Laser machines and textiles are a wonderful combination. The focused usage of a laser gives fabrics a high quality finish. Patterns, too, can effortlessly be realized. Learn below about what must be considered when laser processing natural and synthetic textiles.
In principle, natural textiles lend themselves very well to laser cutting and engraving. The material's base colour will determine the technique needed to get a colour change to occur on textiles using laser engraving.
Examples of suitable materials:
Laser engraving dark natural textiles
Darker denim or cotton materials can be "bleached" with laser engraving. To do this, it is necessary to use low laser power (up to approx. 20% at 100 watts) and no Z-offset, depending on the material used.
CAUTION: If the laser power or the resolution is set too high, the fabric might tear or the fibers could dissolve immediately after the first wash, at the latest. Depending on the image used, a resolution of 250 to 500dpi will work.
Laser engraving light natural textiles
To attain a dark laser engraving on lighter textiles, you must purposely defocus the laser. In other words, depending on the material, a Z-offset of roughly 2 to 20 mm must be used. The further away that the lens is from the surface, the larger the laser spot will be.
Laser cutting natural textiles
When laser cutting, use a frequency of 1000 to 3000 Hz. To prevent dark edges, we recommend that you turn on Air Assist while cutting and use the nozzle that has the smallest diameter.
Synthetic fabrics work particularly well for laser processing. Oftentimes, they are made with plastics like polyester. The laser beam easily melts plastics in a controlled manner, allowing for fiber-free, sealed edges during laser cutting with zero fraying. When laser engraving synthetic fabrics, more palpable, haptic effects are achieved. This makes it simple to improve end products or engrave various patterns in fabrics.
Examples of suitable materials:
- Synthetic leather
- Synthetic felt
- Carpet materials
- Various fleece fabrics
Laser engraving synthetic textiles
Certain fabrics, like synthetic leather, fleece, or synthetic felt, are very simple to engrave. Since synthetic materials melt during engraving, high contrast is easy to achieve. To get a homogenous engraving, use a Z-offset of 1 to 5 mm, depending on the fabric used. Use a resolution of up to 500 dpi for laser engraving.
Some textiles, such as thin synthetic fiber materials, will not work for engraving because they will melt during the process. You can quickly and efficiently see if your fabric will allow homogenous engraving by using the grayscale matrix.
Laser cutting synthetic textiles
Synthetic textiles work wonderfully for laser cutting. Because of the plastic content, when heated, each individual fiber merges together and is automatically sealed. Since fraying doesn't happen, time is saved during post-processing because you do not need to hem.
To cleanly cut the material, i.e., get neat edges that have no smoke residue, it is necessary that the synthetic fabrics are not cut with too high power and low speed. When laser cutting synthetic textiles, we recommend you use a frequency between 1000 Hz and 3000 Hz.
CAUTION: Synthetic textiles—particularly synthetic leather—will often contain PVC. These materials should not be laser cut or engraved. If these materials are processed, hazardous gases or dust could be created, endangering the laser user or the functioning of the laser machine. Here, you can find an overview of unsuitable materials for laser processing.
Determination of the cutting parameters
Textiles are made of either natural or chemical fibers, making them very diverse in composition. To figure out how to determine the necessary parameters, it is necessary to learn the difference between the Speedy Laser Engraver series and the SP Laser Cutter series. The settings you need to choose will depend on the platform and configuration.
For larger pieces that have a lot of straight lines, typically, the higher the laser power, the quicker that the material can be cut. With Speedy lasers, speeds up to about 15% are possible. For small, intricate cutting edges, you may need to reduce the speed and laser power. With a Speedy laser, a maximum cutting speed of 3% can be used as a guide for a design such as the one shown in the photo to the right.
With an SP Laser Cutter, the built-in hardware and software support you even more as you figure out the settings. You can find the parameters with optimized speed for straight geometries. Depending on the laser power, speeds up to 100% are possible since the system automatically changes the actual values based on the contour and therefore achieves the perfect laser cutting result.
Determination of the engraving parameters
By using the grayscale matrix, you can efficiently discover the necessary engraving parameters for your needs.
TIP: The more that the laser is defocused (Z-offset: roughly 0.5 to 20 mm), the darker that the textile's engraving will become. Defocusing the laser beam expands the laser spot size, lowers the power density and burns more material instead of allowing it to immediately turn into smoke and gas.
LaserFlex is a high quality, multi-layered film that is made particularly for laser processing. Improve textiles with designs of your choosing, logos and lettering with a screen-like finish. The perfect laser settings will vary depending on your laser's power and speed. We recommend that you begin processing from the bottom of the workpiece moving up, using the highest possible exhaust power setting. By doing this, any dust that is produced will not be dragged across the area that is already processed.