Materials Selection for a Laser Cutter

This is part 2 of our series on materials selection. In this Q&A session, we'll outline how we cut different materials using our laser, and how we choose one of them for our gears.

Cardboard - it's really cheap, abundant, you can find it everywhere. It also has a white finish on one side. So why not use this for the gears?

Good question - cardboard is cheap but because of the corrugations, it gets stuck when you place two gears next to each other. That's why we chose not to use it.

Can't you just glue a few pieces of non-corrugated cardboard - won't that be a good solution to this problem?

It might be, but there's a lot of in-between things involved. For example, to glue them together is not so easy and it isn't elegant. So we decided not to go down that path.

The second material considered is MDF - what does that even stand for?

MDF, it stands for medium density fiberboard. It's a man-made material. It's a mix of wood fiber, glue, and binders. 

So is MDF a good material to use?

If we use a laser cutter, we prefer not to use MDF because of the glue in it.

Interesting, there's glue in it - is there any other material you considered that has glue in it?

There are, like plywood! It's something that we evaluated. But we chose not to go with it - because again, it has glue in it and because of chipping.

The acrylic gear looks really cool! I really like the color of it and the finish. So why aren't the gears made out of this material? 

Well, we do use acrylic in our kits - it is a beautiful material, easy to work with, easy to cut. We just decided to look at more natural materials, so we started to look at wood as an option.

Why is wood your choice for this particular gear?

Quite a few reasons - wood is a natural material, there's a variety of different woods to choose from, it is easy to work with, and it suits well for this application.