Laser cutting is a manufacturing process that utilizes a high-powered laser to cut various designs into materials. Due to its accuracy, precision, speed, efficiency, and value, among other reasons, it is commonly used in sheet metal fabrication projects. The following article provides an in-depth discussion on the process’s advantages, outlining why you should choose it and how it compares to other sheet metal cutting processes.
Why Choose Laser Cutting for Sheet Metal Fabrication Projects?
There are many reasons why a manufacturer would choose to use laser cutting over other cutting methods for their sheet metal fabrication projects, such as:
- Higher accuracy and precision. Laser cutting equipment generally integrates CNC technology, which enables it to produce parts and products to tight tolerances with little to no variation from part to part and batch to batch. This quality ensures manufacturers can successfully make components that require complex and/or intricate cuts in low or high volumes. Additionally, since the laser melts the material rather than cutting it, the cut edges often require little to no post-cut deburring.
- Better speed and efficiency. Laser cutters can cut through materials at speeds of 20 to 70 inches per minute, depending on the component design and material. However, the cutting speed can be further increased by using multi-head lasers or multiple lasers. Additionally, the equipment can run continuously without operator oversight, resulting in high process efficiency. Combined, these qualities allow laser cutters to produce parts and products much faster than other cutting methods.
- Lower costs. As laser cutting equipment readily accepts automation, the laser cutting process often offers lower labor costs. Additionally, since lasers are less prone to wear than traditional cutting tools, the replacement tooling and equipment costs are also relatively low.
Laser Cutting vs. Traditional Sheet Metal Cutting Processes
While laser cutting can be a highly effective and efficient sheet metal cutting solution, it may not be appropriate for every project. Below, we outline how it stands up to traditional sheet metal cutting methods.
Punching is a shearing-type process that uses mechanical force to cut pieces out of a large sheet of material in a single stroke. This translates to fast cutting speeds. However, the process has high upfront tooling costs. As a result, it is most cost-effective for high-volume production runs.
Compared to laser cutting, punching is subject to greater design limitations. It is not suitable for producing certain components, such as those with fine or thin details.
The waterjet cutting process is highly versatile; it can be used for metal and non-metal materials. However, since it fundamentally relies on mechanical force to cut through materials, harder and thicker materials can be challenging for it. For these materials, it requires more cutting force and, consequently, more cutting time.
Compared to laser cutting, waterjet cutting offers slower cutting speeds and broader kerfs. Additionally, it requires more consumable materials and maintenance, which makes it better suited for manufacturers who perform low to moderate amounts of sheet metal cutting operations.
Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is ideal for cutting high-value parts made from thick metal to tight tolerances and fine finishes. However, it offers slow cutting speeds, regardless of material thickness.
Compared to laser cutting, EDM is much slower. The cutting speed cannot be scaled up between thick to thin sheets, and pilot holes must be pre-drilled into the material to initiate the cutting operation. Additionally, unlike laser cutting, EDM can only be used for conductive materials since the cutting process works by forming a micro-arc between a thin wire and the material.
Expert Laser Cutting Solutions at JTV Manufacturing
Laser cutting offers many advantages over other sheet metal cutting methods, such as higher accuracy and precision, better speed and efficiency, and lower costs. These qualities make it a strong choice for many fabrication projects. However, when choosing laser cutting for a sheet metal fabrication project, it is important that you partner with an experienced aluminum, steel, and stainless steel laser cutting company. This ensures they have the knowledge and skills to avoid mistakes and meet design specs, both of which are essential to completing the project on time and on budget.
Look for a laser cutting partner you can count on? Turn to the fabrication experts at JTV Manufacturing! We’ve provided world-class quality and competitively priced products and services, including laser cutting, for over 20 years. To learn more about our capabilities, check out our laser cutting page or contact us today. To discuss your project requirements with one of our team members, request a quote.