On Laser Cutting Methods for Steel and Other Metals

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On Laser Cutting Methods for Steel and Other Metals

laser cutting steel metals

There are certain metal and steel processes that have become much more viable for public use over the years, and one example here is the laser cutting process. Once only available to high-end companies or entities with deep pockets, the laser cutting process has become simpler and more affordable with improving technology, and is now accessible for a variety of manufacturers, contractors and others in the metal world.

At Wasatch Steel, we’re happy to help with a wide variety of steel services, including steel shearing, punching, bending and several others. We’re experienced with all the relevant processes that may be carried out for steel and other metals, including laser cutting. What is this process used for, what are its types available, and what are the benefits associated with laser-cut steel? Here’s a primer.

What is Metal Laser Cutting?

Metal laser cutting is the process of using a laser to cut metal plates, sheets, or tubes. Metal can be cut at any time and any location, since it does not require any contact with the metal being worked with. This technique produces very accurate and crisp lines with little distortion to the surrounding areas of the material.

Laser cutting technology uses a focused beam of light that cuts through metals. Its cutter is connected to a CNC, or Computer Numerical Control machine, which uses software to digitally design a prototype and then translate the cutting instructions to the cutter.

The laser cutter was first introduced to the metal world in 1965, and it quickly grew in popularity. By just a couple years later, it was being used by the British in various aerospace applications. Today, it’s used in numerous industries and areas.

Types of Metal Laser Cutting

There are three different major types of laser metal cutting available today: Carbon dioxide, YAG and Nd options. Here are some basics on each:

  • Carbon Dioxide laser cutting: This type of laser uses carbon dioxide and compressed air to cut through metal. It’s available in portable and stationary models, which can be attached to a machine or mounted on the floor for use.
  • Metal YAG: This type of laser cutting involves using a glass tube that is filled with yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) crystals to create a laser beam. It’s often used for cutting metal sheets, including iron and aluminum.
  • Neodymium-doped (Nd): This type of laser is the most powerful and highest quality option available to manufacturers today. You’ll need an industrial setting to use this method, but the results are more accurate with precise cuts that last longer. The Nd is often used in low-repetition projects.

Advantages of Utilizing Laser Cutting

There are many advantages of utilizing laser cutting. One of the major benefits is the variety of materials that can be cut, which includes anything from iron to aluminum and steel sheets. There’s no distortion of the surrounding areas, since the cutter doesn’t touch the material being worked on; this same theme also means there is no damage created to your tools during the process, unlike certain other cutting processes that are known to wear down tools over time.

Laser cutting also requires less manpower to complete projects, providing cost-effectiveness in this sense as well. It’s also safer than other methods, making it a much more popular and worthwhile option to choose for many settings. The lack of danger in this technique makes it ideal for large jobs that not only need precision, but also present risks if completed with old-fashioned techniques. In addition, lasers can be used during all hours of the day, making them available at all times.

The precision and accuracy of laser cutting also makes it very attractive to many contractors. Laser cutters can follow instructions from a computer that are up to a fraction of a millimeter, creating precise products with detailed standards. You can also address complex bends and shapes with this technology, making it one of the best methods available today.

This process also has an extremely short cycle time, which may make it even more cost-effective. It’s a great way to get the job done quickly and on-budget without sacrificing quality or precision. In addition, the results are clean and seamless in appearance with no burrs, so there’s minimal clean up afterwards.

The only downside with the process is that it requires a lot of space, including industrial setting space for the neodymium-doped version specifically. The other two versions require a smaller but still significant amount of space.

Addition of a Bending Machine

In many settings, you should be strongly considering adding a bending machine to your facility if you’re also bringing in laser cutters. A bending machine makes dies for the cutting machine, bending and creasing sheet metal into various different shapes.

Bending machines can be used by themselves or alongside laser cutters. The need for a bending machine depends on the size of your operation and its goals. A metalworking shop with an excellent relationship with their local school district may want to invest in a laser cutting machine, for instance, but would not need a bending machine.

Bending machines are available for purchase in bulk, often with a significant discount. They can also be rented or leased if you aren’t interested in making a large initial investment. They are easy to use and easy to maintain, so there’s no real reason not to get your hands on one for your operation if you’re also utilizing laser cutters.

For more on metal and steel laser cutting, or to learn about any of our steel products or services, speak to the staff at Wasatch Steel today.