MDF

Information, tricks, know-how, and advice to help you laser cut your model in our MDF material.​

Colors

Thicknesses

  • (mm)
  • 2
  • 3
  • 6
  • 8
  • (inches)
  • 1/8

Characteristics

Surface Look
Details
Strength
Flexibility

MDF Material Guide

Description

Medium-density fibreboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product. MDF is made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers and combining it with wax and a resin binder. Panels are then formed by applying high temperature and pressure. The end result is an aesthetic light beige panel with a fine texture.

Applications

MDF, from a technical point of view, is a material that has several benefits, both on its ease of use and on its durability. The technical properties of MDF can vary depending on the thickness but will stay quite stable regarding expansion and contraction. When cutting, MDF is not subject to any cracks or any deformation and its texture allows makes it easy to get a perfect cut.

Moreover, it can be painted, stained, dyed, painted on, fireproofed, waterproofed, molded, lacquered, or curved. Unlike solid wood, MDF does not contain knots or rings, making it more uniform for planing or sanding. All these features explain why MDF is used notably in interior design and in the furniture industry. For instance, MDF is used to make solid wood furniture, such as a coffee table, garage doors, wardrobe doors, hand tools, wood screws, and any type of DIY projects, especially for home improvement where there’s a need to replace real wood for saving money. 

Pricing​

Your price for laser cutting and engraving is automatically calculated when you put your vector file online on our website. It is calculated interactively and depends on some factors, such as the amount of material used, the machine time needed to cut or engrave it, and logistics costs. You can see it change in real time as you make modifications to your vector file. To get the price of your item in just a few clicks, you just have to log in and upload your vector file.

For laser cutting, we have two different catalogs: one for the materials we produce in our factory in France, and one for the ones we produce in our factory in the United States. According to whether you choose materials in either or both of those catalogs, your shipping time and cost will be modified.

The time for cutting and engraving is approximately 2 working days for plywood produced in France, and 4 working days when it’s produced in the US. An additional period of 24 to 48 hours may be necessary depending on the size of your vector file. Based on the details of your engraving, the operation may take some time. The final time period is given on our website when you place your order.

Delivery time is added to the laser cutting and engraving time and depends on the delivery method you choose, on whether you order from the French or American catalog and on where you are located.

Process

Laser Cutting:

Laser Cutting is a digital subtractive fabrication technique that consists of cutting material by means of a laser. Laser Cutting can be used on a number of materials such as acrylic , wood, cardboard , etc. The process involves cutting material using a powerful and highly accurate laser that focuses on a small area of the material. The high power density results in rapid heating, melting and partial or complete vaporizing of the material. Usually, a computer directs the high-power laser at the material and traces the path.

Laser engraving:

Laser Engraving (or Laser Etching) is a subtractive manufacturing method, that uses a laser beam to change the surface of an object. This process is mostly used to create images on the material, that may be seen at eye level. To do so, the laser creates high heat that will vaporize the matter, thus exposing cavities that will form the final image. This method is quick, as the material is removed with each pulse of the laser. It can be used on almost any kind of metal, plastic, wood, leather or glass surface.

Finishings

MDF is a material that lends itself to different types of operations. Indeed, MDF can be painted, glued, varnished, dyed, painted, fireproofed, waterproofed, molded, lacquered, and, unlike solid wood, MDF does not contain knots or rings, making it more uniform for planing or sanding.

For painting, for example, MDF lends itself well to either a solvent based paint , such as oil based paints, or a water-based paint, such as acrylic paint. MDF has a surface that absorbs the paint, it is best to apply a primer before painting the MDF.

Bonding operations can be easily done with wood glue such as polyvinyl acetate, better known under the name of Elmer’s glue. Thanks to the use of wood glue, you will create a great MDF product! 

Laser cuts and engraves material by burning its surface. Therefore, the sides of the piece tend to be darkened, and are marked slightly on the edges. Sometimes, marks appear on the cutting line. The sides of the part cut in MDF might stain skin or clothes, as a thin layer of black wood powder remains on the part. 

When burning the surface, the laser also leaves a kerf of a width that can vary, depending on the type of material and the thickness chosen. 

When designing your project, you need to take this kerf into account and plan for a surplus of material accordingly.

The following chart lists the kerf sizes for MDF in the function of the thickness.

In our European catalog:

Thickness of MDF (mm)236810
Width of the kerf (mm)0.20.080.1450.190.205

In our American catalog:

Thickness of MDF (in)1/8
Width of the kerf (in)0.0015

In our European catalog:

Minimum dimension (mm)15 x 15
Maximum dimension (mm)940 x 590

In our American catalog:

Minimum dimension (in)0.59 x 0.59
Maximum dimension (in)32 x 18

In our European catalog: 

Thickness of MDF (mm)236810
Minimum distance between two paths (mm)236810

In our American catalog:

Thickness of MDF (in)1/8
Minimum distance between two paths (in)1/8

For laser engraving, the laser will contour each letter, which will “bolden” the font. Therefore, when you conceive your vector file, you need to:

  • Give priority to narrow fonts
  • Space the letters
  • Not write your texts too small (2mm minimum)

For laser cutting, it is key to take the kerf into account when designing your text. The texts must be treated like shapes: they must be vectorized and respect the same rules as every other shape.

LASER CUTTING TEXT

We offer two types of laser engraving:

  • Line engraving: ideal to engrave a contour. It’s the same operation as cutting, with less power. For this type of engraving, use our cutting tips when designing your file. On our website, only one line engraving level is available.
  • Surface engraving (also known as infill engraving): For this type of engraving, the outline of your design must absolutely be closed. We offer two levels of surface engraving depth: superficial or deep. With the superficial level, the cut can barely be felt by touch, whereas it is noticeable at a deep level.

Make sure you incorporate different colors in your vector design, according to whether you want a cut, an engraving line or a surface engraving.

mdf laser engraving

Is it possible to assemble your parts?Yes
Minimum space required for assemblyDepends on the kerf

laser cutting restrictions

If you wish to make MDF pieces fit into each other and make sure they’ll stay connected, we recommend that you add in nodes. Nodes are small bumps situated in a piece’s slots or tabs, that allow compensating the thickness variations of the material and the kerf. Nodes get compressed when the pieces are assembled and they concentrate the friction on specific points rather than on the slot’s whole surface. This way, the slots can be larger without coming apart, allowing the pieces to stay together.

nodes

On top of the nodes, it is important to adequately treat the end of the slots. Sharp angles are a weak point for MDF, and will always fracture at the corner, where efforts get concentrated. A solution to this issue is to add a hole at the corner of each sharp angle. This technique allows for distributing the stress across the whole surface of the hole instead of just one precise point.

Files with Multiple Objects ?No


Natural MDF

Mechanical PropertiesConditionsUnitValue
Density +/- 7%EN 323Kg/m3min. 780 / max. 850
Swelling (24 hours)EN 317%min. 15 / max. 17
Tensile Strength 23°CEN 310N/mm2min. 2500 / max. 2700
Bending StrengthISO 178N/mm2min. 23 / max. 22
Internal BondISO 604N/mm2min. 0.60 / max. 0.65

Colored MDF

Mechanical PropertiesConditionsUnitValue
Density +/- 30 Kg/m3EN 323Kg/m3850
Swelling (24 hours)EN 317%12
Tensile Strength 23°CEN 310N/mm23400
Bending StrengthEN 310N/mm242
Internal BondEN 319N/mm20.8

Ready to laser cut with MDF?

With Sculpteo’s online laser cutting service you’re just a few clicks away from professional MDF laser cutting. Your model is cut with the highest quality and delivered straight to your door. 

Get started now!

Discover our other materials...