It is required that laser cutter owners and operator be aware of hazardous fumes and small particles that result from laser cutting and laser engraving. Most professional workshops have installed exhaust fans and exhaust ports, however, if your workspace does not have an exhaust port, or convenient window, a fume extractor is an excellent alternative.
Fume and Particle Exhaust
When a laser cutter cuts or engraves material, it creates residual fumes and microscopic particles from the material, as would be expected. These fumes, if inhaled, could cause health issues and large accumulation of particles could potentially be a fire hazard. To counter these risks, laser cutters use exhaust fans that pull the fumes and particles from the interior of the machine, as it cuts, and exports them safely outside through an exhaust port or window.
Installed Exhaust Ports and Windows
Many workshops have exhaust ports built-in to their facilities. These are similar to the exhaust port’s in homes that hook up to clothes dryers via flexible ducting tubes. In large shops, these exhaust ports are often connected to the ceiling, though they don’t have to be. For smaller facilities, and even home workshops, a simple window serves the same purpose. The exhaust point does not have to be an airtight port, as long as the fumes reach outside.
Sometimes a window or installed exhaust port is not an option. Perhaps you have set up your laser cutter in a space with no outside access, or you want to take your hobby laser to an indoor craftshow. In these cases, a fume extractor works just as well. Fume extractors pull the fumes and particles through a series of HEPA filters instead of exporting them outside.
HEPA filters are regulated by the US Department of Energy (DOA) and are made to remove 99.97% of airborne particles up to 3 micrometers. This standard makes HEPA filters beneficial to those with breathing conditions, like asthma and those who suffer from allergies.
When laser cutting, exhausting fumes and particles away from the operator, to a safe export destination, is mandatory. Those without immediate outside access ports or windows can utilize fume extractors for the same results. Remember to always put safety first when operating a laser.