Laser plywoods (laserply) are some of our most popular materials and that popularity seems to be growing. It is a material of choice for both schools and makers alike, as you can achieve stunning results relatively easily. It is also a cost-effective material that is perfect for making high-quality items such as enclosures.
At Kitronik, we carefully select all of our plywood to ensure that they are all laser grade plywoods. It might be interesting to point out that not all plywoods cut well, or safely, on a laser bed. We're going to explore what plywood is also and what contributes to making them suitable for laser cutting.
What Is Plywood:
Plywood is a material that has been manufactured from thin veneers or plies that have been glued together with resin to form a layered sheet or panel. Quite often, adjacent layers have their grains offset from each other by 45 or 90 degrees. This improves its mechanical properties and also makes it less prone to warping. Plywood is a very versatile material that is used for everything from building construction to furniture. Not all plywoods are suitable for the laser cutter, some parts of its construction need to be done in a certain way for that to be the case. You can find out more about how plywood is made here.
What Makes A Plywood Suitable For Laser Cutting?
You may not have given it much thought before but there are a few things that elevate a plywood to a laser grade plywood. It's all in the construction. There are three main ingredients, they are; glue, density, and also the absence of trapped air/gasses. If these three things aren't up to spec the plywood becomes a building material, still useful but not suitable for cutting with a laser.
Suitability - Density:
Density plays a large roll in how well a plywood sheet can be cut with a laser. Trying to cut a wood that is too dense can lead to excessive scorching and the need for multiple cutting passes. At best you get scorching and uneven cutting, at worst...flames.
Even the difference in the density between suitable laser plywoods is noticeable. For example, poplar is much less dense than birch and therefore cuts more easily. You can find out more about the difference between poplar and birch laser plywoods here.
Suitability - Glue:
Glue is a vital ingredient. It needs to be able to hold the plywood together for its entire life-cycle and it needs to be safe to be around/work with. For laser grade materials, it needs to not burst into flames when it gets hot and it also needs to be non-toxic. The wrong type of glue could very well end up causing damage/injury to the laser cutter and also the person operating it. You can find out more about the different types of glue here.
Suitability - Assembling The Layers:
Once the correct materials have been sourced and prepared, the glue applied, the parts then need to be brought together. Firstly, the boards are cold pressed together. This ensures that the glue is thinly and even spread, with the excess squeezing out of the sides. The sheets are then stacked onto a hot press, where they are heated and pressed hard for a considerable amount of time. This ensures that the contact between the glue and veneers is consistent all over the board and that there are no air pockets present.
Air pockets can cause damage to the wider sheet when the material is cut. You can find out more about how plywood is made here.
When we book in plywood, it is removed from the pallet then taken to the shelving where it is stored flat. Once it is in your workshop, it is best stored flat also and not in direct sunlight. If you happen to notice any warping, try to store it flat with the concave side down. Find more information on looking after laserply sheets here.
Kitronik Laser Plywood Product Ranges:
- Entire laser plywood range.
- Birch laser plywood (laserply).
- Poplar laser plywood (laserply).
- Ceiba laser plywood (laserply).
- Veneered laser plywood (laserply).
|Useful Laser Plywood (laserply) Resources:|
|What Is Laser Plywood (laserply).|
|Plywood: The Production Process.|
|Plywood glue types and classifications.|
|Looking after your plywood.|
|How is Poplar Plywood Different to Birch Plywood?|
|A Guide to Plywood Grading.|
|A guide on using laser materials.|
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