Doing as much research and preparation as possible into your Laser Plywood materials is a great place to start, but unfortunately, it doesn’t prepare you for the difficulties of when you transition into trying to start working with it. Getting the most out of your cutting, etching, and engraving can be a real trial and error challenge if you’re left to learn it on your own. At Plyco, we understand not every customer who walks in is going to be a laser cutting veteran, so we wanted to put something together that would help newcomers make a smoother transition into this wild and wonderful world.
Top Tips for Laser Cutting
Having the correct optics on your machine for cutting is a crucial thing to make sure of. If you’re cutting with thicker pieces of Laser Plywood you’re going to need an optical lens with a longer focal length. Trotec recommends a 2-inch lens for sheets of 3mm in size and a 2.5-inch lens for sheets with a thickness of 6mm.
It should go without saying, but cleaning your laser cutter is extremely important. It can be easy to let this aspect slip and fall to the wayside, but you could be doing your machine a deserve by letting it collect dust. Wood dust can be extremely sticky, and if this settles inside the machine it can be a major pain for you.
Remember that a little bit of smoke is normal! When using a laser cutting machine you’re essentially burning or evaporating the Laser Plywood away with the machine’s laser. Naturally, this will cause a little bit of smoke as a byproduct. Make sure your laser cutter is set up in a well-ventilated area and consider having a supply of compressed air connected to your machine. The compressed air connects near your laser and helps protect it by removing dust and gases quickly.
Our final tip is our favourite; always make test cuts where possible! Test cuts can make life so much easier, particularly if it's your first time working with a particular variety of Laser Plywood. This is part of the reason why we offer free sample packs to all of our customers.
Top Tips for Laser Engraving
An extremely important aspect of laser cutting is the preparation of your materials. The dust that is created from engraving can cause a bit of a mess, and if this dust sticks to your Plywood it can cause a bit of a headache. A simple way to combat this is to grab some application tape and apply it to the work surface. This keeps the dust from causing problems and is simple to move after everything is completed. However, you do need to make sure the tape you are using is PVC-free, otherwise, you’ll encounter much more important problems!
In general, when you engrave a piece of Plywood the end results will most likely leave a brownish colour. This is important to remember when planning and visualising what your final product will end up looking like, however, it’s possible to achieve different colouring. Through the use of varnished wood and the appropriate settings o your laser cutter, you can find yourself with a white engraving. We tend to find that setting your machine to low power at a high speed has the best results, but obviously, this differs for each machine. To get a darker engraving you’ll want to de-focus the laser beam to about 1mm. This makes the laser spot much larger and reduces power density, which combines to make a darker engraving.
If you’re looking to take care of your engraving after it has been machined a great tactic to use is applying denatured alcohol. Fill up a spray bottle with denatured alcohol and spray the surface of the wood, which will help clean off any residual burn marks. We recommend only using white cotton rags in this cleaning process, as using a coloured rag could stain you wood and leave it looking like an abstract painting!
Laser Cutting Design Templates
We know it can be a little overwhelming to just jump in and start laser cutting, so the team here at Plyco have compiled a few of their favourite laser cutting design templates that can help you get your feet under you.
We’ve found that Vecteezy is a great resource for free templates. They have thousands of templates that you can download at no cost, which makes for a great starting point. We recommend using some of these templates while you wrap your head around the basics of laser cutting. If you want to get a little more advanced, Laser Ready Templates is the perfect place for you. These templates are a definite step up from the ones at Vecteezy, and as a result, you’re going to have to spend a little bit of money on these templates. The team at Plyco definitely agree that these designs are worth the money though, and are the perfect companions for customers who are looking to spread their wings and grow their abilities even further.
A clock made out of Laser Plywood by Tim Wighton of LaserCast
We hope this post has been helpful in giving you a few extra tips about laser cutting and engraving, and that the design templates aid you on your quest to become a laser cutting legend. If you’re looking to top up your Laser Plywood stock, head over to Plyco’s online store where you can browse our entire collection. Additionally, if you’re looking to expand your knowledge even further make sure to read our blog posts on how a laser cutter works, and the difference between CNC cutting and laser cutting.