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CATalyst Studios: Laser cutter

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Laser Cutter

laser cut keychain: "I make therefore I am."

Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to vaporize materials, resulting in a cut edge. While typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, it is now used by schools, small businesses, architecture, and hobbyists.

What can I do with it?

You can make prototypes, add creative flourishes to items, and more! Use the laser cutter to cut or engrave materials such as wood, paper, cardboard, fabrics, and certain types of plastic. The laser cutter can engrave some materials, such as glass and stone, but not cut them.

Read our policies before coming in to use the machine.

How can I get certified?

New users can register for a certification, offered weekly. If you are unable to attend a certification session, please contact us to arrange an alternative training time.

Register for certification


Who can use it?

If you are certified, you can book time on the laser cutter in advance. Reservations are for laser cutting time only, not design setup. Please have your file downloaded and ready to be cut, or come in to CATalyst prior to your reservation for help preparing your file.

Priority is for UA students, faculty, and staff, but non-affiliates may also use the equipment, subject to availability. You're welcome to drop by the during our open hours where one of our staff members can help you with your project.

Book time on the laser cutter

How much does it cost?

Each job costs $2 for every 10 minutes of cutting/engraving time plus the cost of materials (if applicable). The library has several materials available for purchase or you can bring your own material. A CATalyst staff member must approve any material you bring before cutting or engraving. See a list of acceptable materials below and email us if you have any questions.

Make your payment prior to pickup.

Not sure what material you should use? Come in during our open hours and a CATalyst staff member can help you decide.

Materials for Purchase

Material Type 12x12 in 12x24 in 24x36 in
Baltic birch plywood 1/8" $2 $4 $8
Baltic birch plywood 1/4" $4 $6 $10
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) 1/8" $2 $4 Unavailable
Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) 1/4" $4 $6 Unavailable
Acrylic (variety of colors) 1/8" $4 $9 Unavailable
Acrylic (variety of colors) 1/4" $7 $16 Unavailable

Rapid prototyping materials such as cardboard ($0.50 per sheet) and miscellaneous scraps available.

Acceptable materials

All materials you bring in are subject to approval by CATalyst staff. The following list is just a guide, so it is not exhaustive.

Material Cut Engrave Notes
Wood Yes Yes Most wood-based products, including solid wood and plywood, are excellent for cutting and engraving. Engineered woods, such as MDF, still work but might char more when cutting. Avoid oily or resinous woods.
Acrylics Yes Yes  
Cloth and fabric Yes Yes No plastic-coated or impregnated cloth.
Paper products and matte board Yes Yes High fire risk, monitor closely.
Cork Yes Yes  
Leather Yes Yes Genuine leather only. No "pleather" or anything containing vinyl.
Rubber Yes Yes Only rubber that contains no chlorine.
Polyester sheet (Mylar) Yes Yes Great for stencils.
Anodized aluminum No Yes The laser can't mark bare metals, but it can burn away the anodizing to make designs.
Glass No Yes  
Marble, granite, other stone No Yes  
Ceramics No Yes  


What are the laser cutter's technical specifications?

Work limits

  • Cutting/engraving area: 36 x 48 in (1219 x 914 mm)
  • Maximum cutting thickness (1 pass): .75 in (mm)
  • Features: Rim-Style Rotary Attachment (for rotary etching) & 2 overhead IRIS Cameras


  • Vector file types supported: DXF, AI, DST, PLT, LAS
  • Raster file types supported: JPG, BMP, GIF, TIF, PNG, TGA
  • The laser cutter may support other file types. Contact us if you have a specific need not listed here.


  • Type: 80-watt max CO2 laser
  • Wavelength: 10.6 microns (infrared, invisible to the naked eye)