What is Kerf?
Kerf refers to the amount of material that is removed when cutting. Compared to other cutting methods, a laser cutter has a very small kerf. How kerf effects material is very useful to understand, as we can utilize kerf in design to create different results. One example of this is in creating “living hinges” in material that is normally inflexible.
There are many variations on the standard design to create living hinges with kerf, but they look something close to this pattern of overlapping vector lines. Each line will be vector cut, removing material in strategic places that will give the piece flexibility. For this pattern, we would require fairly thin wood material, no more than .25”. As the thickness of the material increases, we will have to increase the amount of material removed. In general, the radius of the bend depends on the length of the cuts, the distance between them and the thickness of the material.
When assessing our material’s flexibility, we are looking for the following: Pliability (how easy it bends), Tensile Strength (how fragile it is while bending) and Torsional Strength (how fragile it is when twisted). The ultimate goal is to remove the minimum amount of material possible. This will maximize the overall strength of the piece as well as save time and money in the actual cutting process.
To learn more, download our free ebook, Designing for Laser Cutting: A Technical Ebook for Creatives, where you will discover more design tips such as:
- Choosing Image Files
- Raster Engraving Techniques
- Designing for Vector Cuts
- 3D Object Stacking Designs
- And dozens of other tips
Look for more ebooks, coming soon, from Full Spectrum Laser.