Making Flexible Wood Using a Laser Cutter

laser cut curved wood

If you’re one of the lucky ones who has access to a laser cutter, you’re definitely going to want to check out [Aaron Porterfield’s] latest work. He’s been experimenting with making¬†flexible wood.

We’ve all probably seen wood cut with slots added to allow flexibility in a single direction, but did you know with the use of lattice hinges you can do so much more? [Aaron’s] been playing around with parametric patterns and has made some really cool examples — the best part is, he’s sharing them all for free (both .DXF and vector files)!

His main goal was to create a pattern that is in flexible in multiple directions, which he almost achieved — but the really cool thing he figured out was creating a pre-formed curved surface by mapping the bend in Photoshop first…

Curved wood lamp

This is an example of the result — he’s provided full instructions on how to do this yourself which opens up a world of new possibilities — again, only if you have a laser cutter though. We can all dream though.

15 thoughts on “Making Flexible Wood Using a Laser Cutter

  1. Keep seeing “flexible wood” spamming my feeds. Ill be honest I clicked the link to see if there was a viagra ad on the page. I was disappointed to see it was HAD, because all the ads are electronics related. That woulda been funny.

      1. XD!

        What annoys me is that noone seems to use non perforative techniques. (all those make holes or lines that go all the way through…so it doesn’t help you in making a really closed box without extra processes. (but a cool one nonetheless).

          1. It’s a bit tedious with a laser as the kerf is so small.

            Still, beats doing it by hand on a table saw.

  2. Nice for lamps, bad for load bearing components, since all cellulose fibers in the wood are cut along their length and are only held together by the lignin matrix perpendicular to the cellulose fibers, that only has a small fraction of the original strength.

    So nice for decorative wooden things, but never ever make a hinge like that and expect it to bear any load, or you will be bitterly disappointed.

    1. I think my ass is smarter than you.

      Look carefully and you see no-one does hinges with wood, we use MDF – no grain.

      (Just checked, yep my is ass is smarter.)

  3. This works in metal too by the way, though not as bendy. Steel works poorer than aluminum, etc. Thinner is better.

    1. As a professional, lifelong metal fabricator, I have to ask “huh?”
      Bending steel sheet or plate, unless we are talking about high carbon, hardened steel, which is rather rare in sheet form, and quite expensive, and unsuitable for most applications, is easy. I cannot figure out why you would want to cut holes in it to do so. Just bend it. Use bigger tools. Same for aluminum, although it can be a little harder to prevent tearing. Still I’ve never had much difficulty creating complex shapes with aluminum sheet.

      1. As above – thinner is better. In the extreme case, MEMS structures, which are designed to flex, have no life issues. TI’s DLP chips are one of the most fascinating to study.

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