Laser cutting technique makes plywood bendable

Here’s a laser cutting technique that makes thin plywood bendable. By cutting away elongated diamond shapes from the material, a lattice of strips connected minimally by alternating tabs is left over. The wood is then bendable, and it must be somewhat durable since the idea came from a product that uses the technique as a hinged notebook enclosure.

We don’t have much interest in it as an often used pivot point as surely it must be a problem with long-term use. But we love the look of it as a rounded corner on an enclosure like the Arduino project box seen above. The side walls are one continuous piece, with identical top and bottom sections which receive the alignment tabs. The whole thing is held together with just four bolt/washer/nut combinations.

But if you don’t have access to a laser cutter, we guess you’ll have to stick to altering pre-made enclosures for now.


  1. Cutting a straight slits is all that is needed for this kerf bending technique. The “elongated diamond” shapes appear only as the material is flexed.

  2. Dax says:

    What happened to the good old hot water method? Just put the plywood in a tub of hot water overnight, and you can bend it any which way you want without getting a stupid looking accordion at the corner.

  3. trialex says:

    I think it looks pretty cool.

    Only issue for people without their own laser set-up is that online places such as ponoko charge by the minute of laser time, and obviously this technique would take a lot of cutting.

    Still, cool stuff and always good to have options

  4. A more common quick method is to cut shallow kerfs on the inner edge with a table saw. You can hide the kerfs by gluing the kered sides of two pieces of plywood together, as in this example:

    Of course, the laser-cut method shown in this hack also adds ventilation, besides looking cool… ;-)

  5. Haku says:

    It almost looks like something from the 60s/70s.

    And yes it is a cool idea which looks nice.

  6. And here is a video showing MDF kerf-bending:

  7. Rob says:

    The rounded corners could also function as nice speaker grilles.

  8. fotoflojoe says:

    Very clever.

    I worked in a lumber yard part-time during high school and college. They sold a product called “bending plywood”. It was plywood that had the layers laminated in parallel as opposed to perpendicular. The stuff was really floppy!

  9. Rob says:

    I just wish the laser didnt burn the wood i guess you could do the same with a waterjet and not get the burnt wood coloration.

    • Gene says:

      I like the burnt wood coloration, particularly on lighter colored woods. Gives it a nice two tone look. That said, I’ve noticed the quality of scorch can very quite significantly between different types of plywood.

  10. hazardous says:

    Could do it with aluminum and a cnc….

  11. Hirudinea says:

    If you had a couple of weeks you could probably do this with a dremmel.

  12. Trav says:

    You can see a little light shining through the slots. Maybe mot good ventilation or speaker grills, but put an LED behind it and you might get some cool effects. Fill in the slots with clear epoxy might add strength and still look cool.

  13. svofski says:

    But where’s the Ardui… Oh, wait..

  14. Rioexxo says:

    Seriously, Water jet on wood??? not good
    metal, yes
    Wood = Plastic…..®

  15. Nova says:

    This is just begging to be made into a book-binding.

  16. Kevin Gunn says:

    I’m doing similar work in acrylic. It’s less forgiving than wood (slits usually don’t suffice). I have a full explanation of the theory and technique over ar Make Projects for anyone that would like to learn more about this process.

    • Anton says:

      thanks alot for your explanation!
      but i found one little flaw: yay! =)
      the part in between the two bridges that are close to each other, is not going to do any bending/twisting. therefore you could just let it be a massive connection. and maybe it could then even be smaller cause right now, you use only 2/3 of the length of the material to twist. the snijlab pattern uses the complete lenght minus the bridges, thats more effective!

    • Hackerspacer says:

      Is anybody doing this with aluminum or stainless? Is that even possible?

      • Anton says:

        it only works with elastic materials. alu isnt exactly the best choise for this kind of treatment, since the elastic limit will be reached soon. then, the material will just bend and stay like that.

  17. rich olson says:

    I’ve been playing around with this technique on my laser cutter – and it works great!

    it is much easier to design / implement than it appears.

    if you look closely at the pattern – you can see that it’s nothing more than a series of dashed lines. each cut is about 3/4″ long – seperated by about an 1/8th”.

    the rows are about 1/8th” apart and staggered 50%

    also works on MDF – and I suspect plastic.

    I actually get the impression durability might be reasonable.

    great hack!

  18. Dan says:

    The work looks great and extra ventilation from the great looking holes can’t hurt.

    Plywood is great and easy to work with except for the flamability aspect. I would not leave any electrically powered invention, battery or otherwise, in a wood box without being in the same room as it when powered.

    • Galane says:

      Radios, record players, televisions and more were commonly put into wood cabinets from their invention up through the early 1970’s when large plastic moldings became less expensive.

  19. Chris says:

    hey guys,

    we’ve been developing this for about five years now.
    New homepage will be online in about four weeks.

  20. Chris says:

    you got that wrong. you’re free to do whatever you want. there’s no one stopping you. get inspired and make it better!

  21. JJ says:

    The hinge is called a snij hinge. I wonder if it works with acrylics?

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