Laser cutting has become a very popular cutting method, inspiring many curious aspiring woodworkers who want to know what they can do with these machines. Plyco’s Laserply range has transformed plywood into the easiest wood material to use with a laser cutter, and naturally customer’s have become curious as to whether the other products we stock are laser cutter friendly.
For a long time, when we were asked whether MDF could be used with a laser cutter the answer was no. Or, more specifically, the answer was that you could technically use it, but the results will be wildly inconsistent and we wouldn’t recommend it to customers. However, that recommendation has changed thanks to MicroPanel, the newest range available from Plyco.
Plyco's standard MDF
Why is our MicroPanel MDF range able to work seamlessly with laser cutters? Well, in essence, it’s because it’s designed from the ground up to respond well to the unique cutting systems employed by laser cutters.
The two major factors that had to be accounted for when our plywood gurus started engineering this range were sheet density and core gaps. As the Medium Density Fibreboard name suggests, MDF is quite dense in nature. This is one of the beneficial features this type of wood offers to builders and makes it brilliant for so many applications, but unfortunately laser cutting isn’t one of them. A wood sheet that is too dense cannot be sliced through easily via laser, which means the cuts you end up with are extremely rough, if the board cuts at all. By taking this into account and calibrating the density correctly, the end MicroPanel product can be cut like a hot knife in butter.
The presence of core gaps also cause considerable headaches in the laser cutting process. Core gaps allow air to get into the wood, which isn’t a problem if you're sawing your wood by hand or on a CNC machine and beam saw. If a laser cutter is introduced into the mix you end up with major problems. Laser cutters are able to make cuts by basically burning the wood; the laser runs hot enough to cut straight through to the other side. The combination of air and heat going into these gaps inevitably leads to splitting and cracking, which is the last thing you want when you’re trying to build something.
It’s also important to mention that the glue used in our MicroPanel sheets needs to be very specific. Regular glues that are used in the plywood manufacturing process are not properly compatible for use in laser cutting. Using the wrong glue almost always results in smoking or burning, rather than a crisp and clean cut.
By addressing these three areas, we were able to engineer MDF products that cut like a dream!
At a glance, it might look like our MicroPanel and Laserply ranges are extremely similar and that having MDF and plywood variants is unnecessary. However, there are a couple of areas where the extra choice is a big benefit.
Firstly, the selection of veneers for MicroPanel and Laserply differ. The best example is that Tasmanian Blackwood and Myrtle are exclusive to the MicroPanel range.
The edge profile of plywood and MDF also differ quite a bit, which may play a role in your final decision of which one to choose. Similarly, the face aesthetics and overall touch and feel differ a lot too. It may seem minor at first, but by experimenting with products from each range you might find that one is better suited than the other for your particular application.
If you’re looking to enter the world of laser cutting MDF, head to our website where you can purchase all six of the MicroPanel options right now. If you’re already a Laserply fanatic and curious about whether laser cut MDF could be of some use to you, head to our sample request form to get a FREE sample pack today!