Ultimate Guide to Laser Cutting Paper

Updated On

Currently, laser cutting technology is the most cost-effective alternative to hand-cutting and die-cutting: considerably faster and safer! At the same time, the artistic effect is taken to the next level!

Whether it's for a personal creation or to showcase a story using paper, with laser processing, paper cutting also becomes priceless!

Optimizing Techniques and Tips for Paper Laser Cutting

Low Laser Power and High-Speed Required

When working with delicate materials like paper, it is crucial to use relatively low laser power and high speeds. This prevents burning through the paper and ensures clean, precise cutting.

DPI and PPI Settings for Paper Cutting

DPI, or dots per inch, is typically used to indicate the hardware resolution of a scanner, expressing the number of pixels or print dots per inch of length. For materials like paper where fine detail is not crucial, a lower DPI setting of around 300-400 DPI is often sufficient to avoid excessive burning and maintain the paper's integrity. 

On the other hand, PPI, or pulses per inch, in the context of laser engraving, relates to the number of laser pulses applied per inch of material. Unlike the digital image file's resolution, PPI in laser settings determines how densely the laser pulses are fired as the machine moves. A lower PPI value, typically between 200 to 400 PPI, is recommended for laser cutting paper. This setting prevents excessive burning and reduces the risk of scorching, ensuring a clearer and more precise outcome.

Multiple Passes May Be Needed

Using multiple passes, especially for delicate materials, can achieve the desired cutting depth without damaging the paper. This approach provides better control over the cutting process.

Test Cuts

Always perform test cuts on a small section of the paper to adjust the settings before cutting the entire design. Experimenting with different power, speed, DPI and PPI combinations helps achieve the desired cutting effect without damaging the paper.

How to Laser Cut Paper without Burning

Focus Adjustment

When laser cutting paper, make sure the laser beam is accurately focused on the surface of the paper. A well-focused beam helps produce precise cuts while minimizing heat dispersion. Use a focus gauge tool or build a focus ramp to get this right.

Air Assist

Use an air assist feature if available on your laser cutter. Air assist blows a stream of air across the cutting area, helping to dissipate heat and reduce the chance of burning. This also prevents discoloration from vaporized particles settling back on the paper.

Vector Cutting vs. Raster Engraving

When cutting paper, consider using vector cutting (line cutting) instead of raster engraving (area filling) whenever possible. Vector cutting involves following a defined path to cut shapes, which is typically more efficient and generates less heat compared to raster engraving.

Quality Paper Selection

Choose high-quality paper materials specifically designed for laser cutting. These papers are often more resilient to heat and provide cleaner cutting edges. Avoid using thin or overly textured papers that may be more susceptible to burning or scorching during laser cutting.

Use Honeycomb Bed

It's better laser cutting paper on a honeycomb platform instead of a solid bed. This allows smoke and vapor to vent below, preventing backside burning.

Adjust Settings for Corners

Reduce power or increase speed around corners and intricate areas. As the laser slows for corners, it can cause burning if the power is too high.

Which Laser Cutter Is Best for Paper?

OMTech K40 CO2 laser cutter is the preferred choice for laser cutting paper because of several reasons:

OMTech K40 CO2 laser cutter wavelengths are readily absorbed by paper, making them more suitable for cutting paper.

To cut paper with a laser cutter, you'll need to make sure the software is compatible with design programs such as LightBurn and RDWorks, both of which OMTech has adapted.

Equipped with air assist and a honeycomb bed, the OMTech K40 prevents paper burning and ensures high-quality cutting results.

Additionally, the machine features a cutting area of 8" x 12", which accommodates standard paper sizes. If your workpiece is too large, check other CO2 laser cutters with larger workbeds. OMTech offers front and back pass-through doors, three-way pass-through, and even four-way pass-through options for your convenience.

OMTech K40 prioritizes safety features such as enclosed cutting areas, and fire detection systems to ensure safe operation when working with combustible paper.

What Paper Can Be Laser Cut?

Here are just a few examples. However, always confirm with the seller whether your specific type of paper is suitable for laser cutting before purchasing any laser cutter.

Cardstock

Cardstock is a sturdy and thick paper that comes in various weights and finishes. It is ideal for intricate designs, greeting cards, invitations, and paper crafting projects.

Paperboard

Paperboard is thicker and more rigid than regular paper, making it suitable for packaging, prototypes, and signage. It can be laser cut to create custom boxes, displays, and promotional materials.

Chipboard

Chipboard is a kind of paperboard manufactured from recycled paper materials. It is commonly used for creating durable stencils, puzzles, book covers, and structural components.

Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is a durable, natural brown paper with a rustic look. It is frequently used for eco-friendly packaging, labels, tags, and decorative elements.

Construction Paper

Construction paper is a colorful and lightweight paper often used in educational and art projects. It can be laser cut to create shapes, letters, and designs for classroom activities and craft projects.

Specialty Papers

Specialty papers such as metallic, translucent, or textured papers can also be laser-cut for unique effects. These papers are popular for creating elegant invitations, business cards, and decorative items. 

Conclusion

Laser cutting paper provides limitless opportunities for creativity and precision. By understanding the optimal settings, choosing the right materials, and utilizing specialty papers, you can achieve professional and intricate designs without damaging the paper. 

Please remember to perform test cuts, and experiment with different settings to enhance your results. Whether you're crafting personalized items or professional-grade products, mastering the use of a paper laser cutting machine will open up new avenues for your projects.