COVID-19 has brought about many changes in the landscape of the workplace. Forced to stay home from work because of health and safety concerns, many people have started to look for ways to make a living from home. As so often, necessity is the mother of all invention, and just one look at the web traffic on creative e-commerce websites like Etsy and eBay shows that they are filled with countless crafts and items that were created thanks to a wide variety of laser engravers. Laser engravers have gradually replaced traditional manual engraving machines thanks to their higher speed, increased accuracy, and possible bulk volume applications. Instead of mechanically scraping the material, laser engravers use light energy to change the product’s surface. The surface heats up to extreme temperatures and can start to melt, burn, or bubble up. Smoke, fumes, and gases can be byproducts of this process.

Laser engravers, especially the top-of-the-line ones, will make a hefty dent in your finances. The new proud owner of a top-notch laser machine will then be tempted to ask, “Do I need to invest additional money into a fume extractor”? This is a valid question. However, even in these uncertain times, where money is tight for most people, the answer is a simple and resounding “yes.” Yes, you do need to invest in a fume extractor for your laser engraver. Let us run through all the different possible scenarios and tell you why.

Scenario #1: I only laser engrave as a hobby and use the machine a few times weekly. Also, I am running it away from my home in my shed. Depending on the type of material engraved, the toxicity of the fumes can vary. Unless you have equipment like the inspectors from OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), you cannot be sure how high the toxicity levels are in the air you breathe in your shed. It’s essential to prioritize your health always, as it is invaluable. Please don’t take any unnecessary risks, and take measures to protect it.

Scenario #2: I wear PPE (Protective Personal Equipment) gear like a high-filtering mask. This should protect me enough. 

As the official website of the Government of Canada states: “PPE does not remove or reduce workplace hazards and does not replace effective engineering or administrative control methods such as substitution or ventilation. PPE is the last line of defense when the hazard cannot be removed or controlled adequately. Proper selection, use, and care of the equipment are vital to providing the proper level of protection.”

Scenario #3: I have already installed a hose that will divert the fumes to the outside of the building, where it will disperse in the open air. 

This is not a satisfactory solution since people, pets, or wildlife may still be exposed to the toxic fumes diverted to the outside. Depending on where your exhaust hose leads, imagine a young mother pushing a stroller with her baby past the exhaust outlet, inhaling the toxic fumes. For a newborn, just the tiniest amount could have grave repercussions. And, of course, even an adult should not be subjected to harmful substances. Simply stated, if you produce the toxins, you must also make sure to remove the toxins.

Other reasons to use a fume extractor:

It is not only your health and the health of everyone around you that should motivate you to utilize a fume extractor. The fume extractor will also ensure that your engraver suffers less wear and tear. Without an extractor, the dust particles generated by the engraving process can settle on the lens of the laser engraver and cause irreversible damage. The quality of your laser engraving will suffer, and your laser engraver may need to be repaired or replaced sooner than with an extractor, ultimately costing you much more money than a fume extractor would have. 

Furthermore, fires can be averted by the fume extractor. As it cleans the air of the different particles, it prevents these particles from chemically reacting with one another and potentially combusting (exothermic reactions).  However, you should still keep a fire extinguisher nearby, just in case.

The heat produced by the laser causes the material engraved to burn and melt, which in turn often releases toxic fumes, which are called LGACs, Laser Generated Air Contaminants. Different types of material will release different toxins when engraved by a laser engraver. For example, the toxic chemical Hexavalent Chromium is released when engraving stainless steel. This chemical can cause lung cancer, amongst a host of other serious health problems.

Asking if you need to invest in a fume extractor for your laser machine is like asking if you need to wear your seatbelt when driving your car. You can try to do without it, but it will most certainly backfire in more ways than one.

The bottom line is that any buyer of a laser engraver, just like the buyer of any toxic fume or particle-producing equipment, should calculate the purchase of a fume extraction machine right into their overall expenditure from the get-go. 

And don’t forget, is here to help you get it right the first time when selecting your fume extractor. Our friendly and knowledgeable customer service staff loves to help you make sure all the boxes are ticked when picking out your fume extractor. They will advise you which machine is needed for your laser. To get you started, here are some additional features to consider when buying a fume extraction machine:

  1. Are the filters easy to clean/replace, or are they self-cleaning?
  2. What is their price if they are replaceable filters?
  3. Are there discounts for purchasing them in bulk?
  4. Is the fume extractor easy to install and easy to maintain?
  5. What is the noise level of the machine?
  6. Is ear protection recommended? 

So, don’t hesitate to call us because you do not want to start using your laser engraver without a fume extractor! Call us at 1-888-655-8455 (Eastern Daylight Time/ Eastern Standard Time).

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