Why your laser cutter could kill you by creating Chlorine gas using PVC material.

Gil Poznanski looks at the dangers of some plastic products made with chlorine. Laser cutting plastics that contain chlorine is dangerous and deadly. It releases dangerous chlorine gas which is corrosive to you and your laser.

Laser Cutting these products creates chlorine gas when using the following materials (including but not limited to):

★ PVC ★ Pleather ★ Vinyl ★ Artificial leather

There is a very quick test you can do before using any material in your laser cutter to check for chlorine. Called the Beilstein test, this test uses very basic equipment and can be done in seconds.

DO NOT USE UNKNOWN MATERIAL in your laser cutter without TESTING FIRST!

Thank you to Darkly Labs for supporting this safety video. Check out their range of diode laser cutter here: Darkly Labs

Transcript: 

Have you ever wanted to use your laser cutter to cut or engrave any type of material you can get your hands on? Well, today I’m going to show you a quick trick so that you can check whether or not that material is safe to laser cut or could potentially kill you.

My name is Gil Poznanski and it’s my mission to help you get the most out of your laser cutter. If you like this video or this is the first time you’ve been here hit that subscribe button and that bell icon so you don’t miss any future videos.

I love my laser cutter and I’m always exploring new materials that I can use with the laser cutter to create absolutely amazing and new things but after doing a little bit of research I realised some of the products that I was putting into the laser cutter could potentially be dangerous. In fact, some plastics are made out of chlorine which happens to be the same product that they used in the battlefield before World War One. I never want to create chlorine gas as a byproduct of my making experience. So let me show you this one quick test that you can do in seconds that allow you to see whether or not the materials you’re putting in your laser cutter is safe or dangerous.

What you’ll need to run this test is some copper wire, a flame torch, a sample of the material you’d like to cut. Heat up the wire and make sure it gets red hot. Take the heated wire and carefully melt a small amount of the material that you’d like to test onto the wire. Place the wire and material back into the flame. If the flame turns green then your material has chlorine present. Do not use chlorine-based material in your laser cutter not only is it dangerous to you but it will melt the electronics and plastics within the laser cutter itself. If the flame doesn’t change colour at all then there is no chlorine present. It is safe for you to use in your laser cutter.

This is actually called the Beilstein Test and this test has been used over hundreds of
years if you or your Makerspace runs a laser cutter I highly suggest having a little bit of copper wire and a torch present so that users can check the material they’re placing into the laser cutter making sure it’s safe for them and the people around them.

This test only checks for chlorine some of the products with chlorine present are polyvinyl chloride otherwise known as PVC, vinyl, pleather and some artificial leather.

Let me know in the comments below if you’ve ever used this tip before to test material going into a laser cutter or if you’ve been to a Makerspace that asks you to test your material before allowing you to use their laser cutter.

I’d like to thank Darkly labs for allowing me this space to create this video and if you haven’t checked out Darkly Labs range of diode laser cutters follow the link below and find out how you can get a laser cutter in your office or your classroom.

Please feel free to hit the subscribe button and the bell icon so that you don’t miss any other videos about maker technology, laser cutting, workflow, safety and maker culture. We’re really keen to understand and appreciate what you actually make with your laser cutter so feel free to share your projects with us either in the comments below or you can
get in touch with us through social media.

Be safe when using your laser cutter and create amazing things with light. I’ll see you real soon.

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