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Laser safety at universities and colleges

The do’s and don’ts of laser cutting in education

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

Digital manufacturing is an omnipresent topic. In schools and universities there are many technologies regarded as important for digital fabrication, including cutting plotters, CNC millers, 3D printers, embroidery machines and laser cutters. Questions about safety are common relating to the laser machine, including what are the do’s and don’ts that need to be observed when using the laser cutter? How do I create a safe learning environment for different users with basic knowledge?

Laser safety of Trotec laser machines

Due to their closed cabinet design, Trotec laser cutters ensure optimal protection for all users. Interlock safety switches, protective covers, light barriers and temperature sensors make Trotec laser cutters the world’s safest laser machines in their class. Our FAQ page "How safe are Trotec laser machines" provides 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. 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 at universities

✓ Offer regular training:

Make basic training for the laser cutter a prerequisite for use. Many errors can be easily avoided by thorough instruction on the laser machine. Alongside 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. For example, the material database supplied with our laser software features cutting and engraving parameters 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:

When 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 has many different users, a central contact person (i.e. “laser mentor”) is worth their weight in gold. Taking 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, incorrect laser power can cause the material to ignite, meaning 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. If processed, dangerous gases or dust may be produced by these materials. 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. Whether you need support with laser training for your users or would like to network with other educational institutions or see testimonials on reservation or billing systems, our laser experts are here to help.

Get in touch

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.