What is Laser Cutting?
As a business owner or manufacturing professional looking into various cutting processes, you might be wondering: how does laser cutting work? This thermal separation process is one of the most precise cutting methods on the market, having been fine-tuned since the first prototype made its debut in 1960. By the mid 1970s, laser cutting became a common commercial process. So, how does laser cutting work and should you pursue this time-tested method for your next project? Here, we’ll break down the specifics and help you decide if it’s right for your business.
How a Laser Cutting Machine Works
Laser cutting machines use a focused beam of high-intensity light to cut through various materials, such as metals, plastics, and wood. Inside the machine, lasing materials are stimulated through electrical discharges or lamps. The light is reflected internally via a partial mirror, which amplifies until it has enough energy to escape as a stream of light. The light is then focused at the cutting material by mirrors or fiber optics that direct the beam through the lens, allowing it to make a cut. Laser cutting machines also are often hooked up to computer numerical control (CNC), allowing the laser to run based on a design file.
Laser Cutting Advantages
When you choose to pursue the laser cutting process, your operation will receive a range of benefits.
Laser cutting can cut through a wide range of materials, which makes it an extremely versatile choice for many projects.
Because laser cutting machines are extremely precise and accurate, they can create intricate and complex cuts with high levels of detail. This makes them perfect for cutting materials for various industries, including the aerospace, automotive, and electronics sectors.
Speed and Efficiency
Laser cutting is an extremely fast, efficient process, which reduces production times and costs. They can also often be run unattended, which reduces labor costs and puts more money in your pocket.
The narrow laser beam allows for tighter nesting of parts, which reduces the amount of scrap material. This provides major benefits to your bottom line.
Laser Cutting Disadvantages
While laser cutting does offer a wide range of benefits, it’s not without its disadvantages.
Metal Thickness and Material Limitations
Laser cutting can be used on a wide range of materials, but there are some materials that aren’t suitable for laser cutting, like reflective or transparent materials. Additionally, laser cutting can normally only cut materials up to two inches thick. However, this number will differ depending on the machine.
The laser beam heats the material and causes it to melt or vaporize, though this is more common with materials that have low melting points. While any evaporation is not ideal, adjusting the laser cutting parameters can minimize this issue.
Laser Cutting vs. Plasma Cutting
Chances are, if you’re looking to pursue a new type of cutting process, you may be choosing between laser cutting and plasma cutting. While laser cutting and plasma cutting are similar, they have distinct differences that we must address.
A laser cutting machine uses a concentrated beam of optic light, whereas plasma uses a concentrated channel of electrically conductive gas. While plasma can cut through thicker sheets of metal than laser cutting machines, they can only cut materials that conduct electricity. If you’re looking to cut a metal that doesn’t conduct electricity, you won’t be able to use a plasma cutting machine.
Additionally, lasers are typically more accurate than plasma cutting systems. The laser beam is much narrower than the plasma arc, resulting in a smaller kerf width. As such, the laser cutting machine can achieve much higher levels of precision and accuracy in cutting complex shapes and small details. A laser also produces a cleaner cut with minimal heat-affected zones, and typically produces less material waste than plasma.
Work with C.R. Metal Products for Your Laser Cutting Needs
As a leading metal fabrication and metal finishing company, we regularly help customers with their laser cutting projects. With our robust facilities and state-of-the-art equipment, we can take on even the most challenging projects. Our facilities maintain ISO 9001:2000 certifications, which hold us to the highest standards in manufacturing excellence. Additionally, our team is focused on providing the best customer service for our customers, making it enjoyable and easy to do business with us. Since our inception in 1946, we’ve helped hundreds of partners with their manufacturing needs, and we’re ready to do the same for you.
Contact Us Today
When you’re ready to pursue laser cutting services, we’ll be here to help. Contact us today.