Laser Cutting/Engraving


There are two main topics for safety on our laser cutters: lasers and materials. All of the lasers used have the capability to permanently damage vision and skin tissue if misused. Each of the machines falls under a different classification.

⚠️Laser Class

The Kern LaserCELL is a Class 1 Laser System. The machine is equipped with a key for the laser, an enclosure with rated windows to block direct and indirect laser light, and interlocks on the doors. When used as intended no personal protective equipment is required.

The Epilog Fusion M2 is a Class 2 Laser Product. It is also equipped with interlocks on the door to protect the user from the main beam. This machine can also be used without any personal protective equipment. However, eye damage can occur if purposely looking at the laser spot and overriding the natural blink reflex!

The Glowforge Pro is a Class 4 Laser Product. This is because it is equipped with a pass through so the laser can fire with certain doors open. Proper use of this machine requires laser safety glasses that block the 10.6 μm wavelength, as well as environmental controls to protect others from stray laser light.

⚠️Material Safety

Laser cutters work by vaporizing and melting materials. This process can release dangerous compounds so care needs to be taken when selecting materials to cut.

Materials we will NOT cut:

  • PVC

    • Produces chlorine gas when cut, which is harmful to both people and the machine.

  • Galvanized Steel

    • Produces zinc oxide gas.

  • Mirrored surfaces

    • Can reflect the laser causing damage to the user and the machine.

  • Polycarbonate

    • Absorbs the 10.6 μm wavelength of all of the machines. It does not cut, only burns.

Materials we MIGHT cut:

  • ABS

    • Can emit cyanide gas, also tends to not cut cleanly.

  • Leather

    • Vegetable tanned leather is safe to cut

    • Chrome tanned leather can emit toxic fumes

  • Carbon fiber/fiber glass

    • Produces fiber dust that is harmful to the optics.

  • PTFE

    • Produces a number of dangerous gases.

These materials are subject to the lab manager’s discretion depending on the material thickness and the filtration available on each machine.


A small amount of fire at the laser spot is common while cutting common materials. However, if a material remains on fire the laser cutter should be stopped immediately. This will stop the air assist which should extinguish the majority of flames. If the fire continues locate and use the fire extinguisher next to the laser cutter.

Quick Look

There are a few options:

  • Glowforge Pro

    • Look for this to do basic cutting and engraving on a budget. It also is equipped with a camera to quickly transfer hand drawings.

  • Epilog Fusion

    • High detail engravings should be done on this machine. Little additional file preparation needed make this quick to use.

  • Kern LaserCELL

    • Industrial machine geared for thick or large stock as well as metal cutting.

All of these machines can be found at the Advanced Fabrication Lab.

Machine Comparison

Machine Table X Table Y Power Cost
Glowforge 11" 19.5" 45 W Free*
Epilog 20" 32" 75 W $15/hr*, $25/hr
Kern 50" 52" 400 W $30/hr, $90/hr

*Requires training for discounted rates

For training on the Glowforge or Epilog reach out to us at A time will be setup to teach safety and basic use of the machines.

Material Capabilities

Material Glowforge Epilog Kern
Wood ✓     .25" ✓     .75" ✓     1"
Acrylic ✓     .25" ✓     .75" ✓     1"
Rubber ✓     .125" ✓      .25"
Fiberglass ✓     .188"
Metal ✓     .188"

Purchasing Materials


Piedmont Plastics

7045 Troy Hill Dr. Suite 450
Elkridge, MD21075

Phone: 301-881-7900
Fax: 301-881-0419
Toll Free: 800-638-6651

Liard Plastics

8991 Yellow Brick Rd
Baltimore, MD 21237

Metal Supermarket

11316 Old Baltimore Pike

Beltsville, MD, 20705

Phone: 301-970-9494


McMaster-Carr: Stocks just about everything with quick shipping but is very expensive.

Amazon: Has some materials, the plywood packs are decent.

Safety Quiz

Head over to the Terrapin Works Canvas page to take the Laser Cutter Safety Quiz.