temperature control.

Exhaust air system

Plastics can give off unpleasant fumes, and in order to prevent them from getting onto products, equipment and especially into human lungs, it is better to buy an expensive but high-quality extraction system when working with such materials.

There are also ones, such as acrylic, where the fumes emitted when working with them can catch fire or ignite.

For more information on acrylic processing, have a look at our article.

Plastic cutting machines

Work area 200 x 300 mm
Tube power 40 W
Max engraving speed 700 mm
Dimensions 810x500x265 mm
laser cutting engraving machine for wood

Choose the right model according to the scale of your production. If you need a machine for hobby or small-scale production, we recommend the 0203, 0503 and 6040 ST models. If you need a laser plastic cutter for high volume production, we suggest the 6090 and 1290 LT models.

Work area 500 x 300 mm
Tube power 60 W
Max engraving speed 700 mm
Dimensions 1040x650x575 mm

The material under consideration is used in many manufacturing applications, despite the environmental risks they pose. But even there they have their drawbacks – they produce toxic substances, ignite, lose some of their properties under the influence of carbon dioxide – so it is important to understand the characteristics before you start working with them. The advantage of plastic laser cutters processing is their ability to produce a small number of identical products or large batches rapidly, with minimal waste and scrap. The choice of the right machine depends on the type to be processed, the size and thickness of the machine and the type of job to be done.

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