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.
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
We sell a variety of thicknesses of Birch laser plywood (laserply) ready for same day despatch from our Co. Kildare based warehouse. Because we regularly use these products on our laser cutters at our sister company TechCreate we have made sure to select the most laserable plywood possible. Our plywood comes from sustainable forests in Finland.
At Laser Materials.ie we carefully select all of our plywood to ensure that they are laser grade plywood. Not all plywoods cut well, or safely, on a laser cutter. We're going to explore what plywood is and what contributes to making it suitable for laser cutting.
We stock a range of thicknesses 2mm, 3mm, 4mm and 6mm. All of our plywood uses interior grade glue, which helps to give less of a 'burnt' look on and around the areas that are cut.
What Makes A Plywood Suitable For Laser Cutting?
So what gives a plywood super powers and makes it laser grade plywood? It's all in the construction. There are three main ingredients; density, glue, and 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. We'll look at each of these 3 ingredients in more detail:
Density plays a large role 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.
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.
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 receive plywood at our warehouse in Rathangan, Co. Kildare, 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.
See our plywood for laser cutting here