Kerf cut: Cutting technique for bending applications

Laser cutting methods l Trotec South Africa

Putting waves in rigid sheet materials with trotec laser cutters

In this article we focus on the bending of 3 to 5 mm wood and acrylic using the "kerf cut' laser cutting  method. Using this method, there is possibility to cut various shapes and geometries resulting in different flexibility output. Trotec has tested various materials and we have selected a few for you where you will also find below the correct templates available for download.


Which cutting techniques are there?

Kerf 1: Straight cut lines

During laser cutting, straight cut lines form a stable radius. The more distance inbetween the individual cutting lines are, the larger the bending radius. Different materials and graphics produce different results, however a distance of up to 0.5 mm between the lines may be selected. 

Kerf 2: Small waves

The flexibility of the material is a result of the interconnection of the small waves. This laser cutting method is suitable for materials up to 3mm thickness. This allows a suffiecient bending radius. 

Kerf 3: Large honeycombs

Using the large Trotec honeycomb table, the curves are tapered at each end and laser cut out of the sheet. This laser cutting pattern is often used in the model making industries. The large area of the honeycombs allows wooden boards up to 5mm thick to be cut and can also be used flexibly.
The honeycombs can be easily pulled apart and pressed together and these properties can be combined easily with connections, for example, with bracelets.

Kerf 4: Wavy cut line

Same as in pattern 1, this cutting pattern mainly entails cut lines, however it does differ in the bending properties, due to it being much more bendable.

Kerf 5: Honeycombed cut line

In the creation of this living hinge, the demonstrated pattern of this bending cut allows us sufficient flexibility. Application possibilities are thus endless - you can be as creative as you wish here. From hand bags to wine cases - be creative! 

Kerf 6 and 7: Narrow and wide waves

These cuts are all-rounders and work well with many different materials. The shape of the individual cut lines gives stability and flexibility.

Kerf 8: Triangular shape

Because of the design and flexibility of the material once cut, this cutting pattern can be bent in all directions and due to its design.
The triangular shape of this cutting technique is very suitable for materials up to approximately 3mm. From 5mm material thickness, the bend becomes rigid and inflexible.

Download

Here you can find all the graphics for the kerf cuts available for download

Download Kerf Cut graphic templates

Cutting technique on wood

For laser cutting methods, wood is mostly the best material used in bending or living hinge applications. We do advise though that you must choose your wood carefully before buying. Pointers to note:

  • Plywood
    Plywood is mostly recommended 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, 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). Remember to always cut towards the grain to avoid breakage. 
  • MDF
    Very popular in South Africa, such as plywood, MDF is very easy to work with. The mixture of grains in the material means that it is not necessary to align the cut lines.

Cutting techniques on acrylic

Laser cutting techniques associated with acrylic are best for rigid bends, e.g. boxes or cases where the bending radius is very rarely changed. With a continuous load of the cutting pattern, e.g. with a book, the webs can easily break.

When processing 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 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 will decrease.

Important points for your desired bending result:

Ensure that you tick the box in all these criterias: 

  • Material properties
  • Direction of the grain
  • Distances of the cuts
  • Material thickness

Require more information and tips?

We pride ourselves with very well trained staff who are always happy and willing to assist and test your materials. Should you have any further questions about material processing or require clarity on other laser applications, please contact us. In addition, the Trotec Academy offers training courses for various laser technology topics. Contact us for your next appointment.

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