Furniture manufacturers, artists, decorators and business owners use laser machines for cutting and engraving plywood to produce a wide variety of products. The high speed and precision of the laser machines for plywood makes them an ideal tool for laser cutting and engraving.
In this article you will learn:
how the laser machine works,
what are the advantages of laser cutting and engraving plywood,
how to choose plywood for laser cutting and engraving,
tips for working with plywood
how to choose a machine
How the laser machine for plywood works
Carbon dioxide emitters are used for cutting and engraving plywood with a laser, fiber-optic laser machines are not suitable for this, they are designed to work with metals.
The CO2 emitter is a flask filled with a mixture of gases, the main of which is carbon. Under the influence of electricity, stable laser radiation is generated in an active gas environment.
CO2 lasers have a wavelength ideal for working with plywood and other wood materials, as well as plastics, fabrics, leather, glass, ceramics and stone.
A system of reflecting mirrors is fixed on the moving parts of the machine, through which the laser beam enters the working head, passes through the focusing lens and hits the material. The focused laser beam has a high concentration of power.
Advantages of laser machines for plywood
Laser machines for cutting and engraving plywood have indisputable advantages over other methods of processing this material:
Cutting and engraving quality. Laser cutting of plywood gives a perfectly smooth edge of the cut without chipping, and laser engraving allows you to apply highly detailed images and inscriptions with a controlled intensity of impact;
Working speed. Laser machines for plywood cut at a speed of up to 500 mm/s and engrave at a speed of up to 700 mm/s;
Working accuracy. Wattsan plywood laser machines have a repositioning accuracy of 0.03 mm, despite the fact that the diameter of the laser beam is 0.012 mm. Thanks to this, the laser machine can cut complex shapes from plywood and engrave with photographic precision;
Computer Numerical Control. The controller of the laser machine for plywood regulates the entire cutting and engraving process, guarantees one hundred percent repeatability and reduces the probability of marriage to a minimum;
The cutting tool is not blunt. In a laser machine for plywood, the laser beam is the cutting tool, it does not have contact with the material, therefore it does not blunt. The claimed service life of CO2 laser emitters reaches 10,000 hours, which is approximately 3.5 years of continuous operation for 8 hours a day without days off;
It works quietly. Laser cutting of plywood does not make a lot of noise;
Multipurposeness. The laser machine for plywood also works with other materials: all types of wood materials, plastics (except PVC), fabrics, leather and leatherette, fur, paper and cardboard, stone and ceramics, as well as glass and mirror;
Easy to master. You can learn the basics of working on a laser machine on plywood in 2-3 hours;
Which plywood is suitable for laser cutting and engraving
In order to choose the right plywood for laser cutting and engraving, it is necessary to determine the type of wood from which it is made, take into account what adhesive composition the sheets are glued together, and also take into account the grade of plywood and its thickness and sheet size.
Type of wood
The most common type of plywood is birch, it looks good, while it is easy to work with. Bamboo plywood, beech plywood or premium Hoop Pine plywood are also used for laser cutting and engraving. All these types are perfectly processed by laser, the main difference is the appearance of the material and its price.
Softwood plywood will give a more contrasting engraving due to the resins contained in it, while it is less amenable to laser cutting.
The quality of assembly of plywood sheets
The quality of assembly is determined by the type of glue and the quality of the veneer sheets being glued and is divided into three main classes:
Class I: Suitable for dry indoor use only；
Class II: Suitable for use in humid rooms or with periodic humidification；
Class III: Suitable for unprotected outdoor use with frequent humidification；
Class I is best suited for laser cutting and engraving, since Classes II and III are impregnated with special hydrophobic compounds that are less amenable to laser cutting and at the same time can emit toxic substances during laser cutting.
Grade rating refers to the appearance of the board and varies from country to country. As a rule, the grade of plywood has a letter designation from A to D, where A is the highest grade, and D is the lowest, or digital, where 1 is the highest grade, and 4 is the lowest.
The grade of plywood is determined by the condition of its two sides, so the designation of the grade can have two letters or a combination of a letter and a number. The first letter or number indicates the quality of one side, and the second one indicates the quality of the other.
For example, Grade AB plywood will have a Class A front veneer and a Class B back veneer. In other countries, a sheet of the same quality will be designated as A2.
Low-quality plywood contains a lot of knots, may have cavities in the adhesive composition, or vice versa - excess glue. Also, such plywood may have cracks, bubbles between the inner layers and uneven thickness on the sheet.
Thickness and size of plywood sheet
Laser machines for plywood are capable of cutting material up to 25 mm thick. Plywood with a thickness of 3 to 6 mm is cut most efficiently and efficiently. On plywood thicker than 6 mm, a strong burnt deposit is formed at the edge of the material during laser cutting. Plywood thinner than 3 mm is quite expensive and at the same time fragile.
The most common plywood sheet sizes are 2440 x 1220 mm or 1525x1525 mm. This is important to take into account, since you will most likely need to pre-cut such plywood sheets so that they fit on the working field of the machine.
Tips for laser cutting and engraving plywood
First of all, it is important that the laser machine for plywood is well aligned. Alignment affects both the quality of cutting and the quality of engraving.
Regularly carry out maintenance and cleaning of the optics of the laser machine for plywood.
If the plywood is bent from humidity, it can be stored under pressure so that the sheets of material themselves are straightened out over time. There are various ways to straighten plywood already on the working table: you can use flat weights or press the edges of the sheet with clothespins or clamps to the lamellae. Plywood up to 4 mm can be straightened on a honeycomb table with strong neodymium magnets.
Laser cutting of plywood
It is better to set the cutting parameters with a margin, especially if you work with plywood on which there are knots, since they are cut worse with a laser. Avoid cutting through several passages, as this makes the edge of the product with a very strong burnt deposit.
For materials with a thickness of more than 10 mm, it is better to use a long-focus lens.
During laser cutting of plywood, the cutting point is blowed out, which helps the laser to cut through the material and blows out combustion products from the cutting area. Thus, no burnt deposits are formed on the edge of the product. For high-quality laser cutting of plywood with a thickness of more than 4 mm, a minimum of 1.5 bar is required.
Laser engraving of plywood
Laser engraving of plywood can be carried out by the classical method of pouring or by the method of contour application. Contour engraving is essentially a low-power cutting along vector lines, so this type of engraving is much faster than classical engraving.
For engraving, unlike cutting, the airflow must be lowered to 0.5 bar. Otherwise, the air flows will nail combustion products, tar and burnt deposits to the surface of the material and the engraving will turn dirty.
If the priority of your work is laser engraving of plywood, it is better to choose machines with an expanded nozzle diameter. Then the air flow will be less intense.