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Laser Cutting: Materials

How to use the library's laser cutters.

Choosing a Material

  • You may purchase some of our material to laser cut, or you can bring your own.

  • Our material is sold at cost plus a small markup for the cost of shipping and cutting the material to fit our laser bed. You may keep any material you don't use. We also have a limited amount of free scrap material that may be available for small cuts. 

  • If you bring your own material, make sure it will fit in our laser bed (maximum dimensions 18" x 24" x 8.5", with a maximum cut depth of 1/4").

  • If you have any scrap of your own material available for us to do a test cut, please bring it! Finding the optimal settings for new materials can take some experimentation, and having a test piece will help us get you the best results.

  • Warped materials are extremely difficult to cut. If you are bringing in wood or another material prone to warping, keep it under heavy weights (your textbooks will do) to help it stay flat.

  • Not every material is safe to laser cut, and some materials are safe to cut but don't produce good results. Keep this in mind as you choose a material for your projects. The Makerspace has the final say on whether or not we will laser cut a certain material for any reason. We will not cut unidentified plastics.

Wood for Purchase

Material Thickness Size Price
Basswood   4" x 2' $2.15
    8" x 2' $10.00
Poplar   4" x 2' $3.80
    10" x 2' $13.80
Baltic Birch Plywood 1/8" 18" x 18"


  1/8" 18" x 24" $9.15
  1/4" 18" x 18" $7.30
  1/4" 18" x 24"


Other Material for Purchase

Material Thickness Size Price
Chipboard 1/16" 40" x 28" $1.00
Cardboard Varies Varies $0.00
Cardstock - 12" x 12" $0.00
Stamp Rubber 1/8" Up to 11.75" x 8.25" $0.21/square inch

Scrap Material

  • We have a limited amount of scrap material that can be used for laser cutting for free.

  • Our supply fluctuates in size and variety, but we typically have acrylic and wood scraps.

  • Let us know if you're interested in using scrap material for your laser cutting job and we will see what we have for you!

Acrylic for Purchase

We buy our acrylic from Delvie's Plastics, a plastic product supplier in Salt Lake City. Their acrylic is higher quality that what you will find in at Home Depot or Lowe's. Take a look at these engravings: the top is done on acrylic purchased from Home Depot, and the bottom is done on the acrylic we bought from Delvie's Plastics. 

Material Thickness Size Price
Clear Cast Acrylic 1/16" 12" x 12" $3.75
  1/8" 12" x 12" $5.00
  1/4" 12" x 12" $8.30
Black Cast Acrylic 1/8" 12" x 12" $6.00
  1/4" 12" x 12" $10.05

Purple Cast Acrylic

1/8" 12" x 24"



1/8" 18" x 24"


If your project has a piece that does not fit within 12" x 12", you can purchase a full 12" x 24" sheet of acrylic for double the cost.

Safe and Unsafe Materials

Not all materials are safe for laser cutting. Some release toxins that are harmful to both humans and the laser. Others can be cut, but carry a larger risk of fire or melting. 

These are some common safe and unsafe materials (it is far from a comprehensive list!). The internet is also a great resource for finding out what can and cannot be cut with a laser, but due to differences in lasers, ventilation and filtration, and library policies, the Makerspace has the final say on whether or not we will laser cut a certain material for any reason. We will not cut unidentified plastics. If you have any questions on what you can and can't cut with the laser, don't hesitate to contact us!

Safe Materials to Engrave and Cut

Material Notes

Most woods cut and etch very well with a laser cutter. Certain woods may char more than others. Woods that have a lot of oil or resin may catch fire, so avoid those when possible. 

Warped wood is difficult to cut and engrave evenly, so store your material under weights!


Even though plywood has glue in it, the laser cutter still cuts and engraves it very nicely. 

Warped plywood is difficult to cut and engrave evenly, so store your material under weights!


Acrylic cuts beautifully on a laser cutter. Certain types and brands of acrylic have better engraving results than others.

Be careful not to mix acrylic up with polycarbonate, which looks similar but is not safe to cut.

Cardboard This is a cheap prototyping option.
Paper (copy paper, cardstock, butcher paper) Cuts well, but may have some charring on the edges. Cutting very fine details or small parts out of paper is a fire hazard, so avoid those in your design. 
EVA Foam This is a common craft and costuming material. Most foam craft sheets are EVA foam. It cuts beautifully!


Safe to Engrave, but Not to Cut

Material Notes
Glass We can also etch cylindrical objects, like vases and cups, with our rotary cutter.

Ceramic tile

Anodized aluminum The laser can etch away the anodized layer of aluminum.
Painted or coated metals

The laser will etch away paint or coating.

If the metal isn't coated, we have a special spray we can apply that bonds to the metal where the laser hits it, and the rest of the spray can be wiped off with acetone afterwards. 

Thin metal may warp due to the heat of the laser. 

Stone (marble, granite, etc)  


Not Safe to Engrave or Cut

Material Results
PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride, Vinyl, Pleather, Artificial Leather)

Releases chlorine gas when cut. Chlorine gas was used for chemical warfare in WW1 and then banned in the Geneva Protocol... It's icky stuff! Additionally, it ruins the laser cutter.

If you'd like to cut vinyl for stickers, check out our vinyl cutter.

Polycarbonate Lasers are ineffective at cutting polycarbonate, leading to a greater risk of it catching fire and melting. Polycarbonate looks very similar to acrylic, so make sure you know which one you're getting if you're hoping to laser cut it.
ABS Doesn't cut or etch well - it just melts and emits cyanide gas (fun, right?).
PolyStyrene Foam

Although the laser can cut this, it is a massive fire hazard. Not a good idea in a library, so we don't cut it.

The foam board that you can buy at Dollar Tree is polystyrene foam.

PolyPropylene Foam Catches fire and melts very easily. Once the melted bits dry, they turn very hard and are extremely difficult to clean up.
Epoxy resin Can't be cut with a laser. Emits toxic fumes like chlorine gas and cyanide. 
Food (tortillas, seaweed, etc.) Trust me, you don't want to eat anything that has spent time in the laser.
MDF (Medium-density fiberboard) MDF cuts alright, but it's more glue than it is wood. The glue fumes deposit themselves on the laser optics, getting them dirty faster and wearing them out. We don't cut MDF at the Makerspace for this reason.
Real Leather

Real leather (NOT pleather) can be safely cut and engraved with a laser. Certain leather treatments can leave chemicals that are not safe to laser cut, however. Chrome-tanned leather should be avoided. Vegetable-tanned leather is safe to cut. 

Burning leather (as you can imagine) smells very, very bad. Our current ventilation system isn't equipped for those kinds of fumes. When we move into our new space (est. Winter 2024) we will start to experiment with laser cutting real leather, but as of right now, we cannot cut or engrave leather for you. 

Reflective Materials

Reflective materials can sometimes be cut or etched safely using masking or other techniques. However, it's easy to see why they're risky to cut: all the power of the laser beam can be reflected back to the optics. 

If you have a reflective material that you want to cut (like shiny or mirrored acrylic), get in touch and we'll discuss our options.