Laser processing synthetic textiles

Laser processing textiles

Laser cutting and laser engraving tips

Laser technology and textiles are a fabulous combination. The targeted use of the laser gives textiles a high-quality finish while allowing patterns to be easily realised. Find out what to consider when laser engraving and cutting natural textiles and synthetic textiles.

Laser processing natural textiles

Laser engraving and laser cutting natural textiles

Natural textiles are an excellent material for laser engraving and laser cutting. In order to achieve a colour change on textiles with laser engraving, the basic colour of the material is a decisive factor for processing:

Suitable materials:

  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Linen
  • Leather
  • Denim

Laser engraving - Dark natural textiles

Dark materials including denim or cotton fabrics can be easily “bleached” using laser engraving. For this process a low laser power (up to approx. 20% at 100 watts) must be used and the engraving should be done without Z offset, (material dependant).

CAUTION: Using too much laser power or resolution which is too high can tear the fabric or dissolve the fibers, immediately or after the first wash at the latest. Depending on the graphic, a resolution of 250 to 500dpi is suitable.

Laser engraving - Light natural textiles

In order to achieve a dark laser engraving results on light textiles, deliberate defocusing is required, for example a Z offset of approx. 2 to 20 mm is used depending on the material. The further the lens is from the material, the larger the laser spot.

Laser cutting - Natural textiles

Use a frequency of 1000 to 3000 Hz for laser cutting. To avoid dark edges, we recommend switching on Air Assist during the cutting process and using the nozzle with the smallest diameter.

Laser processing synthetic textiles

Laser engraving and laser cutting synthetic textiles

Synthetic fabrics also respond very well to laser engraving. They are often made of plastics such as polyester. The laser beam melts plastics in a controlled manner, providing fiber-free, sealed edges during laser cutting without fraying. With laser engraving, more tangible haptic effects can be achieved. This makes it easy to enrich end products or engrave different patterns in fabrics.

Examples of suitable materials:

  • Softshell
  • Synthetic leather
  • Synthetic felt
  • Microfiber
  • Velour
  • Carpet materials
  • Various fleece fabrics

Laser engraving - Synthetic textiles

Some fabrics such as synthetic leather, fleece or synthetic felt are very easy to engrave. The synthetic material melts during laser processing, allowing good contrasts to be achieved. To achieve a homogeneous engraving, use a Z offset of 1 to 5 mm, depending on the fabric. Use a resolution of up to 500 dpi for the laser engraving.
Some textiles are not suitable for engraving e.g. thin synthetic fiber materials, as they melt during the process. You can quickly and easily test whether your fabric allows homogeneous engraving using the grayscale matrix.

Laser cutting - Synthetic textiles

Synthetic fabrics are excellent for laser cutting. Due to the plastic content, the individual fibers merge and are sealed during processing. This saves timepost-processing because hemming is unnecessary and fraying is prevented.
In order to laser cut the material cleanly, for example clean edges without smoke residue, it is important that the synthetic textiles are not cut with high power combined with low speed. When laser cutting synthetic fabrics, we recommend a frequency between 1000 Hz and 3000 Hz.

CAUTION: Synthetic materials - especially synthetic leather - often contain PVC. These are not suitable for laser engraving or laser cutting. When processing these materials, hazardous gases or dust may be generated, which endanger the laser operator and the functionality of the laser machine. Find out which other materials are unsuitable for processing in our guide: unsuitable materials for laser processing.

Determining laser cutting and laser engraving parameters

Determining the laser cutting parameters

Textiles are made of natural fibers or chemical fibers and are therefore very diverse in composition. To determine your parameters it is important to differentiate between the Speedy laser engraving series and the SP laser cutter series. The parameters depend on your chosen platform and configuration.

Large geometries with a large proportion of straight lines typically require stronger laser power  for the material to be cut faster. With Speedy laser engraving machines, speeds up to approx. 15% are possible. For precise laser cutting edges with small geometries, a reduction in speed and laser power may be required for your Speedy laser. With a Speedy, a maximum cutting speed of 3% can be used as a guide for a pattern like the one shown in the photo.
With an SP laser cutter, the integrated hardware and software further support you when determining the laser parameters. You can determine the parameters with optimised speed for a straight geometry. Depending on the laser power, speeds up to 100% are possible because the machine automatically adjusts the actual values to the contour and thus achieving perfect laser cutting results.

Determining the laser engraving parameters

With the grayscale matrix you can quickly and easily determine the desired laser engraving parameters for yourself.

TIP: The more you defocus (Z offset: approx. 0.5 - 20 mm), the darker the laser engraving results on the textiles will be. Defocusing the laser beam increases the laser spot size, decreases the power density and burns more material instead of letting it pass directly into the gaseous form. 

LaserFlex – as easy as iron-ons

LaserFlex is a high-quality, multi-layered film that has been specifically designed for laser processing. Enrich textiles with designs of your choice, logos, and lettering with a screen-like finish. Optimal laser settings vary depending on the laser power and the speed of your laser machine. We recommend processing from the bottom up while using the highest possible exhaust power setting, as this ensures that any dust produced is not drawn across the area that has already been laser-processed. LaserFlex is available to purchase from our webshop.

More about LaserFlex films

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DIY sample: Softshell laptop bag

Material Handling: Leather

Textile applications

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