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Laser safety at universities and colleges

Do’s and don’ts for using the laser machine in educational institutions

Published on: 01/15/2021 Author: Peter Brandtner

The topic of “digital manufacturing” is omnipresent. In schools and universities, the laser cutter along with a cutting plotter, CNC miller, 3D printer and embroidery machine are often regarded as important tools for digital production and offered as classes. In relation to the laser machine, questions about laser safety come up again and again: What do’s and don’ts need to be observed when using the laser cutter? How do I create a safe learning environment for different users with a basic knowledge?

Laser safety of Trotec laser machines

Due to their closed design, Trotec laser cutters ensure optimal protection for all users. Interlock safety switches, protective covers, light barriers or temperature sensors make Trotec laser cutters the world’s safest laser machines of their class. In our FAQs "How safe are Trotec laser machines" you will find all the information on CE conformity and the safety and health requirements of the EC Machinery Directive 2006/42/EG.

An inherently safe tool is the basis for digital production. In addition, we would like to give you the following do’s and don’ts for complication-free work with a laser cutter in the classroom.

Do’s for using laser cutters in education

✓ Offer regular training:

Make basic training for the laser cutter a prerequisite for its use. Many errors can be avoided by thorough instruction on the laser machine. In addition to laser safety, the focus should be on working efficiently with the laser cutter. The functionality of the laser machine, the basics of laser software and a first engraved and cut laser workpiece can be part of this training. A “certificate of completion” motivates students to work with the laser cutter.

✓ Take advantage of the benefits of the laser software:

Various functions of the laser software ensure that your students use the laser safely. An example: In the material database supplied with our software, cutting and engraving parameters are recommended for all popular materials. You can restrict access to the material database for your students: It’s possible to disable the features allowing users to change, delete or rename laser parameters. This protects the user and the laser machine.

✓ Simply reserve and pay:

On what days and at what time can I, as a student, cut and engrave my designs on the laser cutter? How long can I use the laser machine? A reservation system can answer these questions. Scheduling laser use allows you to avoid "queuing” at the laser cutter, and minimise organisational efforts.

✓ On your marks, laser, go!

From our point of view, the decisive DO for all laser users: Once you get trained, jump in and get started! Don’t be afraid of the laser cutter! We offer a comprehensive training program for working with the laser machine. In addition, your students will find laser templates and Tips and Tricks on our website, which support learning by doing, and empower your students to quickly achieve initial success.

✓ There is one central contact person:

Trotec laser machines are low-maintenance. If a machine is used by many different users, a central contact person (a type of “laser mentor”) is worth their weight in gold. This person takes care of the functionality of the laser cutter: User support, error analysis and machine maintenance can fall into their area of responsibility.

Don’ts: What you shouldn’t do when using the laser cutter

✘ Leave the laser machine unsupervised:

When cutting, engraving and marking, a laser beam hits the material surface to be processed and heats it. As a result of this generation of heat, the material can be removed or completely evaporated. However, if the laser power is incorrectly set, the material has the potential to ignite. Therefore, the laser machine must never be left unattended. 

✘ Process unsuitable materials:

Some materials are not suitable for laser engraving or laser cutting due to their unique chemical composition. When processing these materials, dangerous gases or dusts may be produced. A list of suitable and unsuitable materials can be found in our FAQs about "Unsuitable materials for laser processing".

✘ Disregard the environmental conditions:

Choosing the right environment and installation location ensures that the laser cutter runs smoothly and operates safely. Define a separate room or area for the laser cutter. There should also be space for the exhaust system and materials.

✘ Leave projects unattempted:

What you definitely shouldn’t do: Leave your projects unattempted!

We are happy to advise you!

We would be happy to support you with the setup in your university. Do you need support with laser training for your users?  Would you like to network with other educational institutions who are enjoying the benefits of a Trotec laser? Our laser experts are here to help.

Get in touch with us

More about the author: Peter Brandtner

Peter Brandtner has been advising Trotec customers for more than 15 years. As Head of Trotec Academy and the application laboratory, his focus is on the international training and coaching of Trotec customers and employees.