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Complete Guide To The Best Laser Cutting Materials For XTool
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Complete Guide To The Best Laser Cutting Materials For XTool

Laser Cutting Materials

So, you finally got that xTool laser cutting machine you’ve been eyeing and are eager to start your first project, but you’re not sure which materials you can use? You’re in the right place! In this blog post, we’re sharing a complete guide to the best laser cutting materials to use with xTool laser cutting and engraving machines. Learning to use a laser cutter is a fun but intricate process, and when you throw in all of the different laser cutting materials it can be quite confusing. With the help of our comprehensive guide, you’ll find your favorite laser cutter materials and be making one of a kind projects in no time! 

Affiliate disclaimer: Although I stand by all of the products I use, I can receive a small commission from any products purchased via my affiliate links.

What is laser cutting? 

While they’re often called laser cutters, laser cutting machines can cut, engrave, and mark various materials to make intricate designs and creative projects. Laser cutting uses a focused laser beam to make clean cuts through materials. 

The cutting process starts by loading a design file into laser cutter software, guiding the machine to follow the specified path exactly. As the high power laser beam heats up the material it causes the targeted areas to melt, burn, or vaporize, resulting in precise cuts. 

What is laser engraving?

Raster engraving and vector engraving are two distinct methods used in laser engraving and cutting processes.

Raster engraving involves the laser moving back and forth across the material’s surface in a raster pattern, much like a printer, burning away thin layers of the material to create a design. This method is suitable for creating detailed images, photographs, or complex shading effects.

On the other hand, vector engraving involves the laser following precise vector paths to etch lines into the material. Vector engraving is ideal for creating crisp, clean lines, shapes, and text. It’s commonly used for cutting outlines, scoring, or engraving text and logos.

Typically, raster engraving is best for intricate designs and images, while vector engraving is preferred for precise lines and shapes.

Laser cutting and engraving is growing in popularity because of it’s adaptability and versatility. With adjustable laser cutter settings such as power, speed, and duration, you can cut or engrave various types of materials like wood, acrylic, leather, fabrics, rubber, paper, and metal with a single machine. Laser cutting is becoming a popular choice for makers that design custom items!

Which type of laser do I need?

A diode laser and CO2 laser are the two most common laser types used in laser cutting and engraving machines. The main difference between them lies in their laser sources. A diode laser utilizes semiconductor diodes to generate laser beams, while a CO2 laser uses a gas mixture, typically carbon dioxide, to produce the laser beam.

Diode lasers are known for their compact size, energy efficiency, and suitability for small-scale applications. On the other hand, CO2 lasers offer higher power output, making them suitable for cutting and engraving thicker materials and achieving faster processing speeds. For DIY projects or even small business crafts, a diode laser should do the trick.

Where can I get a laser cutting machine?

xtool project ideas - Laser Cutting Materials
xtool-screen-printer

xTool is known for making state of the art laser cutting machines suitable for home or small business use. They offer a variety of machine and laser types for different use cases. I have the xTool S1 series and it works very well for home use! You can compare machines on the xTool website to find the recommended laser type for you based on your needs. Here’s a basic breakdown of the different xTool laser cutting machines and what they’re best for:

xTool S Series 

The xTool S Series is an enclosed diode laser cutter. This gorgeous white machine is the perfect entry point for those wanting to get started in the world of laser engraving. With its compact size and user-friendly design, the xTool S series delivers precise cuts on a variety of materials, making it ideal for projects like wooden signs, custom designs, and homemade gifts. It’s also equipped with 3D Curve™ Engraving for cylindrical objects like tumblers. It comes in a 10W, 20W, or 40W power capacity depending on your needs.

xTool D Series

The xTool D Series is the most affordable xTool machine. This open diode laser can still cut a variety of different materials like wood, leather, and acrylic. It’s a great place to start for DIYers that want to make homemade gifts and decor. It comes in a 10W, 20W, or 40W power capacity depending on your needs.

xTool F Series

The xTool F Series is the first-ever portable laser machine with dual laser capabilities. It offers both a 10W diode laser and a 2W 1064nm infrared laser for laser engraving and personalization on the go. Because it’s handheld and portable, the xTool F1 is great for use at craft shows or other events. 

xTool M Series

The xTool M series is a 3-in-1 laser cutter, laser engraver, and blade cutter equipped with a 10W diode laser that can cut a variety of materials including wood, leather, and acrylic. The enclosed design is preassembled and easy to use. It’s the perfect home crafting machine for those who need to cut both hard material and vinyl.

xTool P Series

The xTool P series features an impressive CO2 laser with 55W of laser power. The higher price point and laser power of this machine makes it suitable for professional laser cutting businesses or small businesses that are looking into expansion. 

What materials are best for laser cutting and engraving?

The most common material for laser cutting is wood, but there is a wide range of materials that can be used to make intricate designs with your laser cutter. From synthetic materials to natural raw materials, the best material type depends on your machine and the needs of your project. You need to take into account the possibility of any toxic fumes, the thickness of the material, and the wattage of your specific laser.

The material you choose will also depend on if your project requires cutting or engraving. Typically any material that can be cut can also be engraved. With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to identify the perfect material for your project in no time!

However, it’s worth noting that each material will require different settings such as cutting speed, power settings, and number of passes depending on their thickness, texture, and composition. Different types of machines will also yield different results. Additionally, some materials may emit fumes or release hazardous particles when laser cut, so it’s important to use appropriate safety measures and follow recommended guidelines when working with these materials. For best results, check compatibility with your laser wattage and test a scrap piece of material before starting a project.

Where can I find laser cutting materials?

The best place to find laser cutting materials is straight from the xTool website. They offer countless stock materials that you can be confident will work in your laser cutter. Nothing’s worse than getting excited about a new material that doesn’t actually work with your new machine! You can also find materials on Amazon or at your local craft supply store. But for ideal material, it’s best practice to get it straight from xTool!

Best Wood for Laser Cutting & Engraving

Laser cutting machines can both cut and engrave solid wood. In fact, wood materials are the most common material type used in laser cut projects. 

There are three types of wood to consider when laser cutting: softwood, hardwood, and engineered wood. Softwood usually has a light shade and is more affordable than others, but the mix of soft and tough grain can effect the quality of the cut. Hardwood generally requires a stronger laser. So what is the best type for wood laser engraving and laser cutting?

Wood you can cut with a 10W laser

You may need more than one pass to cut some of these woods, but the following list of woods can be cut with a 10W laser.

  • Aspen Plywood (3.0 mm)
  • Balsa Plywood (13 mm)
  • Bamboo Wood (2-4 mm)
  • Basswood Wood (4-8 mm)
  • Basswood Plywood (1.5-10 mm)
  • Baltic Birch Plywood (6 mm)
  • Black Walnut Board (2.5 mm)
  • Black Walnut Plywood (3-3.5 mm)
  • Cherry Wood Plywood (3 mm)
  • Fraxinus Mandshurica Plywood (3-3.35 mm)
  • Mahogany Plywood (3 mm) 
  • MDF board (3 mm)
  • Paulouwina Plywood (3-8 mm)
  • Pine Wood (3-10 mm)

Wood you can cut with a 40W laser

Depending on your project, either softwood or hardwood can be the perfect choice! The following list of materials can be cut with a 40W laser.

  • Alder (Softwood)
  • Cedar (Softwood)
  • Poplar (Softwood)
  • Birch (Hardwood)
  • Cherry (Hardwood)
  • Maple (Hardwood)
  • Mahogany (Hardwood)
  • Walnut (Hardwood)

Wood you can cut with an 80W laser

Some woods require a stronger las

  • Maple (Hardwood)
  • Oak (Harwood)

Woods to avoid using with your laser cutter

Some wood types can be risky for laser cutting due to toxic fumes or uneven grain structures. For example:

  • Plywood with formaldehyde glue: The glue in plywood can emit harmful fumes when cut, especially if it contains formaldehyde.
  • Treated lumber: Chemically treated wood can release toxic gases when exposed to laser heat.
  • MDF with formaldehyde glue: Medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, often contains formaldehyde in its glue, which can be hazardous when laser cut.
  • Coniferous woods like larch and fir: These woods have uneven grain structures, making it tricky to engrave them evenly with a laser due to their varying hardness.

If using MDF or Plywood with your laser cutting machine, make sure to use one that has a laser compatibility tag.

Best Acrylic for Laser Cutting

This fun laser material is a popular choice because of all the color and pattern options. Laser cutters can both cut and engrave acrylic, or plexiglass, but there are limitations. The strength of the laser, type of acrylic, and color of acrylic need to be considered. 

Most lasers can cut darker colored or opaque acrylic or plastic. However, if the acrylic color too similar to the laser’s wavelength and color, it won’t be cut. Many lasers can’t cut reflective materials like clear acrylic because the clear material allows the beams to pass through instead of absorbing them. 

Acrylic you can cut with a 10W-40W laser (blue laser)

  • Black Acrylic  
  • Pink Acrylic 
  • Red Acrylic
  • Yellow Acrylic 

Acrylic you can cut with a CO2 laser (infrared laser)

  • Clear Acrylic
  • Blue Acrylic
  • Mirror Acrylic
  • White Acrylic
  • Semi-Clear Acrylic

Best Metal for Laser Engraving

You need an extremely high powered laser to actually cut metal, but laser cutting machines can engrave metal quite easily. You can engrave thin sheets of metal, tumblers, or even jewelry. Here are the types metals you can engrave: 

  • Stainless Steel
  • Steel (Mild Steel and Carbon Steel)
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Copper and Brass
  • Gold
  • Silver

Best Leather for Laser Cutting

While leather is most commonly laser engraved, did you know it can be laser cut too? Some natural and artificial leathers can be cut into custom shapes with the cutting edge xTool laser cutters, but not all. Here’s a list of leathers that can be cut with more than one pass. (Typically if it can be cut, it can also be engraved)

Leather you can cut or engrave with a 10W+ laser

  • PU Artificial Leather
  • PVC Faux Leather
  • Some Full Grain Leather
  • Cowhide

Best Fabric for Laser Cutting

Cutting fabric by hand can be extremely frustrating. Thanks to at-home laser cutters like the xTool, cutting and embroidering fabric is easier than ever before! Laser cutting fabrics creates crips, clean lines while laser engraving fabric is like digital embroidery.

Fabric you can cut or engrave with a 10W+ laser

  • Cork
  • Cotton
  • Felt
  • Flannel
  • Linen
  • Lyocell (Tencel) 
  • Nylon
  • Denim
  • Satin
  • Silk
  • Fleece

Best Foam and Rubber for Laser Cutting

You might be thinking – what in the world would I need to cut rubber for? While foam and rubber are not the most commonly used materials in laser cutting and engraving products, they can be used to make a variety of custom items like phone cases, smart watch bands, homemade stamps, and more!

Foam and rubber you can cut or engrave with a 10W+ laser

  • EVA Foam
  • Natural Latex
  • Self-Inking Stamp
  • Silicone

What Materials Shouldn’t You Use with a Laser Cutter?

Laser cutters are versatile tools, but certain materials are off-limits due to safety concerns. Avoid these materials to prevent fire hazards and noxious fumes.

  • PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) PVC emits chlorine gas when lasered. This toxic gas poses health risks and can corrode machine components. It’s best to steer clear of PVC to ensure both machine longevity and personal safety.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) ABS releases cyanide gas when cut with a laser, presenting severe health hazards in concentrated amounts.
  • Polycarbonate Polycarbonate tends to discolor and catch fire under laser heat, making it unsuitable for laser cutting.
  • Polystyrene and Polypropylene Foam These foams ignite easily and only melt under laser heat, rendering them ineffective for cutting purposes.
  • HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) HDPE melts and becomes viscous when exposed to laser heat, posing both a fire risk and operational challenges.
  • Coated Carbon Fiber The coating on carbon fiber can emit toxic fumes when lasered, posing respiratory hazards.
  • Galvanized Metal Laser heating vaporizes the zinc coating on galvanized metal, releasing harmful zinc oxide fumes. It’s crucial to prioritize operator safety and avoid materials that produce toxic emissions during laser processing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about laser cutting machines

​1. What types of materials can I cut with a laser cutter?

Laser cutters are versatile machines capable of cutting a wide variety of materials, including wood, acrylic, paper, cardboard, fabric, leather, and certain types of plastics like polystyrene foam and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA). However, it’s essential to check the specific capabilities of your laser cutter and adjust settings accordingly for each material.

2. Can I use reflective metals with a laser cutter?

No, it’s generally not recommended to use reflective metals like stainless steel or aluminum with a laser cutter. The reflective nature of these metals can cause the laser beam to bounce back, potentially damaging the machine and posing safety hazards. It’s best to stick to non-reflective materials for laser cutting.

3. Do I need special ventilation when using a laser cutter?

Yes, proper ventilation is crucial when operating a laser cutter, especially when cutting materials that produce a lot of smoke or toxic fumes, such as certain plastics and epoxy resin. Ensure your workspace has adequate ventilation to prevent the buildup of harmful gases and maintain a safe working environment.

4. Can I cut thick materials with a laser cutter?

While laser cutters can cut through a variety of materials, including thicker ones like metal sheets or dense woods, the thickness of the material may affect the cutting speed and require adjustments to the laser cutter settings. It’s essential to consider the power and strength of your laser cutter when working with thicker materials.

5. How do I ensure clean and precise cuts with my laser cutter?

To achieve clean and precise cuts with your laser cutter, it’s essential to maintain proper machine calibration, use the correct laser power and speed settings for the material you’re cutting, and ensure the material is securely positioned and flat on the cutting bed. Additionally, regular maintenance of the laser cutter, such as cleaning the lenses and mirrors, can help maintain cutting accuracy over time.