The power of the laser module is a key feature to consider when choosing a plywood cutting machine. However, it is not the only thing.
Read our guide to learn how to choose the right CNC laser machine for cutting plywood.
Which is the Best Laser Machine for Cutting Plywood?
The best laser machine for cutting plywood will depend on the kind of projects you will want to do.
Generally, you want a machine whose optical power is sufficient enough to cut through the plywood sheets you will be working with.
But apart from the optical laser power, you also have to consider other things. For example, if you have a workshop where large circulars are used to cut large sheets of plywood, a low-power laser machine may be the best option for cutting small sheets.
Plywood laser cutters have a number of advantages that make them different from mechanical processing machines. These include:
- High cutting precision
- Ability to create complex shape objects
- Convenience in working
- Quiet operations
- Lack of sawdust during the process
The above advantages are possible since laser machines use a thin beam of light with high power to cut through plywood and other objects. The beam burns through the plywood board, leaving a thin and narrow cut like a surgical scalpel.
Modern laser cutters work with various laser software, which allows them to cut complex shapes without any issues. Therefore, if you want to create decorative plywood elements, you will need a CNC laser machine.
Watch the video below of a laser cutting machine cutting a complex shape.
However, there are also some disadvantages you should know about laser cutters. To begin, the machines are quite expensive, especially the high-powered ones. If you are a small business, you can go for cheaper DIY desktop laser cutter and engravers such as Longer Ray 5, Snapmaker A350, Xtool and others that are a little cheaper.
If you wish, you can also assemble a DIY CNC laser machines. Assembling the machines takes a lot of time. However, you will end up saving a lot.
Types of Laser Cutting Machines
Laser cutting machines are divided into different types, depending on their power and functionality. Today, budget laser cutters are also equipped with CNC modules. Therefore, in this section, we will not consider manual machines as an option.
- Lase cutting and engraving machines. These are low-power devices designed for engraving on plywood and cutting thin sheets
- Industrial laser cutters. These are universal machines that can cut plywood sheets of any thickness
b) Laser Head Power
Laser cutters can also be classified under the following based on their laser head power:
- Up to 50W – low power devices
- 50 to 90W – universal devices
- From 100W – industrial grade devices
The power of a laser machine and the type of cutting work to be done go hand in hand. Devices with more power can cut a lot of materials than those with less power.
What is a Plywood Laser Head?
The plywood cutting laser head is an optical element of the machine that comprises of a radiation source (laser) and a focusing lens that directs the beam to the workpiece surface.
There are two main types of lasers used in plywood cutting machines:
- CO2 (carbon dioxide). With this laser head, the radiation source is a tube filled with gas. The laser heads are powerful, but also relatively large in size.
- Diode. This laser head comprises of a semiconductor laser. The laser head is very compact and usually (but not always) produces less power. Due to their compactness and ease of use, the laser heads are usually used on small machines.
What is a Plywood Cutting Laser Module?
A laser module is a unit that consists of a laser head and other elements necessary for operation. These other elements include an optical system, a power supply, a cooling system and control electronics.
The implementation of a certain module scheme depends on the power and type of the emitter, as well as on the purpose of the machine.
When we consider the purpose of the machine, laser modules are subdivided into:
- Collimated modules. These can create lattices or circles
- Focused modules. These create consistent lines
Generally, all laser modules for cutting plywood focus the radiation at one point. There are a number of reasons for this. First, such a system is much cheaper and easier to maintain. Secondly, this is how the CNC machine can form any lines. Therefore, focused modules allow you to cut not only rectangles and circles, but also objects of arbitrary shape.
Also, laser modules can also be divided into types, depending on the length of the light wave emitted by the emitter. In the case of plywood cutting machines, both diode and CO2 lasers are classified as infrared devices.
How Does a Plywood Laser Cutter Work?
The principle of a plywood laser cutting machine is easy to understand. With this machine, the laser emitter creates a beam of light of a predetermined wavelength. The beam created is powerful enough to burn through the fibers of the wood board. The higher the power, the deeper the beam penetrates into the plywood.
Higher power beams can cut thicker sheets in one pass. The power range of a laser beam ranges from a few watts.
How Much Laser Power is Needed to Cut Plywood?
Usually, you can cut plywood with laser machines with the following emitter power:
- Up to 50W – for cutting sheets up to 6 mm thick
- 60 – 80W – for cutting sheets up to 8 mm thick
- More than 80W – for cutting sheets up to 10 mm thick
The power of the emitter is always indicated in the specifications of the device, together with the power consumption of the devic. For example, the laser power of the OMTech CO2 Laser Engraver is 60W
However, there are laser modules with much lower power. Let’s look at some of them.
2.5W Laser Diode
PRICE ON AMAZON
A 2.5W diode laser can cut cardboard and plywood up to 1 mm thick. Most often, modules of this power are installed in desktop engravers.
3.5W Laser Cutter
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
The 3.5 W plywood laser module is also used primarily for engraving and even cutting plywood. However, to cut a 3mm thick sheet, about 20 passes are required.
5.5W Laser Module
PRICE ON AMAZON
There are few differences between such a device and the one discussed above. For example, cutting 3mm plywood requires 4 passes. This module is faster, but still very slow.
7W Laser Module
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
The 7-watt laser module is more efficient at cutting plywood sheets. A device equipped with such an emitter can cut a sheet with a thickness of 2 mm in one pass.
10W Laser Module
PRICE ON AMAZON
With power increased to 10 watts, you can cut a 3mm plywood in one pass. However, such equipment is still found mainly in homemade cutting machines and laser engravers.
15W Laser Module
AVAILABLE ON AMAZON
15W diode lasers can be used to cut plywood up to 10 mm thick. However, this will require several passes along the same line. Such devices are suitable for amateur level machines. Due to their low power, they have low heat dissipation and energy consumption. Accordingly, compact cooling systems are required for trouble-free operation.
For professional cutting of plywood sheets, we recommend using machines equipped with laser modules with a power of 40W or more.
Challenges of Laser Cutting Plywood
Working with laser cutting machines requires various conditions to be met for proper workflow. Here are some things you should know about laser cutting plywood.
- Laser cutters leave an ultra-narrow. Therefore, you can use a CNC machine to create complex shapes.
- The laser beam acts on the material without coming in direct contact with it. This eliminates the possibility of errors due to displacement of the sheet during processing.
- The results you will get depend on the quality of the plywood sheet. It is best to work with aircraft plywood because it is strong, but relatively thin. Moreover, its layers are made of high quality wood.
- The workplace near the machine should have an exhaust hood to remove the smoke that forms during the burning process,
- Plywood sheets should be cleaned of dirt and dust. To avoid health issues, only sheets without varnish should be used.
When choosing a laser for cutting plywood, consider the scope of your project. To be sure that the machine will cut the plywood in one pass, consider both the thickness of the plywood and the power of the emitter.