Laser cutting is a complex industrial technology used to precisely and efficiently slice metals and other materials into desired shapes and sizes for a range of manufacturing applications. The laser-cutting process leverages a high-powered laser to burn, melt away, or vaporize undesired materials, leaving behind a high-quality, surface-finished edge.
How Accurate Is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting is an efficient, safe, and extremely accurate method compared to other traditional sheet metal-cutting techniques. The laser-cutting process leverages a computer-operated program to carefully cut materials within an acceptable accuracy range. The laser-cutting process can also be integrated with CAD software that guides the laser to make its cuts. Ideally, laser cutting can focus on about 25 microns, which is about ¼ of the width of a strand of human hair. Additionally, the cut width can be extremely small, at less than 0.001 inches. On the other hand, the dimensional accuracy is typically quite precise, at about ± 0.0005 inches.
Why Is Laser Cutting Accurate?
Since it is computer-guided, laser cutting ensures outstanding precision and enhanced safety when making cuts. Some of the features that make laser cutting extremely accurate include:
Coherent Photons: The laser-cutting mechanisms leverage a consistent stream of photons synchronized to one steady and intense energy beam to increase preciseness. The steady beam of lights fastidiously slices through metal, glass, and more.
Low Laser-Cutting Tolerances: The resultant cuts with laser-cutting mechanisms typically boast a very low range of variation from the intended design. Compared to manual cutting, the laser is a lot faster and more exact, with guaranteed identical and rapid cuts each time.
Fiber Optics Precision: Modern and advanced laser cutters leverage fiber optic lenses to guide and control the laser positioning from the laser head. This ensures the point of precision is much clearer and more direct for the laser beam.
Less Damage to Material: Compared with other methods, laser cutting doesn’t damage the material surrounding the cut because the laser beam doesn’t directly contact your material. Ideally, it is the heat that is cutting the material. Less material damage ensures more consistent results.
High Intricacy: Laser-cutting machines are ideal for undertaking highly intricate and detailed work due to their guaranteed fidelity, unmatched control, and low tolerance.
Factors That Affect Laser Cutting Accuracy
To achieve a higher level of impeccability with laser cutting, consider the following factors:
Material Type: A smoother or thinner material can give you a more exact cut. You should use appropriate machine settings for each type of material and material composition.
Laser Beam Spot Size: Using a smaller laser beam spot size guarantees more meticulous cuts compared to wider spot sizes.
Laser Power Level: Consider using more powerful laser beams with higher intensity to cut through thicker materials for flawless, even cuts.
Workbench Accuracy: How you position the workpiece material on the bench can also affect the veracity of the cuts. A workbench that is not well stabilized can cause vibrations, making the process lose its fidelity to the original design.
Contact JTV Manufacturing for Laser Cutting Services
Laser cutting clearly offers several advantages over traditional cutting techniques. In addition to extreme precision, laser cutting also guarantees low lead times, reduced waste, decreased costs, and the ability to handle even the most complex jobs, thanks to its unparalleled exactitude and amazingly low tolerance levels. JTV Manufacturing boasts state-of-the-art laser-cutting services for customers in a variety of demanding industries. Our experts focus on delivering world-class quality at competitive prices. Contact us today for a quote.
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.