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Vicki Rivrud
10-20-2013, 4:12 PM
Laser cutting neoprene

I search this forum and read lots of post on laser cutting neoprene and remain very confused about the harmful affects not only on the machine & optics but more importantly my health.

I've read that some of you are cutting gaskets and mouse pads etc and never mention a problem and yet others say do NOT do it. Some have even stated that it one of their choices to cut.

I've read theDupont MSDS sheet and under Fire & Hazrd it states : burning produces noxious and toxic fumes. I also read at another site that it burns green, which means it contains chlorine and can damage your lungs.
Yet other sites like Boston Laser, Polou and several others including the Fashion industry are saying that neoprene is laser friendly and can be laser cut.

I cut alot of fabric and garments and have a potential "fabric" customer wanting me to design & cut a neoprene shirt . . . can anyone clarify why it would be okay to use an ordinary CO2 laser to cut neoprene.

I do not have a scrubber - just a heavy duty fume extractor- vented outdoors. I never leave the laser as I have seen too many horror stories about accidental fires and total destuction from a laser cutter left unattended & have helped others get back on their feet after fire disasters.

Your advice or kind feedback is welcomed.

Vicki

Gary Hair
10-20-2013, 5:32 PM
Neoprene does not contain PVC as far as I can tell. I have burn-tested some and there wasn't any hint of green flame. If you are not sure, and want to be, try the test yourself. Get some PVC pipe and a few other materials so you can really see the difference between them. As for the "noxious and toxic fumes", check the msds for almost anything and you'll get those two characteristics. Keep venting it outside and you should have no problems.

If you really want to see a scary msds, check out the one for dihydrogen monoxide, it's nasty stuff! http://www.dhmo.org/msdsdhmo.html

Gary

David Somers
10-20-2013, 6:49 PM
Gary,

I live in Seattle and we are all too familiar with that stuff. Somewhere near us is an as yet, unidentified source of it that is pumping it into the atmosphere at an apparently furious rate. We have careful watches on local industries but have not found the culprits yet. There may be more than one. What is alarming is the amount of it that has accumulated to our west. And once you get beyond that pool of it and over the Olympic Penninsula...well, the volume of it is staggering.

Thanks for pointing out its hazards. It certainly doesn't belong anywhere near a laser engraver of any kind. Although I understand some of the less expensive Chinese made laser tube coolers may make use of it.

Dave
(is my calendar off? Is it 4/1?)

Michael Hunter
10-20-2013, 7:02 PM
Neoprene is (or contains)* a chlorinated compound and will release hydrogen chloride (hydrochloric acid as a gas) when broken down by heat in just the same way as PVC does.

*
Dupont "neoprene" is polychloroprene.
GCP's has polychloroprene mixed with natural rubber and other polymers, so the chlorine content is probably not so high.
Lots of other manufacturers, so there is likely to be a wide variation.


From the Dupont MSDS :

Conditions to avoid : Processing temperature > 200 C (> 392 F)
Avoid heating for prolonged periods above the recommended upper processing limit.
Hazardous decomposition products: Hydrogen chloride, Carbon monoxide, Organic acids, Aldehydes, Alcohols


The word "neoprene" tends to be a catch-all for any sheet foamed rubber, so you really need the MSDS for the actual material that your customers wants to use.

You say you have a heavy duty fume extractor so cutting a sample garment would probably not do any noticeable harm to your machine, but if it turns into a production job your pricing might need to allow for the cost of a replacement laser afterwards.

Rodne Gold
10-21-2013, 4:40 AM
I have cut and engraved the neoprene "wetsuit" material a lot , doesnt seem to release chlorine or damage our machines , it works quite well in them.
Im not sure of the composition of the stuff we cut tho.. we do it for the wetsuit guys and for promotional product like insulators for beer cans and coasters and stuff like that.

Vicki Rivrud
10-21-2013, 9:18 AM
Hi Rodney,
Thanks for your feedback. I am reading too many warnings. Epilog has a neoprene warning at their site and the local college laser shop tells their students that neoprene isn't allowed to be cut. Seems like scary stuff . ..don't want to take the chance.

Thanks to all!
Vix

Bill Cunningham
10-24-2013, 9:41 PM
There are lots of types of neoprene. Some cheap stuff is used for fridge insulation and sound proofing. Wetsuits are either a chem blown neoprene (this could be the most toxic), or a gas blown neoprene. The best neoprene comes from a company called Rubatex, and is the material called G231N which is used for the highest quality wetsuits by almost every suit manufacturer in North America. I've laser cut lots of it without any problems or objectionable fumes.

Vicki Rivrud
10-24-2013, 11:48 PM
Interesting ,I'll have to see if I can pin the customer down for the actual manufacturer or where it was purchased.
Thanks for the info,
Vicki