I'm cutting PCB's with a Dremel. Works really fine at high speed and with the finest cutting wheel. Can get really nice and clean results.

There's a lot of project and dust so I place next to my third hand a large PC fan at maximum speed oriented to the opposite of me, wear protection glasses for projection and a 3M dust mask for dusts.

But after the cutting there's still a freaking smell in the room and some dust floating in the air.

Are these dangerous? Should I quit and ventilate the room for 15 minutes before continuing to work? I don't know the composition of PCB and I'm asthmatic so...

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll let someone else answer on the toxicity of the material (or lack thereof) but you really should try to make sure there isn't a lot of particulate floating around in your workspace, regardless of the material. The mask/glasses are a good idea but you probably want an actual fan or blower if your work area is collecting dust like that. \$\endgroup\$
    – scld
    Dec 13, 2013 at 19:33
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ You would probably be better served by using a vacuum to collect the dust rather than a fan to blow it around the room even more. PCBs usually contain fiberglass, so the dust from grinding/cutting it will contain tiny glass particles. Not something I want to breathe. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 13, 2013 at 19:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you run water over the PCB while cutting? This will lubricate the cutter and reduce dust. \$\endgroup\$
    – markrages
    Dec 13, 2013 at 23:51

3 Answers 3


I found a MSDS datasheet for FR-4 material, which is commonly used in PCBs.


Machining, grinding or sawing this material may generate harmful dusts. Continuous filament glass fiber is not considered flbrogenic; however, it Is woven from E-Glass fibers which are listed by IARC as "special purpose glass fibers" and designated as "possibility of carcinogenic in human.” Inhalation of copper fumes, while not expected to occur under typical conditions of use, may cause metal fume fever. See Section 8 for exposure controls.

The cited section 8 says:

ENGINEERING CONTROLS: Use local exhaust when machining, grinding or sanding to minimize exposures and maintain airborne dust and fiber concentrations below occupational exposure limits.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT: RESPIRATORY PROTECTION: In the absence of adequate general or local ventilation, use a NIOSH-or local authority-approved respirator with at least an N95 filter if exposure limits are exceeded.

SKIN PROTECTION: Wear gloves during prolonged contact to avoid skin Irritation from dust.

EYE PROTECTION: Use safety glasses or a face shield when machining, grinding or sawing this material.

So, by using a mask and fan, you've likely kept yourself reasonably safe. You might want to consider getting an electronics-grade vacuum cleaner that meets N95 to collect and contain dust that otherwise may escape into the air.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Just to add to the above answer, if you are building a vacuum rather than using a respirator, a HEPA-rated filter should be sufficient, since it is equivalent to a P100 respirator, which is like N100 but also filters oil particles (according to my reading of this website and wikipedia \$\endgroup\$ Dec 15, 2013 at 5:58

Try using a tile cutter instead. A tile cutter is cheap, inexpensive and it cuts the board wet so there is nothing flying around to inhale. Wear gloves too when handling the PCB's. Tile cutters have a guide so you get a perfect straight line every time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A tile cutter or a tile saw? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2015 at 13:25

A paper cutter cuts PCB dry without any dust. I have a flimsy plastic-y dull-bladed second-hand paper guillotine and even that, although not perfect, is much nicer than a Dremel that I have also tried. A sturdier cutter where the blade does not flex is better. A laminate cutter might work even better.


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