In the olden days, creating custom wood pieces involved the use of a hammer, a chisel, and a lot of elbow grease. Not that there’s anything wrong with doing things the traditional way, but some of us prefer the more modern methods of woodworking. Nowadays, wood cutting and engraving are two of the most popular applications of laser technology due to its versatility. Laser technology is used for virtually any category of woodworking: from architecture and furniture to toys and crafts. It can also be used in a variety of wood types, including bamboo, MDF, maple, and many others.
Importance of traceability
High energy lasers have become the technology of choice for automotive marking in the last couple of years. In an industry where the quality and reliability of individual parts is paramount to the safety of its end users, both automotive manufacturers and supplier of parts have to establish accurate and reliable traceability and tracking system. With the more than 20,000 parts involved in making just a single automobile, maintaining traceability can only be done using a technology that is flexible, dynamic, and almost entirely automated.
How does it work?
Laser cutting wood and laser etching wood take advantage of the extremely high energy carried by the laser, which is essentially a concentrated beam of light. The energy from the laser heats the wood material rapidly, resulting in its almost instant vaporisation. Since the energy of the laser is confined within its beam, the material surrounding the target areas remain unaffected and will show no visible scorches or burn marks.
The processes of laser etching and laser cutting are highly customisable. The laser settings can be calibrated to produce engravings of different depths and contrasts. Similarly, the intensity of the laser can be reduced when working with softwood like pine and balsa, with the higher intensity settings reserved for hardwoods like birch or walnut. Since the laser is calibrated for a particular type of wood, it is essential that the materials used for laser cutting and laser engraving are homogenous, with uniform density and resin content.
Wood applications that use laser cutting and laser etching machines
Laser technology has given individuals the unprecedented power to create highly detailed designs on wood at a fraction of the time and effort needed using traditional methods. With this level of design freedom, laser cutting and laser engraving have been used to create ornate decorations and highly detailed architectural models and crafts.
Laser etching wood has been used widely to create outdoor signs and shop signs that look great and have marks that will stand the test of time. The industry of interior design has also benefited greatly from laser engraving technology. Laser cutting and engraving have made the production of furniture, inlays, and other interior decoration items much easier and faster.
The ability of a wood engraving machine to handle complex contours have allowed designers to make wooden parts with highly complex geometries. 3D puzzles that are formed using an array of parts made from wooden sheets are a notable display of this ability.
With the level of accuracy that laser engraving is capable of, it can even work with wood sheets that are paper-thin and extremely delicate. Laser cut wood greeting cards, postcards, and notebooks covers have become increasingly common because of this technology.
Laser marking is an incredibly accurate and flexible technology, able to reproduce any design at a reasonably high quality. With the increasing demand for product personalisation, laser technology has been an invaluable tool for clients who have requested personalised and customised phone cases, guitars, skateboards, and other gift items. Photo-realistic designs can even be etched on hardwood such as mahogany or maple for a souvenir that is truly unique and long-lasting.
As mentioned above, lasers can be used to cut and engrave virtually any type of wood by just changing the settings of the laser. Naturally, many designers prefer softer woods as cutting and engraving them requires less energy and time but working on hardwoods is not outside the realm of the abilities of laser technology.
There is a veritable list of wood types and products that can be cut or engraved using lasers: maple, birch, alder, mahogany, walnut, cork, bamboo, plywood, MDF, HDF, and veneer. Lasers can work with both natural wood and composite wood, although adjustments will have to be made to take into account the resin content of most composite wood products.
The wood engraving machine fits right into any existing manufacturing process. It is a turnkey solution that requires minimal setup. It’s also a speedy process, so it should not disrupt your existing workflow.
With laser technology, woodworking no longer needs to be an art that takes years to practice. You can import designs from any standard imaging software and into the laser engraving interface. A 100% digital manufacturing platform means that operating the laser engraving and cutting machine does not require a steep learning curve.
Laser cutting and engraving is an entirely non-contact process. You will not even need to affix the object to the production platform, saving up on precious time during the manufacturing process. Since the material undergoes no stress, there is little chance of secondary warping or damage. Having no physical cutting or engraving parts also means a reduced requirement for regular parts replacement due to wear and tear. The lack of any moving parts with sharp edges also implies that laser cutting is an inherently safer process for human operators.
The high temperature that the wood material reaches once it comes into contact with the laser results in almost instant sublimation of the wood. The vapour produced can be easily disposed of using an exhaust system. This means that the process does not produce wood shavings, which can be a nuisance and a hazard. The vapour produced by laser burning is non-toxic, so you don’t need to worry about its disposal.
Woodworking is a craft as old as time, and there is a reason that it remains popular even today. There is a certain, rustic beauty to wood which makes it a timeless material of choice for hundreds of applications. Fortunately, laser technology has made it possible for woodworking to be easier, faster, and more accessible to amateurs and professionals alike.
Although there are still a few artisans who do traditional woodworking, there is no doubt that laser cutting wood and laser engraving wood is the future. After all, wood is the most commonly used application for laser cutting technology. The demand for custom wood products has not waned in hundreds of years, and we don’t think it’s going to start now.