I spent quite a few hours yesterday and today researching die cutting; in particular the die cutting of plywood. After some frustrating time with Google I realised that the use of the correct terms would help. Die cutting is used to sheer ‘low strength’ material, including paper, rubber, plastics, sheet metal and card. Cutting dies are called ‘formes’ (sometimes without the e), machines capable of cutting plywood are presses. When the metal blades of the cutter have been made to the desired shape they are often mounted onto plywood; this fact complicated my search for a plywood cutter.
Once a die has been made then large numbers of items (‘blanks’), such as toy helicopters, RoRo ferries or trawler boats may pressed out at almost no cost other than material. The parallels with printing are obvious and the machine used is similar, namely a press, which can be flatbed (cheaper) or rotary (faster). The term ‘blanks’ is used as these items are often printed or further embellished before sale. Packaging and shoe making are amongst the most common uses of this technology, there are many others including fabrics, plastic sheet and foam. Craft die cutting machines and dies are widely sold – see Pinterest – and used, especially for paper crafts but also for card, felt, foam, fabric, thin plastic and cake icing. However 3mm plywood is beyond the scope of such machines.
I found it hard to find anyone in the UK who makes the sort of forme I might want. There are examples on YouTube but they all seem to be in the far east. Services available in the UK are strongly focused on packaging, such as Presspac, which offers an integrated service including print. It seems that 3mm thickness is near the limit of what is available in the UK, for plywood.