TEXTILES & FABRICS
Types of Textiles and Fabrics
All materials have unique characteristics that dictate how the laser beam interacts and consequently modifies the material. The most common processes for textiles and fabrics are the following:
Laser Cutting of Textiles and Fabrics
The energy of a CO2 laser beam is easily absorbed by both natural and synthetic fabrics. This causes the portion of the fabric that is directly in the path of the laser beam to rapidly heat up and vaporize. If the laser power is sufficiently high, it will cut completely through the fabric. Most fabrics vaporize quickly when cut with a laser, resulting in clean, smooth edges with minimal heat affected zone. In certain cases laser cutting seals the edges, preventing the fabric from unraveling.
Laser Engraving of Textiles and Fabrics
The power of the CO2 laser beam can be limited so that it removes (engraves) material to a specified depth. The laser engraving process can be used to create intricate patterns and designs into the fabric surface. Laser engraving is most effective for non-woven fabrics (e.g. felt) or fabrics with a pile (e.g. fleece). Woven fabrics are not usually engraved because the engraving process would destroy the weave, causing the fabric to unravel.
Laser Marking of Textiles and Fabrics
Certain fabrics change color or hue when exposed to a CO2 laser beam. When the surface appearance changes without any material being removed, the process is termed laser marking. Laser marking can be used to produce visible patterns and designs on the fabric surface.
The laser cutting, engraving, and marking processes described above can be combined without having to move or re-fixture the fabric.