High pressure laminate (HPL) is made of phenolic resin impregnated sheets and a melamine resin impregnated decor, which are bonded under the combined effect of heat and pressure, thus producing a highly durable product. HPL is very popular in the solid surface industry and branded products such as FunderMax and Trespa are commonly cut on our CNC routers. The focus of this article is on machine fundamentals and selecting the right tool for the job when processing HPL on your AXYZ CNC router.

What tool should I use?

High pressure laminated materials are very abrasive and although they can cut very well, tool life can sometimes be an issue. For this reason it is always best to use bits which are recommended for processing high pressure laminates. We recommend either the Belin Cristal tool or the Onsrud upcut bit which are both designed specifically for these materials. Both of these tools can be found on CNCRoutershop.

Machine Considerations

Nothing too special is required here – most CNC routers should have little trouble processing HPL’s. One feature that can be useful is to have a helical rack drive system coupled with direct drive servo motors. This allows slightly higher feed rates to be maintained around corners thus reducing the likelihood of overheating the tool which can dull the cutting edges and cause poor cut quality

Feeds and Speeds

Machine feed rates from 60 ipm (1.5 m/min) to 200 ipm (5 m/min) can be used but higher speeds will reduce the life of the tool. Avoid going too slow as this can easily cause overheating of the tool. If you do need to cut at a lower feed rate it is best to reduce the spindle rpm accordingly. Multiple passes are not usually required – up to ½ inch (12.5 mm) can be cut in a single pass.

HPL’s can suffer from chipping of the top surface especially when the router bit starts to lose its edge so if you see this happening it’s usually time to change your tool for a new one.

In summary, if you need to cut a job in a hurry, high cutting speeds can be used but make sure you are using a new tool and be prepared to change it regularly. If time is not critical, use a lower feed rate and your tool can last longer.

Receive 10% off High Pressure Laminate tooling. Valid from April 22 – April 29, 2018. Use code HIGH10. Online only, not valid with any other offer. 

Author: Noel Archie is an Applications and PANELBuilder Specialist for AXYZ International, a global manufacturer of CNC router and knife systems. Noel has been with AXYZ for over 15 years.