By laser cutting bendable cut geometries or ‘kerf cut’, rigid sheet materials including wood or acrylic can be bent. There are a variety of different shapes and geometries which when laser cut result different material flexibility. We have tested different materials, such as wood and acrylic from 3 to 5 mm and selected a few to give you an overview of the application. In this guide you can find the graphic templates to download for each of shown applications.
Kerf 1: Straight laser cut lines
Straight cut lines form a stable radius. The further apart the individual cutting lines are, the larger the bending radius created. The suitable distance of the lines varies depending on the chosen graphic and material, a distance of up to 0.5 mm can be selected.
Kerf 2: Small waves
Small waves are interconnected and give materials a flexible appearance. This laser cutting technique is suitable for materials up to 3mm thick. With this method the bending radius is very large.
Kerf 3: Large honeycombs
With large honeycombs, the curves are tapered at each end and cut out of the sheet. This laser cutting pattern is frequently used for model making. Due to the large honeycombs, wooden boards up to 5mm thick can be used.
The honeycombs can be easily pulled apart and pressed together, while these properties can be combined easily with connections. An example of this application is bracelets.
Kerf 4: Wavy cut line
Like pattern 1, this laser cutting pattern consists exclusively of cut lines. The difference is the bending properties, as with this method it is much more flexible.
Kerf 5: Honeycombed cut line
The specially arranged pattern of this bending cut allows flexibility in all directions. This makes numerous creative applications possible, for example a bag design.
Kerf 6 and 7: Narrow and wide waves
These cuts are all-rounders and work well with many different materials and applications. The shape of the individual cut lines gives stability and flexibility.
Kerf 8: Triangular shape
This cutting pattern can be bent in all directions and due to its design, the pattern is often used as a graphic element.
The triangular shape of this laser cutting technique is suitable for materials up to approximately 3mm. Materials over 5mm material thickness will have a rigid and inflexible finish.
Wood is typically an excellent material for laser cutting techniques with bending applications. However the type of wood used can effect the results. The following points must also be noted:
Plywood is very suitable for the use of bending applications. By gluing the sheets, the wood becomes very flexible in all directions and can be bent in a very narrow radius.
- Solid wood
For solid wood boards with a material thickness from 5 mm, laser cutting techniques for bending applications with recesses, such as Kerf 6, are much more flexible than a straight cut or a cut without a recess (Kerf 1). Using this technique it is very important to always cut in the direction of the grain. Cutting lines across the grain results is reduced flexibility and the wood being more fragile.
Like plywood, MDF is very easy to work with. Due to the mixture of grains, it is not necessary to align the cut lines.
Laser cutting techniques for acrylic work best rigid bends, for example boxes or cases where the bending radius is very rarely changed. With a continuous load of the laser cutting pattern, for example a book, the webs can easily break.
When laser cutting acrylic, the following points must be observed:
- Use at least a 2" lens for the bending cuts. Given that the acrylic melts, if the lens focal length is too small, it may cause the cut area to instantly stick together again.
- We recommend a laser cutting distance of approx. 1 to 1.5 mm. If the material melts despite the correct lens being selected, increase the distance between the individual cut lines. However, if the selected distance is too large, the flexibility of the bend decreases.
Important points for achieving your desired bending result:
To summarise, the following points must be observed when creating the design:
- Material properties
- Direction of the grain
- Distances of the cuts
- Material thickness