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How to get a new material approved for the laser cutter
This page is a work in progress.
When you want to cut a new material on the laser, it will have to first be approved by the Laser Cutter Committee (LCC) to ensure the product doesn't put off toxic fumes, such as chlorine gas, and isn't overly hard on the equipment, such as excessive vaporized glue residue.
How do I do that?
The first step will be to look up the Material Safety Data Sheets [MSDS] for the material you want to cut. This will list all hazards related to the material and, more importantly to us, what it will break down into when heated. Fortunately, they are required to be provided by the manufacturer. unfortunately, there isn't a central collection of them to search without paying for the convenience so you will have to hunt them down.
For this example we'll research Worbla, which is a brand name thermoplastic.
- First step is to google “Worbla MSDS” which conveniently comes up with a link to the manufacturer's FAQ which says to email them for the files.
- After messaging them, they sent this PDF.
- This one does not list “thermal degradation products”, so we have to go the long way and follow the breadcrumbs for the compounds listed under “Composition”. Namely: Caprolactone-polymers, ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), polyester terephtalate
- Back to google we find:
- Hazardous Decomposition Products: Carbon monoxide (CO), Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- LOOKS GOOD!
- Combustion products: Carbon dioxide, water
- LOOKS GOOD!
- Hazardous Decomposition: Hazardous gases and vapors can be released, including cyclopentanone, carbon monoxide, aldehydes, amonia
- This one is trickier. Obviously, the carbon monoxide is fine but how much amonia are we talking? Plus I've never heard of cyclopentanone so.. you guessed it.. google the MSDS for cyclopentanone
- Here we get some disappointing news: “Hazardous in case of skin contact (irritant), of ingestion, of inhalation”
- This is where we go to the LCC for the decision. Message them with something along the lines of “I would like to get Worbla approved for the laser cuter. Below are links to the material itself and all of its byproducts. Thanks for all of your hard work, we all we you a beer!” and hope for the best.