Cutting 2mm MDF with a 5W diode-LASER

MDF (a.k.a. medium density fibreboard), just like plywood, is a very popular material in LASER cutting circles, largely due to it being a stable and relatively strong sheet material. Its stability comes from the use of wood fibres set in glue and means its less likely to bow or warp compared to plywood. So it’s likely any CNC user with a diode-LASER will want to cut a piece sometime. However, it’s important to note that burning glue, and released wood fibres, can be hazardous to your health. For that reason the MDF sheet I used here, with my 5W diode-LASER, is a LASER-safe version with less hazardous glue: although care is still needed to avoid inhaling anything nasty. Below is a photo of my cutting test.

The front of the 2mm MDF laser cutting test

The main thing the photo shows is that cutting fully through 2mm of MDF is possible with two passes, at a feed rate of 100 mm/min, on full power. However, a second thing to notice is that the MDF burned heavily (with a small flame) especially after the first pass had blackened the surface. That’s likely due to the glue and the slow feed rate needed for a low-power LASER. So care is needed to avoid fires and multiple passes will require a lot of work to clean up. Most likely cuts will need to be offset slightly when designing, so that the edges can be filed or sanded back to clean material, although back faces were cleaner as the photo below shows. Overall then, MDF may be useful for some larger, low detail, pieces, or for faster feed rate engraving, but on the whole it’s not something I’ll risk too often.

The back of the 2mm MDF laser cutting test

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