14 – Laser Material Hazards – DON’T IGNORE!!!! (11:14)

The Lightblade Learning Lab with Russ Sadler

The Lightblade Learning Lab is a series of videos that Russ did for Thinklaser Limited based on using the Lightblade 4060 Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine. Thinklasers Lightblade 4060 has a 400 x 600mm bed size and was supplied with a 60W EFR laser tube. In this session, Russ explains why the biggest risk to your health when using a laser cutting machine, are the fumes from the materials you are cutting or engraving. Learn about the risks of laser material hazards before processing any new materials.

Laser Material Hazards - Checking for PVC
Laser Material Hazards – Checking for PVC

Contents

  • Production of fumes/smoke is dangerous – importance of looking after your health
  • The fume extractor – in particular the recirculating type (‘Purex’)
  • Example of emissions when cutting MDF
  • The ‘Purex’ website is a good source of information about materials and their emissions when
  • heated
  • How to test for PVC using a flame – DON’T CUT IT!!!
  • Acrylic/Plexiglas example
  • PMMA – Methyl Methacrylate
  • Lots more information on the ATX Hackerspace website and Laseruser.com about materials you can and should not cut and the results you can expect
  • Please also check out our post “What can a laser cutter cut?”

My thanks go out to Tom at Thinklaser for giving permission to embed these videos on this site. If you are looking for a new laser machine from a quality supplier, then I would suggest you check out their website: www.thinklaser.com.

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Video Resource Files for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore

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External Resource Links for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore

www.thinklaser.com

www.rdworkslab.com

www.purex.co.uk

What can a laser cutter cut?

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Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore

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00:14

Well welcome to another Lightblade learning lab today we’re not even going

00:21

to turn the machine on because apart from warning you about the dangers of

00:27

burning yourself on the laser, burning your eyeballs on the laser, looking after

00:33

your laser looking after your mirrors looking after your lenses it’s one

00:37

continuous look after – the one thing we haven’t mentioned is looking after

00:44

yourself. Now this machine is actually relatively benign because as soon as you

00:53

put this lid down everything is pretty safe with the exception that once you

01:01

start cutting material in here you produce fumes, you produce smoke you

01:07

produce horrible smells now anything that smells horrible anything that’s got

01:13

smoke should serve as a warning don’t breathe in because it could be dangerous

01:19

to you. This is a piece of industry standard equipment which basically looks after

01:25

you your eyes your lungs and your health, now if you were in industry in a factory

01:33

or running a business then it would be mandatory for you to have one of these,

01:38

it’s not mandatory for me to have one of these in this workshop because I’m a

01:42

private individual and I can do what I damn well like but don’t really want to

01:47

kill myself. Now you can buy this machine without this piece of kit this fume

01:52

extraction now this is a recirculating fume extraction system which means that

01:57

if you’re in a heated environment and I’m not, I’m in a very cold workshop any

Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore (Cont…)

02:05

air that you draw in you recirculate any heat that you draw in you recirculate so

02:11

you don’t waste heat by pumping it out through an external venting system now

02:16

I’m not a Salesman for pure X but what I’m going to do is explain to you today

02:21

that this optional extra that you can get with this machine

02:25

really shouldn’t be considered as an optional extra it should be considered

02:29

as an essential and I think you’ll soon understand that once I start talking

02:34

about some of the chemicals that this machine can produce and some of the

02:39

dangers it can have to your health, I’m not even going to explain how this

02:42

Purex system works you know you push a button it turns on it makes a noise

02:52

it sucks in here it recirculates clean air and what happens in here is magic. But you can

02:59

find out all about that on the Purex website now you will see me using this

03:05

machine with the door open that’s not a major problem because this system here

03:10

has got so much air flow through it that it just sucks in huge volumes of air

03:15

through the front there and it never gets near me, so all the fumes are

03:19

wafted back into and through this unit before they’re recirculated now there’s

03:25

absolutely masses of data online about cutting and burning various plastic and

03:31

wood materials. I mean even wood you would think as a safe material but some

03:36

of the reasons in the wood can produce carcinogenic fumes don’t trust anything

03:42

before you cut it do your research! Now have here a piece of MDF which is

03:48

full of all sorts of resins that hold the woodchips together it’s supposedly

03:54

laser grade material now what laser grade material is I don’t really

03:59

understand because any resin any plastic will produce fumes so even

Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore (Cont…)

04:05

though it may well cut nicely it probably produces toxic fumes in some

04:11

way shape or form so let’s now move to the office and we’ll take a look at some

04:15

of the data that’s available online I’m only going to show you a small portion

04:19

of data just to frighten you a little bit. Well, we’re going to start off here at the

04:25

Purex website because if we move across to fume extraction it just goes through

04:36

some of the stuff that I’ve already summarized for you now I just point out

04:43

this to you depending on where you are and your neighbors it may well be that

04:48

external emissions regulations will be a problem to you, you know it’s not

04:54

environmentally friendly to just check your fumes outside the door as I have to

04:59

admit I do with my original Chinese machine. Now here we’ve got a very neat

05:05

summary of some hazardous fumes and particularly I

05:10

want to bring your attention to this section here which is called laser

05:13

marking and obviously cutting because marking &cutting both require heat if we

05:20

take a look at some of the materials that we’ve got down here and we see some

05:24

of the emissions that can occur I mean things like benzene phenol HCN now

05:32

some of you guys will know what HCN is that basically is hydrogen cyanide which is

05:38

a I think you’d probably understand a killer gas it’s used in gas chambers

05:45

horrible things like benzene they all seem to produce benzene in some way

05:50

shape or form Toluene, these are all and hydrocarbon type gases which have

05:59

got if we take a look down the bottom here at benzene a known carcinogen responsible

Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore (Cont…)

06:04

for leukemia all I can do is just ask you to look down this list here

06:11

and this list here and you’ll compare and see what the problems are I’ll bring

06:16

your attention particularly to PVC polyvinyl chloride now one of the most

06:22

dangerous gases that you’re going to encounter is hydrogen chloride now HCl gas

06:29

is basically a gaseous form of an acid as soon as

06:35

it touches something aqueous like your eyeballs which have got fluid on them or

06:41

your lungs which are full of fluid it will immediately turn to hydrochloric

06:46

acid you don’t want that either in your machine because it will corrode the

06:50

slide ways or you don’t want it in your lungs now this is one of the things that

06:56

you really must never cut on a laser machine and one of the simple tests that

07:01

you can use to check the plastic before you do it is what I’m doing here, Look

07:07

I’ve got a piece of copper wire here now when you heat the wire up you’ll see that

07:12

it glows red-hot

07:17

don’t get these fumes up your nose but look I’ve got here a piece of old wire

07:22

which I know to be PVC covering on this wire

07:26

they don’t use PVC covering on a lot of cables these days because of its dangers

07:32

but look what happens when I put it in the flame we’re looking for a green

07:37

colour there we go can you see that green colour now that tells me categorically

07:46

that that piece of cable contains PVC the other sort of thing that you might

07:52

find with PVC in it I mean this is a handle off of one of these flexible dips

07:58

handles now the chances are that this is PVC but we can check so we’ll

Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore (Cont…)

08:05

make it warm and we’ll just get a little bit of it on the surface, a smear of it and then

08:13

we’ll pop it in the flame

08:17

and my goodness me, there’s PVC for you that’s chlorine gas that you’re seeing,

08:21

turning green now this is not a test that I invented this is a test that I’ve

08:26

seen somebody else doing on the internet so I’m taking no glory from this all I’m

08:30

saying is it is a very convenient way of testing as to whether or not you’ve got

08:35

chlorine in the material that you’re cutting if you have don’t cut it. Doesn’t look

08:42

to be anything deadly in there

08:46

no green fumes

08:55

That’s a glossy cardboard, just checking this nothing green comes off that so

09:02

just because it’s card doesn’t mean to say it safe because it depends on what’s in

09:07

the card what inks there are what what plastic you’ve got on the surface of

09:12

it you’ll see that your electronics cabinet is not sealed so consequently

09:18

this gas can also get in and corrode your wiring in there not a good idea

09:24

PVC is one of the biggest nono materials for laser cutting but something that we

09:31

would consider normally to be a fairly benign and non dangerous material is

09:35

acrylic different people know it by different names it could be perspex it

09:41

can be Plexiglas basically it’s this product here called poly well it’s a

09:49

it’s called methyl methyl acrylate and it’s known as PMMA because it’s poly

09:55

methyl methyl acrylate apart from the smokey bit that you can

09:59

see which is the respirable dust it also produces MMA which is actually the raw

Transcript for Laser Material Hazards – Don’t Ignore (Cont…)

10:06

methyl methyl acrylate it produces benzene and ethyl acrylate now benzene

10:13

in particular as we look down here we find that you know it’s this known

10:18

carcinogen again you can go and you look at these fact sheets which come from all

10:24

parts of the world some of them are american some of them are british

10:28

standard some of you european standards you will find out you know just how

10:34

dangerous methyl methyl acrylate is how methyl acrylate enters and affect your

10:39

body now i’m not going to go through the details of this all i want to show you

10:43

is that there is a hell of a lot of data online relating to the safety of these

10:48

materials so here we are at another very useful website it not only tells you

10:55

materials that you should never cut sometimes it doesn’t explain why but it

11:00

also tells you materials that you can cut and what sort of results that you

11:04

will expect very useful well that’s about as far as I want to go

11:10

today thank you very much for watching and I’ll catch up with you in the next

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