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Can I Cut Vinyl/PVC In A Laser?

This question has been asked a few times so I thought it may be good to do a write-up about it so that this information is readily available to everyone. The short answer: Sure you “can” process PVC and vinyls in a CO2 laser. You can also cut your toenails with a circular power saw. SHOULD YOU cut vinyl in a laser?


There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t and we will cover those in this article as well as provide supporting documentation, images, and data in case you want to dig into the details.

click image to enlarge

This is (or WAS) a $30,000 Epilog Legend 36EXT that was used to cut vinyl stickers.  The hydrogen chloride gas created by the lasing process turned into hydrochloric acid and, even with a more than adequate exhaust system, caused irreparable damage to the machine. These deadly corrosive fumes were also vented outside into the open air without thought or regard to the possible effects. The machine, exhaust ducting, fan, and vent area were all in similar condition. It would have been cheaper to buy a $400 vinyl cutter (or even a $2000 graphtec) than to sacrifice a $30,000 laser engraver.


Although polyvinyl chloride (PVC) can in fact be cut with laser, the thermal process produces hydrochloric acid and toxic fumes. For this reason, we advise you not to use laser for cutting PVC in order to prevent corrosion of your laser system and to ensure the safety of the machine operator. – eurolaser

Here is another laser suffering from the same fate. I do not know the specifics of this particular case but I can safely say the end user was probably surprised at how rapid the degradation was.

When PVC is heated it releases hydrogen chloride gas (which has almost identical toxicity and properties as chlorine gas), among other things. This mixes with the moisture in the air and the result is hydrochloric acid. It is toxic to humans and corrosive to most anything it comes in contact with. I am sure you could filter it out of the air and everything would be fine… except everything between the source and the filter that is. Even a very high volume exhaust would probably just lengthen the time it takes to do damage but it won’t stop the damage from happening. You are much better off mechanically cutting PVC instead of lasing it.




Wikipedia - Chlorine Gas Poisoning

Tech Bravo

My name is Brian and I am a full time geek! Before being pulled in to a real estate firm as their digital marketing guru I was Operations Manager/Senior Network Engineer/Lead Color Digital Imaging Technician for a medium sized Copier/Printer/IT firm. I have been taking things apart since i was old enough to handle a screwdriver and, over the years, have figured out how to put stuff back together. My toys growing up were oscilloscopes, Z80 based microprocessors, tools, and the like and I am heavily addicted to all things technical. I look forward to bringing hi-tech to you! Feel free to contact me if you wish.

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