There are many different methods that metal fabricators use to cut metal, but laser cutting is one of the most advanced techniques. A laser cutter’s ability to make precise cuts at speeds unmatched by other flat sheet cutting methods makes it one of the best sheet metal fabrication choices. There are several benefits to this method of cutting, including:

Competitive Pricing

Laser cutting is a highly automated process, making labor costs minimal when compared to hand-operated machinery. Since costs associated with sheet metal fabrication include labor, operation and machine expenses, this is an important factor to consider. The operating costs and machine costs are fairly average compared to other cutting techniques.

Generally, companies will find that outsourcing laser cutting for their sheet metal fabrication is the most effective option for most projects. Laser-cutting machines can be quite expensive, and most companies find that it is easier and less expensive to outsource this aspect of their fabrication process. 

One of the great things about laser cutters is that there are no dull or worn blades to worry about, making die changeovers a thing of the past. This also means that by placing larger orders, you can reduce costs tremendously, as the automated system does the mapping and planning for each additional piece. 

Although laser cutting isn’t the cheapest cutting technology available, it’s more than affordable for most projects. It has some major benefits over other cutting forms, such as water jet cutting or hand cutting processes.

Unrivaled Speed, Efficiency & Automation

A laser cutting machine can move as quickly as 1,000 holes per minute. Of course, the exact speed will vary depending on the tolerances and intricacy of the parts.

CNC controls typically run laser cutting. The formulas entered into the computer mean each part and product is identically fabricated, leading to fewer defects per batch.

Quality Precision

Laser cutting can create tiny cuts at tight tolerances. However, that’s the tradeoff: the more precision you want, the slower the laser will move. Yet, this highly detailed capability is unique to laser cutting. So, laser cutting is the only type of cutting that will get the job done well if you require intricate cuts.

Beyond that, all laser-cut edges and curves are smooth, sharp, and clean, which means there is very little, if any, burring because the laser melts rather than physically cuts the metal.

The only thing to consider is if your project requires very thick sheets of metal – thicker metals affect the cut’s quality, and a laser will leave some dross (melted metal scum) behind on thick metals. Aside from this dross, there is little to no clean-up involved in the majority of laser cutting projects.

Versatility

The combination of cost, speed, automation, and precision makes laser cutting a great choice for any size product or project. This makes many routine tasks/projects easy, including prototypes, industrial orders, delicate designs, and larger cutouts. Lasers are capable of making holes, slots, tabs, and other cut fabrications with no interruption of the cutting process. The incredible precision allows for tight tolerances on intricately detailed designs. If your project doesn’t require tight tolerances, the laser can move quickly and produce parts at incredible speeds. This makes laser cutting a fantastic choice for a wide spectrum of projects.

Yarbrough Industries is proud to offer laser cutting services for your next fabrication product. We can fabricate any order, whether it includes prototypes, components, or final assemblies. We adhere to the belief that high-quality results can only be achieved through the use of high-quality equipment. Laser cutting offers the ability to cut through various materials and thicknesses at high speeds, producing extremely precise and accurate cuts.

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Manufacturers typically use one of two major cutting processes when cutting material for a project. These are known as laser cutting and water jet cutting. The choice of one or the other may be better depending on the type of material used and the desired end result. This article explains some of the basic differences between these fabrication processes and the materials and types of projects that they work well with.

Laser Cutting

A laser cutter relies on gas, typically CO2, for energy. The CO2 is transmitted through a beam, guided by mirrors, and directed at the material that will be cut. With CO2 lasers, the laser source is located inside the machine, and the beam can output between 1500 and 2600 Watts, which makes safety a primary concern and can occasionally increase the price point on a laser cutting job. Materials and applications, as well as precision and safety, are important factors to think about when considering laser cutting.

Materials and Applications

Laser cutters work well with a wide variety of materials, making them an easy choice for plastic, glass, wood, and most metals. It is important to note that laser cutters cannot be used on reflective metals. It can also work on material combinations as long as that combination consists of materials with similar melting points. If the materials have different melting points, it can be rather difficult to cut. Sandwich structures with cavities cannot be cut at all using a laser, and materials with limited access prove difficult as well. 3D material cutting is also hard to manage because of the rigid beam guidance with the mirrors. 

Laser cutters do well with materials that range between 0.12 in and 0.4 in thickness and are commonly used to cut flat sheets of medium thickness steel. Typically, a laser cutter performs cutting, welding, drilling, engraving, ablation, and structuring.           

Precision and Safety

Lasers are great when you want precision. The minimum size of a laser cutting slit can reach 0.006 in, depending on the speed of the laser. It is good to note that thinner workpieces may suffer from gas pressure if the proper distance cannot be maintained, and partial burring does occur frequently. Deformation and minor structural changes can occur as a result of thermal stress, and the cut material will appear striated. 

Laser cutting produces smoke and dust, and some plastics and metals may produce toxic fumes, so being aware that those could impact time and cost is important. The overall risk involved in working with laser cutting machines is very low, however, and your time and budget can benefit from the minimal amount of waste produced and subsequent ease of cleanup. 

Waterjet Cutting

Waterjet cutters use pressurized water to cut materials. There are often abrasives such as garnets and aluminum oxide added to increase cutting ability.  The overall process mimics erosion in nature, just at a much higher speed and concentration: a high-pressure pump drives the water through rigid hoses, resulting in a forceful water jet—a typical water jet can output between 4 to 7 kilowatts. Unlike a laser cutter, where the laser source is located inside the machine, the work area and pump are often separate.     

Material and Applications

Water jets can cut virtually any material including combination materials—with combination materials. However, water jets pose the threat of delamination. They can sometimes handle 3D material cutting, and exhibit limited ability with sandwich structures and cavities. Cutting materials with limited access is possible but difficult. 

Water jets usually perform cutting, ablation, and structuring, specifically with materials like stone, ceramics, and thick metals. Materials that range in thickness from 0.4 to 2 inch benefit from water jet cutting.

Precision and Safety

Waterjet cutting is not quite as precise as laser cutting, with a minimum cut size slit of .02”. Because of the high level of force used, thin, small, parts do not fare well and must be handled carefully. Although thermal stress is not an issue and burring doesn’t occur in the cut, the surface of the material will appear sand-blasted as a result of the added abrasive to the waterjet. The waterjet cutting process is quite noisy, and requires a significant amount of clean up, which could mean a bit more labor cost. There is also a large amount of waste that occurs as a result of the mixed water and abrasive. 

 

At Yarbrough industries, we specialize in laser and waterjet cutting. Learn more about our services and how we can help you with your next project.

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This industry moves fast, but you can move even faster if you’re up to date on trends, technical developments, and best practices. The Yarbrough Industries blog is a go-to source for valuable, timely and detailed information. Sign up to ensure that you don’t miss a single post.