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Innovative Plywood Design: Unleashing the Potential of Engineered Wood

Timber Knowledge
15 May 2023 min read

Innovative Plywood Design: Unleashing the Potential of Engineered Wood

In the woodworking realm, engineered wood has revolutionised the industry, offering a sustainable, cost-effective, and versatile alternative to traditional solid wood. 

Among the various types of engineered wood, plywood stands out as a game-changer, transforming how we design and build. 

This article delves into the innovative world of plywood design, exploring its potential and how it's shaping the future of woodworking. 


The Rise of Plywood

Plywood, a product of ingenious engineering, is a composite material made from thin layers or 'plies' of wood veneer glued together under heat and pressure. 

The cross-graining technique used in its construction reduces the chances of the wood splitting, increases dimensional stability, and offers an impressive strength-to-weight ratio. 

Further, the rise of plywood can be attributed to its unique properties. Its versatility and adaptability have made it a favourite among architects, designers, and woodworkers. From furniture and flooring to structural systems and even boats, plywood's applications are as diverse as they are numerous.


The Innovation in Plywood Design

Versatility and Adaptability

Plywood's versatility lies in its ability to be moulded into various shapes and forms, allowing for innovative design possibilities. Likewise, its adaptability to different manufacturing processes, such as CNC machining and laser cutting, further broadens its scope of application. 

For instance, the 'Living Hinge' design, which involves cutting parallel slots into the plywood, allows it to bend smoothly, creating a visually appealing and functional design. Interestingly, this technique has been used to create intricate furniture designs, decorative items, and architectural structures.



In an era where sustainability is paramount, plywood offers an eco-friendly solution. It utilises more of the log compared to solid wood, reducing waste. Moreover, low-VOC adhesives and formaldehyde-free options make it healthier for the environment and the end user.



Plywood is more affordable than solid wood without compromising quality or aesthetics. This cost-effectiveness has made high-quality design more accessible, allowing more people to enjoy the beauty and functionality of wood in their homes and workplaces.


Plywood in Action: Real-World Examples

The Wikkelhouse

The Wikkelhouse, a modular tiny house made almost entirely of plywood, is a testament to the material's potential. Its innovative design involves wrapping layers of cardboard around a house-shaped mould, which is then covered with a waterproof, breathable film and finished with wooden slats. The result is a lightweight, durable, and sustainable structure that can be assembled daily.


The Smile

The Smile, an installation for the London Design Festival in 2016, showcased plywood's structural and aesthetic potential. 

Designed by architect Alison Brooks, this curved, tubular structure was made from cross-laminated tulipwood, a type of hardwood plywood. The design demonstrated the material's ability to create complex, large-scale structures with a light, airy feel.


Harnessing the Potential of Plywood with Woodshop Direct

At Woodshop Direct, we recognise the potential of plywood and are committed to providing high-quality, sustainable plywood products. Our extensive range includes various types of plywood, from hardwood and softwood to marine-grade and birch plywood, catering to various applications.


Advancements in Plywood Construction Techniques

The construction industry is also capitalising on the potential of plywood, not just for traditional uses like roofing and flooring, but as an innovative solution for formwork in concrete structures. 

Plywood formworks are lighter, easier to handle, and offer a smoother finish than traditional metal or wooden forms. Furthermore, they can be constructed to accommodate complex geometric designs, a testament to plywood's adaptability.

Moreover, the advent of Cross-Laminated Timber (CLT), a multi-layered plywood, marks a significant advancement in construction techniques. Its remarkable strength and stability make it an apt choice for load-bearing applications, enabling architects and builders to create multi-storey structures entirely from wood. This breakthrough transforms the urban landscape, with 'plyscrapers' appearing in cities worldwide.


The Artistic Scope of Plywood 

The innovation in plywood design extends beyond functionality to encompass artistic expression. Artists and sculptors are embracing plywood for its malleability and dimensional stability, crafting intricate pieces that defy the conventional wisdom about wood. 

For example, the Grinling Gibbons exhibition featured plywood sculptures that replicated the delicate intricacy of lace and foliage, a feat unimaginable with traditional solid wood.


Experimental Plywood Fabrication Techniques

Pioneering researchers are venturing into experimental plywood fabrication techniques. 

For example, a research project at the University of Stuttgart utilised robot-assisted plywood bending, pushing the limits of what plywood can achieve in terms of form and complexity. 

Additionally, in furniture design, 'Kerf bending' or 'CNC bending' is gaining traction. It employs a series of cuts to allow the plywood to flex and bend without breaking, leading to striking, seamless designs.


Designing for the Future with Bio-Based Adhesives

The potential of plywood can be further enhanced by replacing synthetic adhesives with bio-based alternatives. 

For instance, researchers are exploring adhesives derived from soy, lignin, and even waste shrimp shells, providing a sustainable way to enhance plywood's environmental credentials. As expected, such advancements can reduce emissions associated with plywood production, contributing to a more sustainable future.


Plywood in Education: Learning through Design

Plywood is also valuable in education, particularly in design and technology courses. Its versatility and affordability provide a safe and accessible medium for students to explore and learn. Interestingly, some schools even incorporate 'Plywood Challenges' in their curriculum, encouraging students to create functional designs from a single sheet of plywood.


The Future of Plywood at Woodshop Direct

In sync with the rapidly evolving landscape of plywood design, Woodshop Direct is dedicated to updating its product range, encompassing innovative plywood types and embracing sustainable practices. 

In this age of innovation, the possibilities with plywood seem endless. At Woodshop Direct, we're excited about the future of plywood and eager to help our customers unleash its potential. 


Woodshop Direct: #1 Supplier of Quality Plywood

Innovative plywood design unleashes engineered wood's potential, offering a sustainable, versatile, cost-effective solution for many applications. As you can see, the future of plywood looks promising.

So, whether you're embarking on a new project or simply exploring the possibilities of plywood, Woodshop Direct is your go-to resource for all your plywood needs. Reach out to us today, and let's create something extraordinary together.