Laser Cutting Felt: Expert Guide [2022]

Laser Cutting Felt: Expert Guide [2022]

Laser Cutting Felt: Expert Guide [2022]

Felt is a thick non-woven, weft-free, warp-free, inexpensive fabric material that is also highly water-resistant.

It is one of the easiest materials to be laser cut, which when processed under a laser produces clean cuts with sealed edges.

However, the quality of the cut depends upon the type of felt and process parameters used for laser cutting.

This article discusses how to laser cut felt accurately and the common challenges that come up when cutting felt.

I also recommend laser cutting machines that are best suited for processing felt.

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Laser Cutting Felt - The Process

Felt can be laser cut with a diode, CO2, or a fiber laser. But a CO2 laser with a minimum power of 25W is the best option to cut felt as it produces better results than diode lasers and is also more affordable than fiber lasers.

Making the Design

Shape placement in Adobe Illustrator
Shape placement in Adobe Illustrator (Source: Digital Design Tips)

The first step in making any project on a laser cutter is making the design. You can use CAD software that exports files in vector formats.

Vector formats are the best option for doing cutting operations as it's made of lines and curves.

Most control software accepts vector file formats like AI, EPS, DXF, SVG, DWG, DWF, and PDF.

You can also use nesting software to optimize your design and reorient the shapes in the design to maximize material usage.

Cutting Felt - Laser Type and Laser Settings

Laser cutting felt
Laser cutting felt (Source: Boss Laser - YouTube)

For cutting felt, CO2 lasers operating at a wavelength of 9,300 or 10,600 nm with powers ranging from 25W to 80W are the best option.

They can effortlessly cut through different felts of varying thicknesses.

Diode lasers can also cut felt, but the cutting process will be slow and only effective on thin felt sheets.

Laser cutting thickness and speed chart for felt provides a reference for setting the optimal parameters for your application.

Felt TypeOperationPowerSpeed
Wool feltEngraving60W (18%)~531 ipm
Wool felt (1/8″)Cutting60W (11%)~29 ipm
Acrylic felt (1/16")Cutting80W (70%)~50.3 ipm
Acrylic feltEngraving80W (45%)~762 ipm
Blended Felt (1/5")Cutting150W (65%)~114 ipm

Laser settings for cutting and engraving felt

While laser cutting thin sheets of felt, the pressure from the air assist can blow the material around.

Therefore, it is recommended to use double-sided foam tape to hold the workpiece in place.

Laser cutting felt generates smoke, which can block the laser beam and reduce its intensity, causing irregular cuts.

Air assist blows the smoke away from the cutting area, thereby preventing the smoke from interfering with the laser beam path.

The smoke produced during the cutting process can be harmful if inhaled and cause irritation to the eyes.

Hence, it is advised to follow the laser safety measures and wear laser safety glasses when working with laser machines.

Applications of Laser-cut Felt

Laser-cut felt
Laser-cut felt (Source: Amor Laser)

Laser-cutting of felt is best suited for applications that require high precision repeatable cuts.

With a good laser cutter at hand, you can cut complex shapes out of a felt sheet, which otherwise would not be possible.

Some of the general applications of laser-cut felt are making colorful ornaments, dividers, acoustic panels, drapery, table runners, placemats, rugs, etc.

Felt - Types, Properties

Felt fabric sheet rolls
Felt fabric sheet rolls (Source: Alitools)

Felt is made by combining different fibers. This mixing of fibers is done through matting, condensing, and pressing operations.

The types of fibers used in the making of felt determine the type of felt created.

Types of Felt

Natural Felt

Natural felt is made using natural plant-based or animal-based fiber sources. Felt made of wool, furs, and cotton are some of the most common natural felts.

Synthetic Felt

Synthetic felts are made using artificially synthesized fibers. Felt made of acrylic and rayon-based fibers are some of the most common synthetic felts.

Blended Felt

Blended or mixed felt combines the best of both worlds. It is made of fibers from synthetic as well as natural sources. Wool-acrylic bent felt is the most commonly used blended felt.

Characteristics of Felt

Close-up view of felt
Close-up view of felt (Source: Andrii Zhezhera - 123RF)

Felt is a durable material with an interlocked structure of fibers. Due to the tight interlocking of fibers, felts are also warm and used in making winter garments.

Unlike other woven or knit fibers, laser cutting felt does not produce frayed edges.

The presence of air pockets between the fibers makes felt thick and light in weight.

The coarse texture of felt exposes a large surface area, and due to its cushioning properties, it acts as a sound insulator and is good for soundproofing.

Best Laser Cutters for Cutting Felt

OMTech 60W Laser Machine

OMTech 60W CO2 laser machine

OMTech 60W laser machine is a cabinet-type laser machine with an enclosed setup.

It has two versions available they are MF2028-60 and AF2028-60. The AF2028-60 variant comes with an autofocus feature, while MF2028-60 doesn't.

The machine has a footprint of 47.24 x 34.25 and a work area of 20" x 28".

It uses a 60W CO2 laser that operates at a frequency of 28.3 kHz and a wavelength of 10,640 nm.

Other than felt, it can also work on cardboard, paper, rubber, ceramics, marble, granite, leather, glass, textiles, wood, cork, acrylicplastic, and more.

It has a digital control panel on the front of the machine. That allows you to control the machining parameters and run jobs from a flash drive, eliminating the need for a USB connection.

OMTech provides an official license of LightBurn software with the machine that is compatible with Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms.

They have an active Facebook group where a large part of their community is active. Some community participation is also there on Reddit, YouTube, and Amazon product pages of OMTech.

OMTech 60W CO2 Laser
60W CO2 laser without Autofocus.
Comes with RDWorks and LightBurn Software.
2-year warranty.
OMTech 60W CO2 Laser with Autofocus
60W CO2 laser with Autofocus feature.
Comes with RDWorks and LightBurn Software.
2-year warranty.

Glowforge Plus

Glowforge Plus
Glowforge Plus

Glowforge Plus is a 40W CO2 desktop laser cutter or engraver.

It has a 38" x 20.75" footprint and an 11" x 19.5" work area . It has an enclosed setup and can work on a maximum of 2" thick materials.

The laser module's autofocus feature adjusts the laser beam's focus by scanning the thickness of the workpiece. The laser used has a wavelength of 10,600 nm.

Glowforge Plus can work on glass, stone, marble, titanium, ceramic, anodized aluminum, wood, fabric, cork, cardboard, rubber, leather, mylar, Delrin, etc.

The machine is controlled by an OS-independent proprietary software of Glowforge that runs on web browsers.

It works with the onboard camera to visually preview the design aligned with the workpiece. It helps a lot as you can glimpse the result beforehand.

Glowforge provides a one-year warranty for the Glowforge Plus laser cutter. You can contact them by phone or email.

They have a dedicated community forum where you can take part and connect with other Glowforge users.

You can also consider their Glowforge Pro model, which provides a pass-through slot for applications involving long workpieces.

Glowforge Plus 3D Laser Printer
40W laser CO2 laser machine.
It has a work area of 11 x 19.5 inches.
Comes with a one-year warranty.

Trotec Speedy Series

Trotec speedy series of laser machines (Source: Industry Arena)
Speedy 100Speedy 300Speedy 360Speedy 400
Footprint40" x 30.8"
(1018 x 784 mm)
44.5" x 37.1"
(1130 x 943 mm)
48" x 32.6"
(1221 x 830 mm)
56.2" x 37.5"
(1428 x 952 mm)
Work Area27.2" x 13.6"
(690 x 346 mm)
31.3" x 17.3"
(795 x 440 mm)
35" x 23.6"
(890 x 600 mm)
43.1" x 27.4"
(1096 x 698 mm)
CO2 laser power30 - 60W30 - 120W60 - 120W60 - 120W

A quick comparison of different variants under the speedy series of laser machines

The speedy series of machines have powers ranging from 20W to 120W, and there are four variants in the speedy series Speedy 100, Speedy, 300, Speedy 360, and Speedy 400.

They are available with a CO2 or fiber laser source. For working on felt, CO2 lasers are the best option.

It can also work on acrylic, glass, plastic, leather, metal, paper, stone, textiles, and wood.

Trotec uses Ruby software to design and send the designs to their laser machine. You can import and use designs from other CAD software.

Ruby is an upgrade to their JobControl software, which Trotec users previously used to control their laser machines.

The Speedy series of laser machines are customizable, and you can opt for different laser powers, accessories, services, etc., from Trotec.

Trotec has provided many information-rich resources on its website. You can find most of them in the download area of their website.

For queries, you can contact Trotec through phone, email, or visit their showroom in Plymouth, USA.

The Speedy series of laser machines from Trotec is a good option for small businesses and professionals.

Laser Cutting Services that Cut Felt

Investing in laser machines is a costly affair and doesn't reap many returns for rarely occurring jobs.

In such cases, obtaining laser cutting services from online or local service providers is the best option.

Following are some of the active online businesses that offer custom laser cutting of felt.

Final Thoughts

Laser cutting felt produces sealed edges with minimum frays, ideal for cutting intricate patterns.

Felt is available in a variety of colors and can be used in layers to produce high-contrast laser engraving products.

Furthermore, laser cutting provides high accuracy and repeatability, which can't be achieved by traditional die cutters.

The non-contact nature of laser cutting minimized the risk of damaging the felt material and produces sealed edges that require minimum post processing.

Laser Cutting and Engraving Other Materials

Following are some detailed guides on laser cutting different materials.

MaterialLink to Guide
PlywoodLaser Cutting Plywood
Wood (cutting)Laser Cutting Wood
Wood (engraving)Wood Laser Engraving
AluminumLaser Cutting and Engraving Aluminum
LeatherLaser Cutting and Engraving Leather
FabricLaser Cutting Fabric
FoamLaser Cutting Foam
PlasticLaser Cutting and Engraving Plastic
PolypropyleneLaser cutting polypropylene
Glass (cutting)Laser Cutting Glass
Glass (engraving)Laser Etching and Engraving Glass
BrassLaser Engraving Brass
GraniteLaser Engraving Granite

Laser Cutting Guides for other Materials

Frequently Asked Questions

Is felt a non-woven fabric?

Yes, felt is a non-woven fabric made by agitating and compressing natural or synthetic fibers. Since it is not woven, it does not unravel at the cut end when cut.

Are felt and Fleece the same?

No, felt and fleece are not the same. Fleece is a woven fabric made using plastic, while the felt is a non-woven fabric made from natural and synthetic fibers.

Is melton a type of felt?

No, melton is not a type of felt. Melton is a woven fabric with a similar appearance to felt and is a good alternative to felt.

About John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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John

Hey I'm John. I talk about CNCs and Power Tools at Mellowpine. I'm a CNC hobbyist who has been making CNCs and writing about CNCs for a while. I currently also work as a consultant for business owners and hobbyists setting up their own CNCs. If you have any questions related to CNC, I'd be happy to answer them. Reach me at john@mellowpine.com

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