Laser cutting balsa wood

Gerald Wisse
I made some tests vector-engraving and cutting 4 different sheets of balsa wood (for building lightweight model-airplanes):
test sheet for laser cutting balsa


Chiara didn’t have still experience in laser cutting balsa, so I had to start testing from scratch. The top sheet is 6 mm thick medium density balsa (175 kg/m3), the 2nd is 6 mm light density (100 kg/m3), the 3rd is 3 mm and the bottom one is 1.5 mm. On the left of each piece there are 6 vector-engraved lines. On the right 3 cuts of 20x20mm squares. They all had different power and speed settings, to see what the best combination of power and speed was.
bask of the test sheet for laser cutting balsa


What I found to be the best setting combinations to CUT the different thicknesses were: 6 mm: min. power 48%; max. power 60%; speed 60 mm/s 3 mm: min. power 48%; max. power 60%; speed 140 mm/s 1.5 mm: min. power 48%; max. power 60%; speed 200 mm/s For VECTOR ENGRAVING: min. power 16%; max. power 16%; speed 200 mm/s
The width of the kerf resulted 0.2 mm.
Problem: Where the laser stops moving (at the start and end of engraved lines) more material is burned away. In 1.5 mm balsa holes were at the end of the lines:
vector engrave test

Vector engraved lines on the left

In order to avoid this, I should have set the min. power lower than the max. one.
I’m going to make more tests…

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