Take The Tedium Out Of Fabric Cutting, Make The Laser Do It

Fabric must be cut before it can be turned into something else, and [fiercekittenz] shows how a laser cutter can hit all the right bases to save a lot of time on the process. She demonstrates processing three layers of fabric at once on a CO2 laser cutter, cutting three bags’ worth of material in a scant 1 minute and 29 seconds.

The three layers are a PU (polyurethane) waterproof canvas, a woven liner, and a patterned cotton canvas. The laser does a fantastic job of slicing out perfectly formed pieces in no time, and its precision means minimal waste. The only gotcha is to ensure materials are safe to laser cut. For example, PU-based canvas is acceptable, but PVC-based materials are not. If you want to skip the materials discussion and watch the job, laying the fabric in the machine starts around [3:16] in the video.

[fiercekittenz] acknowledges that her large 100-watt CO2 laser cutter is great but points out that smaller or diode-based laser machines can perfectly cut fabric under the right circumstances. One may have to work in smaller batches, but it doesn’t take 100 watts to do the job. Her large machine, for example, is running at only a fraction of its full power to cut the three layers at once.

One interesting thing is that the heat of the laser somewhat seals the cut edge of the PU waterproof canvas. In the past, we’ve seen defocused lasers used to weld and seal non-woven plastics like those in face masks, a task usually performed by ultrasonic welding. The ability for a laser beam to act as both “scissors” and “glue” in these cases is pretty interesting. You can learn all about using a laser cutter instead of fabric scissors in the video embedded below.

Thanks to [Tim Gremalm] for the tip!

8 thoughts on “Take The Tedium Out Of Fabric Cutting, Make The Laser Do It

  1. The only problem is, that laser burns the edges, so the edges are not as clean as with cutting. I tried so many different material with my laser, and for decorative use (ex. cloth) I prefer cutting the material. Drag knife is cheap addon for any cnc router.

    1. on the other hand if you are hemming your edges anyway the burnt edge is not a huge issue and with synthetics it can actually help to stop fraying. I used the laser to cut some patterns for a mask in synthetic fabric the other day and it worked like a dream- which was especially necessary when I accidentally turned the power too high and cut my seam line instead of the allowance. :0

    2. Hey hey! Great points! Just for context though – these were pieces being cut out for bags. The area burned was very small, less than a mm. Those edges end up encased in the bag and are never seen. If I do this for clothes (which I have done for doll clothing!) then those edges are shaved off from the overlocking machine. I wouldn’t advise people do this for something like applique where the edges are kept.

      1. higher power isnt really necessary.
        With many fabrics Using a combination airjet/point of vaporization exhaust assembly is essential for attaining a clean cut and avoiding multilayer fusion when batch cutting.
        fabric slag can be further reduced by using a longer focus length resulting in a tighter cone and a smaller beam diameter.

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