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Laser cutting is the process of turning a 2D file into a physical object by directing the output of a high-powered laser beam through optics onto a small zone of the material, the beam can then cut and engrave it with high precision. This process can be performed on a variety of materials. The laser cutting process can cut parts with a thickness of up to 10mm! You can use a 2D vector file for the laser cutting process, made with vector graphics software. Don’t worry! It is not necessary to have amazing skills in design to create a file for laser cutting.
The aim of Laser Engraving is to engrave a specific picture or logo onto a selected material. It is a subtractive manufacturing method. However, before the actual engraving process can begin, the machine needs a file sent from a computer to the machine’s controller, which then positions the laser. When the Laser Engraving process starts, the beam creates a high heat that burns or evaporates the surface according to the image from the file. Two different forms should be distinguished: line engraving and surface engraving. While the first one uses vector images to follow paths or lines, the second vaporizes the material to create an image into the material or give the design a 3D-like impression.
If rapid production of your company’s product line is important, laser cutting wood can be a great solution. Whereas traditional manufacturing methods are not very efficient when it comes to precisely parting or cutting a specific wooden area – which can lead to splintering or an uncomfortable surface outline – a laser system for cutting is on the other hand very effective but most importantly, very precise. Laser cutting is easy, and precise, saves material due to its precision and it can cut a wide range of different parts, thicknesses, and materials.
A different variety of materials can be used for laser cutting. For example acrylic, wood or cardboard. For now, we will focus on laser cutting wood with Plywood / MDF. The process of laser cutting wood involves again the use of a highly powerful laser that focuses on a part of the wooden material. The density of the laser leads to heat – allowing to partially melt the specific area and outlining. In most cases, a computer will direct the beam of the laser by tracing a pre-programmed path.
To laser cut, wood can involve the use of either MDF material or Plywood material. Both materials are made out of several layers of wood, making them strong materials capable of handling the laser’s output. Below, you can find a summarized description of both wooden materials.
MDF is a wooden material that consists of residues from soft- and hardwood. These residues are then stacked together with wax and resin binders. To top these wooden fibers up, wooden panels are attached with pressure. These panels give the MDF material its light beige panel color and fine texture look. These panels also allow for qualitative painting jobs. The benefit of MDF is, that due to the mix of wooden fibers, there is no chance of the wood to split because the material has the same properties all over the place. MDF is also inexpensive due to it consisting of wooden residues which are basically processed unused scraps – costing only a small percentage of the actual wood it originated from.
Whereas MDF consists of layers of wooden fibers, Plywood consists of wooden sheets that are glued and pressured onto each other. The layering is visible due to the alternating wood grain caused by differentiating sheets of wood. These differentiating layerings offer many benefits for the material itself such as water resistance and flexibility. As for our plywood at Sculpteo, we have the following suboptions of wood for you to choose from Poplar plywood, Okoumé plywood, Ceiba Wood, and Maple plywood. Each option has a different layering giving your parts a unique look. Click here to find out what the differences are and which one suits your possible future project to laser cut wood best!
Of course, there are already companies and engineers out there that made use of laser-cut wood or laser engraved wood! Below you can find some examples and make you see for yourself why using laser cut wood was beneficial for that specific product or project:
In the past, we’ve already mentioned laser-cut business cards in a blog post but Studio eQ takes it to a whole different level. By using premium woods like Veneer plywood, Studio eQ laser cuts company logos and graphics in the neatest way possible. The company, by laser cutting cards, takes business cards to a different dimension in card design – allowing companies to stand out from others.
Source: Studio eQ
Artist Anthony Roussel was inspired by the seaside coastlines and by modern architecture when he made these bracelets. The designs of these bracelets are very complex and highly detailed, something that could only have been achieved by a laser beam’s precision – and not with other traditional manufacturing methods.
Source: Anthony Roussel
The Lucas Laser Workshop creates wooden gifts and home decorations made with laser cutting. These products are custom designed using only natural elements and natural woods.
Source: The Lucas Laser Workshop
The Stanford Product Realization Lab is a teaching lab meant for Stanford students to try out their own innovative ideas. One student made this wooden and curved lamp. The outside of this lamp was laser cut out of wooden materials. The kerf’s pattern includes slits that allow the panel of wood to be flexible and to be able to thus bend. The bending allows for a curve giving this lamp its unique design.
Source: The Stanford Product Realization Lab
Little Card Boutique is situated in Australia where they sell these very unique personalized custom bookmarks made out of bamboo. Yes, we know bamboo is technically not wood but when pressed together, it has the same look and feel as wood and it can even be stronger than oak! These bookmarks are laser cut and they can be personalized with name tags and with unique designs, all implemented by a laser engraver.
Source: Little Card Boutique
These wooden signs made by Tigermouse Design can be perfectly placed in offices to show their brand design or logo with a unique twist: the words can be in negative space! This requires extreme precision while cutting, which again can only be achieved with a laser beam.
Source: Tigermouse Design
Living in a time where more pressure is put on creating a unique (office) space, it is ideal to laser cut creatively designed bathrooms signs. Company Grayskunk knows how to put a different spin on traditional gender roles in bathroom signs with a laser cutter.
Yes, even in the fashion industry wooden materials can be implemented along with a laser cutter! This wooden tie of 3.2mm thick is designed by CreativeUseofTech and made from Birch plywood. This designer really makes you think about the use of technology in different ways than you might originally think of.
This incredibly shaped lamp was designed by Etsy seller Lampshapers. It is 6mm thick and made from MDF material. Whereas this would take ages to manufacture with regular manufacturing methods, laser cutting really made short work of it. Another great example of a laser cut object meant for home decor.
Source: Etsy – Lampshapers
Although a bit more targeted towards a niche, hipster market – the packaging of this six-pack beer case from Etsy designer nygaarddesign makes an amazing laser cut gift for beer lovers. It is 5.2mm thick and made out of Birch Veneer. The packaging itself can then be laser engraved with your company logo or with name tags. With packaging, you can truly cut and engrave your heart away!
So, we hope that we may have inspired you on the use of laser cutting with Plywood / MDF for your upcoming projects involving wood. Not only is it quite inexpensive, but the precision of the cutting is also really what makes it worth it – even being able to create and personalize custom orders. No mechanized saw or any form of manual labor can beat the laser’s precision. To sum up the benefits, laser cutting is easy, precise, saves material due to its precision and it can cut a wide range of different parts, thicknesses, and materials. If you wish to start a project yourself, you can upload your file here at Sculpteo 3D printing and laser cutting service. We look forward to seeing what project you have in store for the world by making use of our laser technology!
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