Laser Cutting Plywood–The Ultimate Guide
Plywood is commonly used to make various products and items, such as furniture, jewelry, decorative items, etc. It is a widely used material, and if you can cut/engrave it, you can add a wide range of products to your inventory.
We are here with a comprehensive guide on laser cutting plywood to answer all your questions. We will also help you choose the best plywood and the right machine that can easily engrave and cut plywood with perfection.
In This Article
- Can Plywood be Cut by laser Cutters?
- How Thick Can a Laser Cutter Cut Plywood
- Best Plywood for Laser Cutting and Engraving
- Best Laser Cutters for Plywood Cutting
- More Tips for Plywood Laser Cutting and Engraving
Can Plywood be Cut by laser Cutters?
Yes. Plywood can be cut using a laser cutter without any hassle. It is better to understand what plywood is and how it is made to get the whole idea.
What is Plywood?
Plywood is actually made from thin layers of wood. All these layers are glued together. The thin layers can be 1.5mm to 2.5mm depending on the requirement. These layers are glued until the required thickness is achieved.
Thus, plywood is not harder than solid wood. Most of the time, solid wood is harder or sometimes equally hard. It means if a laser cutter cut solid wood of a particular type, it can also cut its plywood.
What Laser to Cut Plywood?
Plywood can be easily cut using a laser cutter, which is the reason it is mostly preferred for cutting as well as engraving. Furniture makers, artists, decorators, business owners, and professionals use laser engravers to cut plywood because it offers precision and fine results in minimal time.
But keep in mind that not all laser machines are suitable for laser cutting. You can only use a diode laser or CO2 laser to cut and engrave wood and plywood. Fiber laser is for metals, and it is not recommended to cut wood through it.
Although a fiber laser is capable of cutting plywood or wood, it can start a fire quickly. Due to heat buildup, the wood material catches fire in no time. The worst thing is that the marks created by the fiber laser on the wood are poor. Thus, it is better to avoid fiber lasers for wood and plywood engraving/cutting.
How Thick Can a Laser Cutter Cut Plywood?
The thickness of plywood that a laser machine can cut depends on the type of laser and the power of the laser. Let's understand these variables.
As far as the type of laser is concerned, CO2 lasers are quite powerful. They can cut plywood easily. Therefore, CO2 lasers are preferred for this task.
However, diode lasers are also excellent, and due to new technologies, they can do a better job than traditional diode lasers. The most important thing about diode lasers is that they have a longer life compared to CO2.
The power of the laser plays a very important role. The higher the power, the more easily it can cut wood or other materials.
By power, we mean the laser optical/output power. You might see various power ratings listed in the specification. The machine power represents the power consumed by the machine.
The laser module also has two powers; one is the laser optical/output power, and the other is the laser electrical power. You need to see the optical/output while selecting a laser engraving or cutting machine.
The DIY laser engraving and cutting machines available on the market can cut plywood up to 15mm in one pass. CO2 lasers of around 40W can cut 10-15mm basswood, and diode lasers can cut 3-10mm basswood in one pass, depending on the optical/output power.
If the laser machine cannot cut the plywood in one pass, it will take one or two more passes. But several passes mean the machine will take more time, which will reduce productivity.
Best Plywood for Laser Cutting and Engraving
Different types of plywood are available, so it is difficult for a beginner to choose one. But it becomes easier if you know what factors you need to consider.
First, you need to check the type of plywood and the shade of the plywood.
The shade of the plywood depends on your requirements and preference. The type of plywood will give you a better idea of the resin content, grain, available shades, and finishing.
You also need to look at the wood grain. It might not look appealing on the product you are making or might add to its beauty.
You can get an idea of the resin content by searching. If the resin content is high, the engraving results will be darker. But if the resin content is low, the engraving will be light.
Once you consider these factors, you can easily choose the right plywood for your work. Here are some plywood types, along with their details. It will give you a better idea of what you need to look at.
Bamboo plywood is known for its excellent cutting results. It is available in multiple shades that you can choose.
It gives an appealing light brown color at the edges. It has a natural lining or wood grain that is quite visible. If you do not want dense grain, then this is not the right plywood for you.
Beginners can start their laser engraving and cutting journey with birch plywood. It is one of the most commonly bought plywood for laser cutting and engraving.
The appearance, finish, and color of the plywood are excellent. It can be cut without any hassle and at a faster pace.
Hoop Pine plywood has an incredible finish that can be used to make high-end and luxury items based on quality/grade. It has smooth grain, which looks suitable for engraving as well. It is strong, durable, and water-resistant.
Other types of plywood that are suitable for laser cutting and engraving are,
Best Laser Cutters for Plywood Cutting
xTool D1 Pro
xTool D1 Pro is a diode laser engraving and cutting machine. The best thing about this machine is that it can be used for engraving as well as cutting as you can change the laser module for the task.
The 20W laser module, which is the world's most powerful diode laser module, can cut 10mm of basswood in only one pass. It is the perfect laser machine that can cut plywood quickly and without any hassle. You can achieve higher productivity with this cutting machine.
The machine is capable of cutting thicker plywood compared to similar products on the market because of its unique laser technology. It uses multiple laser sources inside the laser module, and the beams from all sources are combined at one fine spot. It makes the laser more powerful.
You can also get a 5W laser module for D1 Pro. It is specifically designed for engraving. The laser spot is only 0.06 x 0.06 mm to ensure finer details. It can cut basswood plywood up to 3mm in one pass.
The working area is large enough and measures 430 x 390 mm. Plus, the result of cutting and engraving is incredible. If you attach the Air Assist, you don't need to worry about burn marks and the change of wood color.
The safety feature of the D1 Pro makes it a perfect machine for wood or plywood cutting/engraving. It has a flame detection feature that alerts the user if there is any flame during the process and stops the machine automatically.
xTool Laserbox Rotary
Laserbox Rotary is a CO2 laser machine with an incredible power rating of 40W. It can cut up to 15mm of basswood plywood in only one pass. Plus, its incredible speed reaches up to 350mm/s.
If you are looking for a DIY CO2 laser cutter for plywood cutting, this machine could be the best choice due to its features. The AI auto-focus of the machine can adjust the laser according to the material and its thickness. It offers excellent results, and beginners can also use it. It can also increase your productivity as it is capable of batch processing.
Laserbox Rotary is a powerful but safe machine to use. It has a safety lid for preventing laser beams, and the machine stops when the lid is open. Most importantly, it has a smart smoke purifier that takes away the dust and smoke created during plywood cutting. Plus, in the case of overheating, flame, and other issues, the user receives immediate alerts.
xTool M1 is a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use, and compact laser and blade cutting machine. It is available in 5W and 10W laser optical power.
The 10W laser machine is ideal for cutting. It can cut up to 8mm basswood in one pass. The incredible multiple laser source technology helps in cutting wood at a very high speed. On the other hand, the 5W machine is suitable for engraving. However, it can cut plywood up to 3mm.
The machine has a built-in camera that helps in image extraction, batch processing, and auto-focus. It offers visual processing and smooth operation.
If you also want to cut other delicate materials, such as vinyl, you can use the blade cutter of the machine to cut the material with perfection. Therefore, it is a versatile machine for different types of materials.
The machine is completely safe because of the multiple safety features. It also has a safety lid as well as an automatic turn-off feature.
More Tips for Plywood Laser Cutting and Engraving
The burning of edges when you cut plywood or wood is quite common. It does not look appealing at all.
There are a few tactics to reduce the edge burn while cutting.
First, you can try some other settings on your laser machine. Try a lower power and higher speed.
For surface edge burns, you can try applying masking tape on the plywood before engraving and cutting. The burn marks will appear on the masking tape, and the wood will remain safe.
The main cause of these burns is the production of smoke. Therefore, an air assist and exhaust system in the laser machine can be very helpful.
You can remove the burned edges using sandpaper. You can also try soap and denatured alcohol to clean the burnt area.
The smell is because of the adhesive used in plywood. You cannot eliminate this smell, but if you use an air assist and exhaust system, then there won't be an issue of smell.
Some laser machines are enclosed, and they have an exhaust system, such as Laserbox Rotary. While in some machines, you can attach the exhaust system and use an enclosure.
The laser machine should be equipped with the safety feature of detecting any flame or fire. Never leave it unattended when it is working. Plus, you should also arrange a fire extinguisher to deal with any problem.
The first in plywood cutting is mostly caused by the debris and particles that result from cutting. There should be an air assist to blow the residue away.
Plywood can be cut using a CO2 or diode laser engraving and cutting machine. With the necessary precautions and tricks, you can get the best results. We have shared how you can choose plywood and the best machine for its cutting and engraving. You can pick any of those according to your requirements and the type of products you wish to make.