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Laser Cut Plywood: All You Need to Know

Author: Jack; Last Modify: Aug 26, 2022
When you want to cut plywood into crafts or other art projects, laser cut plywood could be the first option. Plywood consists of several layers of thin wood sheets that are glued and pressed together. Laser cut plywood are quite common in crafts, decoration, toys, and other industries.

Due to its property, laser plywood cutting indeed has some challenges. For example, edge burns, smoke, scorching, etc. So you may need to test several times to find the appropriate laser cutting parameters.

This article will introduce you to some basics of laser cut plywood and recommend the plywood laser cutting machine. If you are considering conducting laser cut plywood projects, I hope this article can help you.

Can laser cut plywood?

Of course.

Plywood panels are wood materials that glue three or five layers of wood boards together. These boards can come from birch, camphor, willow, poplar, eucalyptus, etc. It is one of the commonly used materials for furniture. In addition, plywood can also be used for aircraft, ships, trains, construction, packaging, and other purposes.

The common size of plywood panels is 1220x2440mm. And the thickness is generally 3mm, 5mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, 15mm, 18mm, etc.

The density and glue bonding used in most common plywood makes it very difficult or even impossible to produce a clean cut by laser. But there are also many types of plywood that are great for laser cutting.

Laser cut birch plywood

Birch plywood is one of the best plywood for laser cutting or engraving. Besides, we also recommend laser cut birch plywood for laser beginners. The first reason is its ease of use. Moreover, laser cut birch plywood is very smooth.

Birch plywood has good bonding strength and is not likely to break. In addition, the surface is smooth without carbonization, and the birch plywood has a uniform thickness. Therefore, laser cut birch plywood has a wide range of uses.

Bamboo plywood

Bamboo plywood has high strength and good toughness. Besides, the most notable feature is that it has different colors which are natural. So if you want vibrant laser cutting crafts, bamboo plywood is for you.

Beech plywood

Beech is fine, stable, strong, durable, and has strong impact resistance. You may not find the rich golden brown color in any other plywood. So beech plywood is also one of the best plywood for laser cutting projects. Therefore, laser cut beech plywood is often used for custom business cards, invitations, and other crafts.

Laser cut plywood projects

Laser cut plywood projects are popular with all woodwork enthusiasts, artists and craft stores. Whether you are a beginner looking for a starting point or a skilled manufacturer looking for new ideas, laser plywood projects could give you great inspirations.

We find five most popular laser plywood projects to inspire your creativity. Of course, there are also many other great and creative laser cut plywood projects that can bring you both joy and benefits.

Laser cut plywood models

laser cut plywood projects
Various laser cut plywood models and 3D puzzles are among the favorite projects for kids and model lovers. Rich shapes and designs allow you to experience joy and fulfillment in the hands-on process.

Laser cut plywood boxes and shells

laser cut plywood projects
Personalized laser cut plywood enclosures make ordinary lights, stereos, organizers, and various boxes unique. These items can also be used as decoration, making your products or stores unique and fashionable.

Laser cut plywood name cards and bookmarks

laser cut plywood projects
Bamboo plywood is quite suitable for making business cards and bookmarks. It has a dense wood grain and has a delicate appearance when engraved. Therefore, laser-cut plywood business cards have become the choice of many business people.

Laser cut plywood crafts

laser cut plywood projects
A wide range of plywood sheets can also be used to make wooden ornaments, artworks, etc. For instance, watches, maps, chessboards, Christmas decorations, relief sculptures, coasters, name tags, etc.

Plywood laser cutter

Plywood is an organic material, which has good absorption to the wavelengths of CO2 laser and diode laser.

Diode lasers have relatively few power options compared to CO2 lasers. This limits the application of diode lasers in laser cut plywood panels.
However, CO2 lasers of different powers can cut plywood panels of different thicknesses smoothly. So we recommend using a CO2 laser cutting machine for laser cutting and laser engraving plywood.
The worktable adopts knife blades, which can support the plywood panel well. Laser cut plywood panels will produce a lot of smoke. Besides, the smoke is trapped between the workpiece and the table, creating smoke stains on the back of the plywood.

However, the blade table lifts the plywood from the bottom of the table and provides an easy clearing space for smoke generated when laser engraving plywood.

Moreover, if you also need to cut paper, fabric or other flexible materials, you can also consider the honeycomb worktable. The honeycomb structure can also facilitate the exhausting of smoke.
Like the CO2 laser cutter above, this machine also uses a blade table. We all know that the blade table can facilitate the removal of smoke. In addition, smoke around the cutting area can affect the performance of the laser and reduce the quality of the cut. So, a good exhaust system is required to remove the smoke from the cutting area. Thereby improving the quality of the cut. So the smoke exhaust system is also indispensable.

How to choose CO2 laser cutting machine for plywood?

The choice of plywood laser cutting machine shall be based on the actual processing demands.

So the first step to choose a plywood laser cutter is to make clear what you do. This helps you decide the worktable size, laser power, and other relevant configuration. If needed, you can also choose a higher configuration, such as two laser heads, automatic feeding, etc.

The basic technical parameters of Blue Elephant CO2 laser cutting machines are shown in the following table. Some of them can be customized according to your requirements.
Laser type CO2 laser
Laser power RECI W series (60W, 80W, 100W, 130W, 150W, etc.)
Working area 600x900mm, 1300x900mm, 1600x1000mm, 1300x2500mm, etc.
Worktable type Blade or honeycomb
Cutting speed 0-30,000mm/s
Positioning system Red dot
Graphic format PLT, ENG, DXG, DWG
Repeated accuracy ±0.01mm
Cooling CW3000, CW5200 water chiller
Power supply 220V, 50Hz/60Hz, 3PH
As we can see from the above table, many specifications have multiple choices to meet different demands. If you are new to this, we can also help recommend a suitable plywood laser cutter for you.

After deciding your needs, find a reliable laser machine supplier. A good laser machine supplier will provide both high-quality machines and complete pre- and after-sales services. Blue Elephant has experience in developing and manufacturing CNC machines for over 12 years. Our after-sales services have also received many praises all over the world. So you can rest assured when buying a plywood laser cutting machine from us.

Laser cut plywood power and thickness

The laser power to cut plywood has a close relationship with the laser cut wood thickness. Compared with low power, the CO2 laser cutter with high rated power can cut thick plywood panels.

However, low power laser can also cut thick plywood panels multiple times and can increase the cutting slit obviously.

Generally, we recommend the laser power of 60W to 100W for laser plywood cutting. They can cut plywood panels of various thicknesses.

The greater the power, the greater the laser cut wood thickness. Generally speaking, the maximum thickness of laser cut plywood does not exceed 20mm. If you want to cut thicker plywood, we recommend using a CNC router machine instead of a laser.

Besides, we often recommend using high laser power to cut plywood. Because it burns through material quickly, reducing residence time and minimizing the heat-affected zone. The smaller the heat-affected zone (HAZ), the fewer burns along the edge of the incision. However, sometimes high power can also cause many problems to the plywood, like edge burns, etc. To solve this, you can make a several test cuts to find the most suitable laser power to cut plywood.

Lay cut plywood cost

The laser cut plywood cost is affected by many factors. What’s more, the price of choosing a plywood laser cutting service and a plywood laser cutting machine is also quite different.

If you choose the plywood laser cutting service, you don't have to buy machines and materials. Just provide the design drawings and pay service charges to get the laser cut plywood products you want. This is very convenient for customers who occasionally need plywood products and don't use the laser machine very often. In this case, the laser cut plywood cot is the laser cutting service fee you need to pay.

If you run a business or provide laser cut plywood service, a CO2 laser cutter is definitely a better choice. Besides, the price of a CO2 laser cutting machine is not as expensive as that of a fiber laser machine. A 1390 CO2 plywood laser cutter machine costs an average of $3000-$4,000. Of course, the specific price depends on the configuration of the machine. In this case, the laser cut plywood cost is the price at which you buy and operate this CO2 laser cutting machine.

Therefore, people having different requirements have respective laser cut plywood solutions. Correspondingly, the cost varies greatly.

Precautions for laser cutting and laser engraving plywood

laser cut plywood precautions
Laser cutting and laser engraving plywood are thermal processing. So it is easy to cause edge burns or scorching to the plywood. These can affect the aesthetics of plywood products.

Thermal processing could cause carbonization and blacken of the cutting edges. This may be the result of too high laser power or slow cutting speed. So please try to use smaller laser power or increase cutting speed to avoid the edge burns.

Excessive heat could cause scorching on the cutting edges. Besides, it increases the heat-affected zone and causes burn marks on the surface of the plywood. So we recommend covering around the incision with other items such as masking tape.

Sometimes, smoke stains appear around the pattern when laser engraving plywood. This is because plywood is multi-layered boards held together by adhesives. Laser-cut wood or the burning of adhesives can produce a lot of fumes.

These fumes can contaminate the plywood surface and degrade the performance of the laser by diffusing the laser beam. So it may hinder the laser cutting process. Therefore, we need air assistance and a good exhaust system to help exhaust the smoke.

Air can blow molten material away and increase cutting speed. It also protects the focusing lens from thermal debris. In addition, it helps to regulate the temperature of the cutting area and reduce the heat-affected area.

How to avoid the blackening of laser cut plywood?

As we mentioned before, the biggest challenge for laser cut plywood panels is the blackened edges or edge burns.

When laser cutting wood, it is easy to blacken the cutting edges, which we also call carbonization. But we can avoid this phenomenon by adjusting some processing parameters.

To avoid blackening, we often choose to increase the cutting speed and lower the laser power. Many customers believe that faster cutting speed and lower laser power can reduce the blackening. So they choose to cut the plywood panels multiple times at low power. This is wrong and could result in more black.

In fact, the low power and fast speed must ensure that the plywood can be cut through at one time. On the premise of being able to cut through, the faster the better, and the lower the power, the better. Otherwise, the part that has been cut through will be burned twice. The more times it is cut, the more serious the carbonization will be.

Therefore, we recommend cutting through at one time without secondary processing to avoid secondary damage.

Fast laser speed and low laser power are sometimes contradictory. Besides, the performance of different laser equipment is naturally different. So when laser cut plywood, we can first fix one of the parameters unchanged, then adjust the other parameter. And repeat this step several times until we find the most suitable parameters.

For example, we use an 80W CO2 laser cutter to cut 3mm plywood with 55% of the laser and at a speed of 45mm/s. The cutting edges are not blackened at all. To cut 2mm plywood, we use 40% of the laser at a speed of 45mm/s. And the cutting edges are good as well.

The following video shows the process of a 130W plywood laser cutter eching a complex pattern on a 3mm plywood.

Words in the end

Laser cut plywood can be used to make complex patterns and products such as toys, maps, models, etc. Beginners can also start a laser cutting business from laser cut plywood projects.

The plywood laser cutting machine uses CO2 laser. Because its wavelength is more easily absorbed by organic materials such as wood and plastic. Therefore, it is also very important to choose a suitable CO2 laser cutting machine.

Moreover, the correct power, parameters and operation are necessary conditions for the successful use of laser cut plywood.

It must be noted that plywood is a flammable material. Therefore, be sure to follow safe operating procedures and monitor the cutting process to avoid fire hazards.

Blue Elephant provides multiple models of CO2 laser cutting machines for processing not only plywood. They can help you develop and expand your laser cut business with various non-metal materials. Welcome to all inquiries.