Laser Processing Coated Materials

Often materials arrive from the supplier or customer with a surface protective coating. Although not always true, this is generally the case for expensive metals, those intended for a special purpose, or applications where aesthetics is critical. Examples may include a stainless steel appliance, a part designated for a medical or aerospace application, a decorative art piece, and so on. The material may be coated with a variety of finishes including paint, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Nitto, Laser Film, and so on. 

What poses a challenge is that, in order to reduce the likelihood of scratches or other damage, these finishes are intended to remain on the materials during processing and shipping. It is therefore important to learn how to effectively laser cut coated materials while keeping the protective surface intact. While these finishes certainly do a good job in protecting the material from scratching, they can pose some significant cutting challenges. The objective is to produce quality cuts without removing, scratching, melting or otherwise damaging the coating.

Today laser quality PVC and similar coating is readily available; but this wasn’t always the case. In the past these coatings often lacked the required consistency.  If PVC coating is not tacky or sticky it may bubble and melt during processing. This causes it to stick to the metal and must be ground off. This introduces a real possibility for scratching or burning thus defeating the intended purpose of the coating.