For hundreds of years, working with metal was an incredibly labor-intensive and often imprecise art, but in the previous half-century, technology has greatly advanced. One of the primary advancements has been the development of laser cutting, the process of creating precision metal parts through lasers.
What exactly is laser cutting? What are its advantages and disadvantages? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more.
Although the term laser has entered common use as a well-understood term, you may be unfamiliar with the details of this technological marvel. In short, a laser is a highly concentrated bundle of light, all of the same color. A huge volume of light is generated by a resonator, bent by a mirror, focused by a lens, funneled through a nozzle, and finally, fired at the metal, leaving an incredibly precise cut.
Laser cutting was first employed in 1967 , which means we’ve had over 50 years to improve the technology and our understanding of its effects. Computers have greatly improved the usefulness of laser cutting, especially in an age where precision is more important than ever.
Most lasers use CO2 to create a wavelength in the infrared spectrum, meaning the laser is invisible to the naked eye. That said, the laser-cutting process delivers a lot of energy into the metal, which can result in a bright light, sparks, and heat. Fortunately, this in no way compromises the quality of the metal or the safety of the metalworkers.
The primary benefit of using a laser to cut metal is precision. Metalworkers have used more mundane tools for thousands of years, and while these tools have become very advanced and efficient, laser cutting achieves a level of precision unmatched by conventional means. This makes laser cutting the best choice for specialized pieces that require a high level of detail and accuracy.
Laser cutting is often faster than traditional tools, and because fewer tools are involved, this reduces the odds of contaminating the piece. Laser cutting heats a smaller portion of the metal than torches and similar tools, which means less of the metal is lost or compromised, particularly for thinner materials. Additionally, computer software allows for more efficient usage of sheet metal, reducing waste.
Laser-cutting equipment typically integrates with a computer, allowing for both increased precision and ease of automation. Because the work has minimal human intervention, this reduces work hours and injuries, resulting in lower prices. Additionally, lasers are very efficient with their energy usage, resulting in a lower power bill and less consumed fuel.
Considering how advanced technology has become in recent decades, you may not be surprised to learn that laser cutting has very few drawbacks. That said, the limits of laser cutting become apparent when you consider the diversity of materials in metal fabrication. While laser cutting is a great choice for common metals such as steel, other metals, such as copper and aluminum, can be more problematic.
Additionally, lasers have trouble cutting through metal if the metal is too thick. For example, a 6,000-watt laser can only penetrate stainless steel 2.75 inches deep. And, of course, lasers are expensive, so new or low-earning metal fabricators may not be able to afford high-quality laser cutting equipment.
If you want to employ cutting-edge laser cutting technology for an upcoming metal fabrication project, come to J & E Metal Fabricators, Inc . With years of experience under our belts and high-quality laser cutting equipment at our disposal, we’ll provide fabricated metal products that will serve you for years to come.