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Pros and Cons of Laser Cutting: What You Need to Know

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Looking for a revolutionary way to cut materials with precision, speed, and flexibility? Look no further than laser cutting!

This cutting-edge technology uses a highly focused laser beam to melt, vaporize, or ignite materials, resulting in high-quality cuts with minimal heat-affected zones.

But before you dive headfirst into the world of laser cutting, it’s important to understand both its advantages and disadvantages.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about laser cutting, including its benefits, limitations, and how it stacks up against traditional cutting methods.

So buckle up and get ready to learn about the future of manufacturing!

I. What Is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting involves using a focused laser beam to quickly melt, vaporize, or reach the ignition point of the material being worked on. The melted or vaporized material is then removed by an auxiliary airflow to complete the cutting process.

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The laser beam can be focused into a very small spot, resulting in a concentrated heat source and high radiation intensity. This is what sets laser cutting apart from traditional cutting methods like oxyacetylene flame cutting and plasma cutting.

With its high-quality cuts, fast cutting speed, flexibility, and ability to work with a wide range of materials, laser cutting aligns with the trend of upgrading and transforming the manufacturing industry.

Laser cutting principle

II. Types of Laser Cutting Processes

Process TypeDescription
Fusion CuttingThe process involves directing the incoming laser beam onto the metal sheet. When the laser power reaches a certain critical value, it causes the localized area to melt, achieving the desired cutting effect.
Vaporization CuttingThis method uses a high-power density laser beam to heat the material, avoiding the burrs and slag formed by melting due to heat conduction. Some of the material vaporizes into steam and disappears, leaving the processed material edges looking rather aesthetic.
Oxidation CuttingThe oxygen sprayed from the nozzle is ignited by the laser beam, causing an intense chemical reaction that generates heat processing. For brittle materials prone to heat damage, the laser beam is used for fast, controlled cutting, creating a significant thermal gradient and mechanical deformation in the area, leading to the formation of cracks in the material. This process is also known as controlled fracturing cutting.

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III. Advantages of Laser Cutting

  • High-Quality Cuts: Laser cutting results in a narrow cut with good parallelism and perpendicularity, a smooth cutting surface, and a small heat-affected zone.
  • Fast and Efficient: Laser cutting is much faster than traditional cutting methods. For example, using a 1200W CO2 laser to cut a 2mm thick low-carbon steel plate can result in a cutting speed of 6 cuts per minute.
  • Flexible Processing: Laser cutting allows for cutting plate parts of any shape and size through programming. The cutting path can also be optimized to minimize material loss and reduce empty paths.
  • Wide Material Compatibility: Laser cutting can be used to cut almost any metal and non-metal materials, including those that are hard, have high melting points, are brittle, or are viscous.
AdvantagesSpecific Features
Superior Cutting QualityLaser cutting, characterized by a small laser spot and high energy density, achieves high-speed cutting and thus, excellent cutting quality.
High Cutting EfficiencyDue to the transmission characteristics of lasers, laser cutting machines typically come equipped with one or more CNC workbenches. The entire cutting process can be fully computer-controlled. By simply changing the CNC program, you can easily cut parts of different shapes. This setup permits both two-dimensional and three-dimensional cutting.
Fast Cutting SpeedWith its high energy density and non-contact nature, laser cutting can rapidly melt, vaporize, ablate, or ignite the material being cut, resulting in a fast cutting speed.
Non-contact CuttingDuring laser cutting, the cutting torch does not touch the workpiece, eliminating tool wear. When processing parts of different shapes, there’s no need to replace “tools”. You only need to adjust the output parameters of the laser. Laser cutting produces low noise, minimal vibration, and no pollution.
Versatility in Cutting MaterialCompared to traditional cutting technologies like oxyacetylene cutting and plasma cutting, laser cutting can handle a wider variety of materials. This includes metals, non-metals, metal-based and non-metal-based composite materials, leather, wood, and fibers.

IV. Laser Cutting vs Traditional Cutting

Cutting method:Brief introductionComparison with laser cutting
Thermal cuttingSuch as oxygen- combustible gas (such as acetylene) cutting and plasma cuttingWide cut, large heat affected area, obvious workpiece thermal deformation, non-metallic cutting is not allowed.
MachiningMechanical stamping, shearing, sawing and other processing methodsIt will cause blade deformation, burr and wear, wide incision, low material utilization rate, great threat to operator safety, and serious noise and dust pollution.
Electric machiningGenerally, there are two methods, EDM and electrochemical machining, which use electric corrosion and dissolution effect.
They are mostly used for fine machining of hard materials with good notch roughness.
The cutting speed is several orders of magnitude slower than laser cutting.
Water cuttingWhen water is pressurized to 2700 ~ 5500kg / cm2, many materials can be cut through the high-pressure water flow formed by the small-diameter sapphire nozzle.Many consumables, high operating costs, complex processes and low accuracy.

V. Disadvantages of Laser Cutting

  • Output Power Limitations: The cutting speed of laser cutting is slower than plasma arc cutting and is limited by the output power. This means that the cutting speed decreases when the thickness of the material being cut increases.
  • Thickness Limitations: Due to the limitations of laser power and equipment size, laser cutting can only be used to cut medium and small thickness plates and pipes. As the thickness of the material being cut increases, the cutting speed decreases significantly.
  • High Air Consumption: Laser cutting requires a large amount of air during the cutting process.
  • High Equipment Costs: The cost of laser cutting equipment is high, with a large one-time investment required.

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