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Is neoprene suitable for laser-cutting? Answered

The manual of my school's new laser-cutter specifically bans the cutting of PVC, because the chlorine-based fumes generated would damage the mirrors and lenses.

Since neoprene (polymchloroprene) also contains chlorine, would I have the same problems as with PVC?



Best Answer 5 years ago

Not to disagree totally with Jayefuu, yes, it protects your lungs, but the optics on a laser cutter are expensive, upwards of $100-300 PER LENS, and the mirrors aren't cheap either. Chlorine from pvc will rather quickly and permanently etch off the coatings on the glass lenses and cloud the mirrors. Smoke you can clean off, etching you can't.
Our hackerspace has a laser cutter and we have to be very careful. We already managed to bung up one lense because some dust built up on the lens and it overheated. (positive pressure hose doesn't protect the top side of the lens assembly on our china laser).

3M manufactures mercury and chlorine vapor filters for PPE (personal protective equipment).

A search for "chlorine fume-extractor filter" suggests that a standard activated-carbon fume-extractor filter is sufficient for chlorine gas suppression in a laser-cutter/laser-etch application.

Because chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, it's plausible (I can't say whether likely or not) that some coating in the optical system could be affected by it. It may also jsut be the manufacturer doing CYA.

I was warned against using PVC in the HQ Epilog as well, because of the damage to the optics.

I don't need to cut neoprene for educational purposes, so I think I'll leave this project until I have a stronger pair of scissors...

From reading the epilog webpage once long ago...it will void your warranty instantly, because they know exactly what chlorine damage looks like.

Cutting PVC is discouraged to save lungs not the optics. Though any material cut that gives of lots of smoke can cloud and reduce power if they're not purged.

Also... from ehow: "Large-scale commercial neoprene cutting operations use high-intensity laser to cut multiple layers at the same time. Consider outsourcing your neoprene cutting if you have more work than you can handle."

So it sounds like yes it will cut nicely, perhaps you want to be sure you're venting well.

There's a built-in fume-extraction system, with filters. I guess the filters can't trap chlorine.

Not a problem, just an idle plan (all I've made with the cutter so far is a pile of cardboard bookmarks and a single small plaque for a tree, and already I've got kids queuing up asking for a laser-cutter club, and orders from parents...)

It doesn't vent it outside?

Nope - it's a desktop sized unit, on a trolley that contains the filters. It's so that it can be trundled between three different workshops.

Ha ha! Outside on an extension lead for the neoprene it is then! :p