The Pros and Cons of Laser Cutting

Industrial & Manufacturing Blog

Laser cutting involves the use of a laser beam to heat a material to its melting point so that a desired cut is made. This article discusses some of the advantages and the disadvantages of laser cutting. Use this information to decide whether this cutting method should be used during the fabrication of your metal products (such as machine components).

The Pros

There is no contact with the material. The force used by a cutting tool can damage materials. Laser cutters do not touch the material being cut so the material will retain its condition after it has been cut.

There are fewer fabrication steps. Laser cutting eliminates many of the steps that other cutting methods require (such as deburring). This is because laser cutters make a clean cut that does not need to be processed. Fewer fabrication steps may translate into lower fabrication costs to you.

The degree of precision is higher. Laser cutting equipment depends on computer commands to make precise repeatable cuts in materials. This is different from other cutting methods (such as using hand tools to make cuts) that are prone to human error due to fatigue and skill level. Your products will have fewer defects if laser cutting is used.

Orders can be completed quickly. Laser cutting is very fast once the correct settings have been determined. For example, the machine can cut different sizes of holes at the same time so a material does not need to be fed into the machine more than once. Other cutting methods may require cuts of one dimension to be made before the machine is reconfigured to make cuts of another dimension. Such machines slow down how quickly an order can be delivered to you.

The Cons

Extreme care must be taken during surface preparation. The effectiveness of laser cutting tools can be lowered by the presence of impurities on the surface of the materials being cut. This is because those impurities (such as oil) can increase or lower the melting point of the material. Fabricators must therefore devote time to cleaning the surfaces thoroughly otherwise defects can result.

The set up time for rare materials can be long. Laser cutting requires precise settings of the volume of assist gas to be used, the laser cutting speed and other parameters. It can be laborious to determine which settings to use for cutting a rare material (such as an aluminum alloy you developed for making specialty parts) that the fabricator does not have in his or her database.

Discuss your cutting needs with an experienced metal fabricator. He or she will advise you on the suitability of laser cutting before you make your order.


1 March 2016

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