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Plywood is used in many applications that need high-quality, high-strength sheet material. Quality in this context means resistance to cracking, breaking, and shrinkage, twisting and warping. In India, plywood is more commonly called "Kitply" after a leading brand which pioneered the concept of waterproof plywood in the early 1970's.
Plywood is a sheet material manufactured from thin layers or "plies" of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. It is an engineered wood from the family of manufactured boards which includes medium-density fibreboard (MDF) and particle board (chipboard).
All plywoods bind resin and wood fibre sheets (cellulose cells are long, strong and thin) to form a composite material. This alternation of the grain is called cross-graining and has several important benefits :
it reduces the tendency of wood to split when nailed at the edges, it reduces expansion and shrinkage, providing improved dimensional stability and it makes the strength of the panel consistent across all directions. There is usually an odd number of plies, so that the sheet is balanced—this reduces warping. Because plywood is bonded with grains running against one another and with an odd number of composite parts, it is very hard to bend it perpendicular to the grain direction of the surface ply.
Softwood panel is usually made either of cedar, Douglas fir or spruce, pine, and fir (collectively known as spruce-pine-fir or SPF) or redwood and is typically used for construction and industrial purposes.The most common dimension is 1.2 by 2.4 metres (3 ft 11 in × 7 ft 10 in) or the slightly larger imperial dimension of 4 feet × 8 feet. Plies vary in thickness from 1.4 mm to 4.3 mm .
Hardwood plywood is made out of wood from angiosperm trees and used for demanding end uses. Hardwood plywood is characterized by its excellent strength, stiffness and resistance to creep. It has a high planar shear strength and impact resistance, which make it especially suitable for heavy-duty floor and wall structures.
Tropical plywood is made of mixed species of tropical wood. Originally from the Asian region, it is now also manufactured in African and South American countries. Tropical plywood is superior to softwood plywood due to its density, strength, evenness of layers, and high quality. It is usually sold at a premium in many markets if manufactured with high standards.
High-strength plywood also known as aircraft plywood, is made from mahogany and/or birch, and uses adhesives with increased resistance to heat and humidity. It was used for several World War II fighter aircraft. Although the British-built Mosquito bomber, nicknamed "The Wooden Wonder", was constructed of a plywood monologue, this was formed in moulds from individual veneers of birch, balsa and birch, (citation needed) rather than machined from pre-laminated plywood sheets.
Flexible plywood is designed for making curved parts, a practice which dates back to the 1850s in furniture making. Aircraft grade plywood, often Baltic birch, is made from 3 plies of birch, as thin as 1/16" thick in total, and is extremely strong and light. At 3/8" thick, mahogany 3-ply "wiggle Board" or "Bendy Board" come in 4' x 8' sheets with a very thin cross grain central ply and two thicker exterior plies, either long grain on the sheet, or cross grain.