What is involved in sheet metal laser cutting?

A laser cutter is used to cut a sheet of metal.

When it comes to sheet metal cutting, laser cutting is the preferred processing method for producing precision machined parts because it creates more precise and smoother lines than mechanical cutting. The flat sheet material laser cutting process uses a machine that sends a laser beam through the material it cuts using heat. Once the subject of science fiction stories, laser machining is becoming increasingly prevalent in industrial applications as laser cutting machines become more affordable.

Laser cutting is often used to make precision machined parts from sheet metal.

Even as sheet metal laser cutting machines are becoming more affordable, they still use a significant amount of electrical energy to produce lasers hot enough to melt sheet metal such as steel. Laser cutting machines can use anywhere from 1,000 watts to over 8,000 watts of power to produce a laser. Laser beams used in industrial laser cutting can vary in thickness. Typically, the thinner the laser, the more heat it can produce, so very thin lasers are often used for laser cutting sheet metal.

Most industrial laser cutting machines come in three types: moving material, flying optics, and hybrid configuration. The moving material setting is popular in sheet metal laser cutting because the flat sheet material moves while the laser remains stationary at a fixed distance from the sheet metal. Laser cutting machines with flying optics work in the opposite direction, with a moving laser and a fixed plate. The hybrid configuration for sheet laser cutting machines allows the sheet and laser to move.

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Several different types of lasers can be used for sheet metal laser cutting and engraving. Lasers used in cutting sheet metal such as steel or aluminum are the same types of lasers also used in welding, called carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) lasers, neodymium (Nd) lasers or yttrium-neodymium lasers. aluminium-garnet (Nd-YAG). Typically, Nd and Nd-YAG lasers are used for drilling and engraving, while CO 2 lasers are more commonly used for cutting sheet metal and other materials.

In sheet metal laser cutting, there are several factors that affect the type of laser used in different applications. The type of metal can greatly affect the thickness and intensity of the laser beam used because certain metals such as aluminum can conduct heat away from the laser, making laser cutting less efficient. For thicker sheets, laser cutting machines sometimes use a method called reactive cutting to efficiently cut carbide or thick metal. Pulsating lasers can also make precise holes in sheet metal.

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