Laser processing textiles

Textiles with a laser engraved or laser cut finish

The textile industry offers a multitude of unique uses for laser technology that work together seamlessly. One of the many reasons why lasers are so effective in this industry is because of the high-quality finish it produces as well as the ease of which patterns can be created. Learn more about what to consider when laser processing natural textiles and synthetic textiles.

Laser engraving and laser cutting natural textiles

In theory, natural textiles are well suited to laser engraving and laser cutting. The base colour of the material used, will determine the contrasting colour on textiles with laser engraving.

Examples of suitable materials:
  • Cotton
  • Silk
  • Linen
  • Leather
  • Denim

Laser engraving dark natural textiles

Dark denim or cotton fabrics can be easily “bleached” by laser engraving. It is important to use a low laser power (up to approx. 20% at 100 watts) and to engrave without Z offset depending on the material. CAUTION: If you use too much laser power or the resolution is too high, the fabric may tear or the fibers may dissolve, 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 on light textiles, deliberate defocusing is required, i.e. 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 cutting. To avoid dark edges, we recommend switching on Air Assist during the cutting process and using the nozzle with the smallest diameter.

Laser engraving and laser cutting synthetic textiles

Synthetic fabrics such as polyesters achieve very good results for laser processing. Due to the nylon content, the laser seals the edges in a manner which prevents fraying. With laser engraving, various patterns can be engraved in the fabrics resulting in an enriched end product.
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 can be engraved with ease. The synthetic material melts during this process and therefore, good contrasts are possible. 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 engraving.
Some textiles are not suitable for engraving e.g. thin synthetic fibre 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

Due to the high nylon content, synthetic fabrics are excellent for laser cutting as the individual fibres are melted and sealed, preventing fraying and making hemming unnecessary which ultimately, leads to time saving.
In order to cut the material cleanly, i.e. clean edges without smoke residue, it is important that the synthetic textiles are not cut with too high power in combination with low speed. When laser cutting synthetic fabrics, we recommend a frequency between 1000 Hz and 3000 Hz.

CAUTION: Some 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 user or the functioning of the laser machine. Here you will find an overview of unsuitable materials for laser processing.

Determining cutting and engraving parameters

Determination of the cutting parameters

The diversity in composition of textiles is an important factor to consider when determining cutting parameters.  Some textiles are made of natural fibres, and some of chemical fibres.  It is, therefore, important to differentiate between the Speedy Laser Engraver series and the SP Laser Cutter series. The parameters depend on what you are wanting to achieve and what design has been chosen.

For large geometries with a large proportion of straight lines, generally, the stronger the laser power the faster the material can be cut. With Speedy lasers, speeds up to approx. 15% are possible. For precise 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 support you even more when determining the parameters. You can determine the parameters with optimized speed for a straight geometry. Depending on the laser power, speeds up to 100% are possible because the system automatically adjusts the actual values to the contour and thus achieves perfect cutting results.

grayscale matrix on denim

Determination of the engraving parameters

You can quickly and easily determine the required engraving parameters for yourself by using the grayscale matrix. TIP: The more you defocus (Z offset: approx. 0.5 - 20 mm), the darker the engraving of the textile 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. 

Laserflexx – as easy as iron-ons

Give textiles a professional screen-like finish using your unique logos, lettering and designs by using LaserFlex which is a high-quality, multi-layered film that has been specifically designed for laser processing.  Optimal laser settings vary depending on the laser power and the speed of your laser plotter. It is recommended processing from the bottom up while using the highest possible exhaust power setting, and in so doing, any dust produced is no longer drawn across the area that has already been laser-processed.

More about LaserFlex films

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