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.
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. For pre-cutting, you need a tool and a place in the workshop, or you can purchase a wide-format laser machine Wattsan 2030 FlatBed with a working field size of 2000x3000 mm.
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
The cutability of the material is influenced by the program values of speed and power. If the material does not cut through in one pass, either reduce the speed or increase the power.
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.
Also, the diameter of the nozzle of the laser head is important for high-quality cutting. Laser machines on plywood with a reduced nozzle diameter produce a better cutting result, since the air flow supplied to the cutting zone is stronger.
Watch the tension of the belts — overstretched or understretched belts of the laser machine for plywood can cause a coin cut when the edge of the material consists of small teeth.
In order to prevent back shoots from the lamellae on the back side of the material during laser cutting, clean them regularly.
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.
Engraving across and along the plywood fibers will differ in appearance. Try it and choose the option that you like best.
Which laser machine for plywood to choose
In order to choose a laser machine for plywood, you need to understand what you plan to produce. The size of the working field and the power of the laser tube will depend on this.
The more powerful the laser tube, the thicker the plywood can be cut by the laser machine. To calculate the potential thickness to be cut, the formula is used: 1 cm of plywood = 10 watts of power. Thus, a machine with a laser tube with a power of 100 watts will be able to productively cut through 10 cm of plywood. Although, in fact, at low speed, you can cut through thicker material.
Desktop laser engraver for Plywood Wattsan 0503
The Wattsan 0503 laser machine is a desktop engraver, its specialization is laser engraving of plywood, it has an expanded nozzle, but it is also able to cut through plywood up to 6 mm thick.
All the characteristics of the machine, including the thickness of the body, rail guides, optics and motors are the same as on superior models, so this desktop machine can be called truly indestructible.
Working field size: 500x300 mm;
Engraving speed: up to 700 mm/s.
Price from 3265 €.
There is also a more powerful desktop analog with an increased working field size of 600x400 mm and an 80-90 W laser tube — Wattsan 6040.
Universal laser machine for plywood Wattsan 6090 LT
Like most Wattsan plywood laser machines, this model is equipped with a through hole at the level of the working field, which allows you to stretch the material of any length if it fits the width.
Inside the case there is a reinforcement frame that levels vibrations during laser cutting and engraving of plywood. Three-phase stepper motors with gearboxes provide the machine with fast acceleration and braking, an accuracy of 0.03 mm at a resolution of 2500 DPI.
Wattsan 6090 LT is equipped with a chain mechanism for lifting and lowering the table, which allows you to lower the working field by 160 mm for working with thick materials or installing a rotary device.
Working field size: 600x900 mm;
Power: 100-120 W;
Engraving speed: up to 700 mm/s.
Price from 5213 €.
Similar model Wattsan 6090 ST differs only in that it does not have a lifting table.
High-performance laser machine for plywood Wattsan 1610 Duos ST
For those who want to speed up the production process twice, the Wattsan 1610 Duos ST large-format laser machine has two laser heads installed at once, which work simultaneously. The size of the working field allows you to cut and engrave large enough layouts.
Working field size: 1600x1000mm;
Power: 100-120 W;
Engraving speed: up to 600 mm/s.
Price from 9151 €.
A similar configuration is possible, equipped with a lifting table mechanism: Wattsan 1610 Duos LT. Also in the model line of Wattsan machines there are machines with the same size of the working field, but with traditionally one laser head: Wattsan 1610 ST and Wattsan 1610 LT.
Wide-format laser machine for plywood Wattsan 2030 FlatBed
This model is intended for those who plan to perform large-scale laser cutting and engraving of plywood. The working field allows you to accommodate any standard plywood sheets without preliminary cutting.
Wattsan 2030 FlatBed is perfect for creating wall-sized maps of the world.
Working field size: 2000x3000 mm;
Power: 100-120 W;
Engraving speed: up to 500 mm/s;
Price from 16747 €.
Not all possible models of laser machines are presented above, so if you need professional help in choosing a laser machine for plywood specifically for your tasks, contact Virmer managers. We will not only help you with the choice, but also share all the knowledge and experience of working with any materials that can be processed on our equipment.
By choosing Virmer, you get:
- Detailed advice from our managers and engineers;
- The opportunity to visit our showroom in the Netherlands or request an online demonstration;
- Delivery and warranty for equipment;
- Assistance in commissioning and setting up the laser machine;
- Basic training from Virmer engineers;
- Warranty and post-warranty service.
- Lifelong information support.