Guide of Using Laser Cutting in Sheet Metal Fabrication
The technology of laser cutting technology has grown greatly over recent years. From fictional cosmic ray guns to eventually harnessing the power of light the use of laser is more widespread compared to the past. Such as serving in delicate surgical gear to the more robust use of laser sheet metal fabrication industry. At Creatingway, we mainly use laser cutting due to its great precision either with help of a computer or a steady hand.
What Is Laser Cutting?
The acronym LASER means Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. How it works is through the excitement of elemental atoms in a controlled environment. This causes an electron in the atoms to change in positions of their orbits. They take a more energetic path around the nucleus when they go back to their original positions. This releases a stream of light energy. The light produced is entirely in phase and of the same wavelength. It also consists of photons that focus on it through a lens. To greatly increase the power of this light, we have to concentrate it into a single beam.
The factors affecting the laser cutting’s ability include its ability to focus the beam and the power of the laser. We have to compactly focus the beam as much as possible to make it more powerful. Like all cutting tools, the laser also has a width and should be considered during designing sheet metal parts. This width is known as laser kerf. Despite the kerf being smaller when compared to other cutting tools, it should be compensated for while making a sheet metal fabrication design.
What Are Your Options for Laser Cutting?
Despite laser cutting sounding like the ideal process for sheet metal fabrication, it still faces stiff competition from other great options. Here is further insight into these options.
The sheet metal fabrication process involves punching a press through a metal. This results in the creation of the desired form. However, when compared to laser cutting, the process out on edge quality and accuracy. The part made usually needs deburring to make the edge smoother. Also, the process is not compatible with brittle or hardened metals. They can easily break during the pressing phase. Laser cutting does not face similar challenges. The punch press makes up for this downside by its ability to make multiple parts. This is after setting up and programming the punch press.
Waterjet cutting involves the combination of water and an abrasive powder. Then, we force through a nozzle at high pressure, making it cut through metal. When compared to milling, it is accurate but not as accurate as using laser cutting. Also, the edge quality is lost due to the water jet distortion while slicing through the metal.
The process of milling is considerably fast with an accuracy of 0.0003 inches. End mills can create high-quality edges and also work with 3D media when compared to laser cutting. However, it takes time to program and set up the mill for the process to begin. This will affect the lead time of the sheet metal fabrication process thus increasing cost.
The process of wire EDM involves passing electricity through a thin charged copper or brass wire. This creates a spark in between the wire and material being cut. Another wire completes the circuit allowing the flow of electricity. The spark created cuts through metal accurately. To ensure a limit to the cutting path, the whole sheet metal fabrication process is inside a dielectric fluid. The fluid does not conduct electricity and doubles as a cooling agent for the process. However, when compared to laser cutting, it is a slow process but makes up for its inaccuracy. It reaches up to 0.0001 inches. The significant limit to this process is the need to have an electrically conductive metal, otherwise, cutting will not occur.
Sheet Metal Fabrication Laser Cutting Services
The use of laser cutting in the metal fabrication industry has made it rapid, safer, and more accurate. Laser cutting has unique features of great power and versatility. The aspect of versatility happens due to its ability to shift seamlessly between cutting in straight lines to subtle precisions of making gentle curves. Thus, earning it’s right becoming a very important tool for modern-day machinist and designers in making complex sheet metal parts. it is ideal for making louvers and flanges that are burr-free edges, thus does not require the additional cost of extra tooling.
We have made our sheet metal fabrication services at Creatingway geared for speed. It relies on the materials and part geometry to cut suing fiber laser or CO2 laser. The punch press is good for simpler parts since it’s more economical and efficient. A CNC laser on the other hand cut more complex features finer that are thinner and more reflective. The CO2 works best with thicker gauge materials that require more power.
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