The sheet metal fabrication industry has significantly transformed with the advent of laser technology. This innovation enables the creation of intricate designs and shapes that were previously unattainable through traditional methods. Additionally, laser cutting achieves precise cuts by using highly focused beams of light, resulting in faster production times, minimal waste, and maximum precision.
This article will explore the various techniques involved in laser cutting sheet metal. We will also cover the types of lasers used in modern metal fabrication.
Advanced Laser Cutting Methods
The use of lasers has increased the flexibility and customization of sheet metal fabrication. Here are some of the most cutting-edge procedures used by manufacturers today:
The multi-axis cutting technique involves using a machine that can cut along multiple axes. This means the laser can move in various directions, allowing greater flexibility in cutting complex shapes and designs. Multi-axis cutting also enables the production of more intricate parts, reducing the need for post-processing and improving the quality of the final product.
High-power cutting uses lasers with greater wattage to cut through thick metal sheets. This technique particularly benefits heavy-duty applications, such as the aerospace and automotive industries. Furthermore, it can cut through metals up to 25 mm thick, resulting in a faster production process and reduced need for manual finishing.
Pulsed cutting involves applying brief pulses of laser light to slice through sheet metal. This technique is especially useful for cutting thin materials like aluminum and stainless steel. This method reduces the amount of heat generated during the cutting process. This minimizes the risk of warping or damaging the material.
Fusion cutting melts and fuses the material to achieve a precise cut. This technique is best suited for cutting thick materials and precision cutting complex shapes. The laser beam is directed onto the metal surface, melting and vaporizing to make a narrow cut. Finally, the final cut is extremely exact and clean, eliminating the need for additional finishing processes.
Flame cutting is a process that combines a laser with a high-temperature flame. Initially, the laser is used to heat the material, and then the flame is used to melt and cut through the metal. This technique is a cost-effective substitute for plasma cutting and is often used in construction and manufacturing industries.
Types of Lasers for Sheet Metal Cutting
Different lasers are used for various sheet metal cutting applications, each with unique features and benefits. Discussed below are three of the most popular laser types:
CO2 lasers are among the most commonly used lasers for sheet metal cutting. They use a gas mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and helium to generate the laser beam. They also have a wavelength of 10.6 microns, making them suitable for cutting metallic and non-metallic materials. Lastly, they offer high precision and can cut through a wide range of thicknesses.
Fiber lasers use a doped fiber as the lasing medium to produce a beam. As a result, they are highly efficient, require less maintenance, and have a higher power output than CO2 lasers. Moreover, they have a wavelength of 1.06 microns, ideal for cutting metals like stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. Fiber lasers can also produce high-quality cuts at high speeds.
Crystal lasers are solid-state lasers that use a crystal as the lasing medium. The most common types of crystals used are neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) and neodymium-doped yttrium orthovanadate (Nd:YVO4). They are highly efficient and offer high beam quality and stability, making them popular for various applications.
Metal Works of High Point: Your Partner for High-Quality Laser Cutting Solutions
At Metal Works of High Point, our metal laser services can help streamline your fabrication process and lower production expenses! We prioritize providing our customers with high-quality manufacturing services at a reduced cost. We can also handle all your custom cutting needs with our team of skilled professionals and cutting-edge 3-axis cutting systems.
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Modern cutting methods allow manufacturers to improve the accuracy of their metal and plastic products. As a result, better and more precise quality parts are produced without compromising productivity. These accurate cutting methods also achieve increased efficiency and reduced production costs.
Laser and plasma cutting are two of today’s most popular cutting methods, offering distinct advantages and disadvantages for different industries. This article provides a detailed comparison of plasma cutting vs. laser cutting and their value in today’s manufacturing industries.
Differences Between Plasma Cutting vs. Laser Cutting
Both plasma and laser cutting are advantageous and feature unique applications for various manufacturing needs. Let’s look into their differences in a few aspects:
The thickness of the metal sheet is crucial in determining the efficiency of the cutting process compared to other methods. For laser cutting, the maximum thickness for cutting metals ranges from 20 mm to 25 mm for mild steel. However, thicker sheets may require high-powered CO2 lasers to achieve efficient and precise cuts.
On the contrary, plasma cutting is ideal when dealing with thicker cutting requirements. Specifically, handheld plasma cutters offer excellent capabilities for cutting through steel plates up to 38 mm thick. For even more robust cutting needs, powerful automated machines can effectively cut through materials as thick as 150 mm.
Laser cutting is an accurate, reliable, and notably faster technique compared to others, particularly when intricate cuts are required. Nonetheless, plasma cutters excel at generating high temperatures, allowing them to swiftly slice through materials. Their speed surpasses oxy or waterjet cutting, making plasma cutting a preferred choice for efficient metal fabrication.
Laser cutting is renowned for its exceptional precision. It enables dimensional accuracy, with tolerances as tight as less than 0.005”. Moreover, it allows for narrow cut widths, reaching as thin as less than 0.003”. This results in clean and precise cuts for intricate designs.
Plasma cutters excel at delivering clean cuts in steel sheets, offering a tolerance of approximately +/- 0.01” to 0.03”. However, as the material thickness increases, the precision of the cut may slightly decrease due to the plasma’s attempt to melt through a larger volume of material. This can lead to minimal slag formation.
Plasma Cutting Advantages
The plasma cutter is one of the most specialized and widely used equipments for quick and easy cutting. It is a versatile device that offers the following advantages:
Different kinds of metal can be cut with plasma. Likewise, any conductive metal — including steel, iron, copper, brass, aluminum, stainless steel, and other hard materials — can be cut using an electric arc. Plasma may also cut objects stacked on top of one another.
Portability and Ease of Use
Plasma cutters’ portability and ease of use make them highly practical and convenient tools for various applications. Due to their compact design and lightweight nature, plasma cutters can also be easily transported to different job sites.
Plasma cutting is a cost-effective process with faster cutting speeds and minimal waste. This translates to lower consumer costs, making it more economical than other cutting techniques.
Plasma cutters excel in achieving precise and accurate cuts, particularly when working with sheet metal and intricate shapes. However, it does require skilled operators with steady hands to ensure optimal results.
Laser Cutting Advantages
Laser cutting is one of the go-to manufacturing technologies of today. It offers the same benefits as plasma cutting, including versatility, ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and precision cuts. Aside from that, it also provides the following advantages:
When using a laser cutter, switching out equipment between cuts is unnecessary. Several forms can be cut out of the same material thickness with the same configurations, including intricate cuts.
One of the main benefits of laser cutting over other thermal cutting techniques is accuracy. With a +/-0.1 mm accuracy, great precision can be attained without post-treatment. Such a high quality typically negates the need for different tolerances.
Laser cutting can be highly automated, minimizing the need for manual labor. While an experienced operator contributes to the final product’s quality, the speed and efficiency of laser-cutting automation result in cost savings.
Exceptional Laser Cutting Solutions From Metal Works of High Point
Metal Works of High Point is committed to helping clients reduce manufacturing costs without compromising quality. Our metal laser cutting services increase fabrication process efficiency and lower production costs.
With 3-axis laser cutting systems and experienced professionals on our team, we can handle all your custom laser cutting requirements. Additionally, our system is capable of 24-hour metal-cutting operations for guaranteed efficiency.
Contact us for more information on our metal laser cutting services.
Laser cutting is a manufacturing process that offers higher cutting accuracy, cleaner cut edges, and faster production speeds than many other metalworking methods. For these reasons, among others, it finds use within a wide range of industries. Below, we highlight seven of the top industry applications for laser cut metal parts and products.
In the appliances industry, metal components are incorporated into many consumer products, such as battery terminals in smoke detectors, brackets in garage door opens, timer terminals in washers, and valve caps in extinguishers. These pieces can be made through various methods, but laser cutting is often the ideal solution. It reduces the risk of the products experiencing mechanical deformation, eliminates the need to replace tooling when it is worn, easily accommodates designs for different products, and decreases the need for post-processing to produce appliance pieces that are ready for assembly.
In the automotive industry, manufacturers use a variety of metal components to produce vehicles. Since automobiles are generally produced in high volumes to meet demand, these metal components need to be produced accurately, precisely, and quickly. The laser cutting process offers both of these qualities, which is why it is used to make metal pieces for the car structure, body, interior, and electronic systems.
In the contract furniture industry, metal components are essential for the production of durable furniture pieces. Brackets, connector plates, drawer inserts, and more help furniture remain sturdy and work as intended. They are incorporated into everything from chairs and tables to desks and cabinets. By using laser cutting to produce these components, contract furniture companies can ensure they fit properly. The process can also be utilized to create uniquely designed furniture pieces.
Die, Mold, and Tool
In the die, mold, and tool industry, laser cutting is used to make metal components for a range of tools and tooling, from hammers and spades to dies and molds. The components can be made from different materials to suit different applications and price points, such as aluminum, mild steel, and stainless steel. The process enables them to be produced quickly without sacrificing accuracy or precision.
In the telecommunications industry, companies utilize laser cutting to produce a variety of metal components for telecommunications systems and networks. Typical laser cut pieces include mounts and mounting brackets, chassis, cabinets, enclosures, racks, and panels.
In the transportation industry, the laser cutting process is employed in the production of components for various transportation vehicles, including airplanes, buses, trains, and ships. Examples of common laser cut parts and products used in this industry include brackets, instrument panels, and wheel hubs.
In the power generation industry, metal components are found in everything from solar arrays to wind turbines to power plants. Typical components made using the laser cutting process include battery enclosures, panel brackets, and power supply covers.
Custom Laser Cut Metal Solutions From Metal Works of High Point
Want to learn more about laser cutting and how it is utilized in different industries? Ask the experts at Metal Works of High Point! Our team has hundreds of years of combined experience providing metal fabrication solutions, including metal laser cutting, to customers across a wide range of industries. We would be happy to answer or address any questions or concerns you may have about the process and its applications. If you’d like to partner with us on your next project, request a quote.