Cutting of metals during fabrication is often unavoidable. There are various techniques that a metal fabrication specialist can use to can cut their raw material into rightly-sized pieces or sheets.
Laser cutting is among the techniques referred to and it often costs more than to have metals laser-cut. This article compares laser cutting to other cutting techniques in a bid to justify the often higher cost of this technique. Trainee fabricators should find this information particularly useful
Laser Cutting vs Conventional Machining
Conventional machining refers to the use of traditional-style machines to cut metals during fabrication. Lathes, drill presses and metal milling machines are examples of traditional-style machines used to cut metal.
One of the main advantages that laser cutting has over conventional machining is that it protects the structural integrity of metals being cut. This advantage is explained in two ways. First, laser cutting machines don't come into direct contact with the metal(s) under fabrication. Thus, chances of metal contamination during the cutting process are lowered significantly, if not eliminated completely.
Secondly, laser cutting machines deliver lower quantities of heat to a metal than their traditional-style counterparts do. This limits the extent (read size) of the heat-affected zone on the surface of the metal. As such, chances that the metal will deform or warp around the location of the cut are significantly lower with the laser process.
Laser vs Water-Jet Cutting
Water-jet cutting is often said to be a more eco-friendly cutting technique. This is becausethe raw materials used for this process (water and abrasive garnets) are both recyclable.
However, fabricators need to understand that the water-jet cutting process will create a greater mess (produce more waste) as compared to that usually created by the laser process. Thus, water-jet cutters will require a greater degree of post-operation clean-up than their laser counterparts.
Additionally, speed is of the essence for metal fabrication specialists. In situations where large-scale fabrication of metals is required, water-jet cutting will often fail to deliver the speed required to keep up with the pace of the metal fabrication process.
Laser vs Plasma Cutting
Plasma cutting is often preferred over laser cutting for the fact that it can be used to cut through highly reflective metals without much ado.
However, the laser process is advantageous over plasma cutting in the sense that it can be used for a number of alternative processes (e.g. welding, engraving and drilling) in addition to cutting the metal. The plasma process is only good for making cuts.