Whenever a manufacturing process calls for the cutting of sheet metal, a decision must be made on what method should be used to do the job. There are many considerations to make in such an arrangement, including the type of material being cut, edge quality required, part geometry, costs, and more.

This article offers a comparison of those methods as well as a customer review of Boss Laser. This examination of methods should be beneficial when choosing a way of cutting sheet metal.

The most common methods of cutting sheet metal today are shear cutting (punching), EDM, plasma, waterjet, and lasers. Using water jets to cut metals was the most commonly used method from the 1930s until the 1960s when plasma and EDM were introduced. In the 1970s, laser manufacturing was created. It is difficult to determine with any accuracy when shear cutting was introduced since variations of the process date to before written records. By 2016, laser cutting had not only been introduced, but it quickly became the most significant player in the industry.

Laser Cutting Head to Head With Other Methods

When it comes to comparisons between cutting methods, each one comes down to two types: punching, and profile. Punching utilizes mechanical force to do the job while profile methods draw on geometry. Instead of presenting an analysis of these methods in a pro/con comparison, this list is a direct side-by-side look.

Laser vs. Punching

In many ways, punching is the quickest and easiest method of metal cutting since it utilizes a single mechanical hit to do the job. Unfortunately, this method uses a lot of tooling, so there must be enough production to justify related costs. There are also limitations to punching since it is difficult to work with thin webs. Many shops won’t do punch cutting since they find it challenging to handle these types of cuts.

By contrast, laser cutting uses soft methods to allow for changing designs that incur no fixed costs. This creates new opportunities for shops by allowing prototype development and even some short-run and even medium-run production. This economic reality was almost impossible to match in the past with punching. It might even be possible to enable shops to introduce mass-producing in the future, thanks to laser cutting. Another type of laser is a fiber laser, paving the way to more cost-conscience ways of introducing their use without making a huge investment. Many manufacturers are using both punch and laser cutting technologies in mass production.

Laser vs. Waterjet

Waterjet cutting is a versatile and cost-effective way to cut both nonmetals and metals. It is merely a mechanical process, so waterjet methods are considerably slower than other procedures. Waterjet also requires abrasives, which can present their own set of challenges, but it is still a viable cutting method for many uses. There are also costs associated with waterjet cutting that are not an issue with lasers. These include a resulting abrasives pile, nozzle wear, and the cost of powders.

Laser vs. EDM

Those manufacturers that use EDM all have one factor in common: they meet close tolerances, frequent microns, or less. EDM is an excellent process for cutting thick metals, especially when they need to be taper-free. Just like waterjet, EDM is a very slow method. EDM is capable of producing batch cutting, which is often done to justify the added cost.

Laser vs. Plasma

Plasma is an excellent method of cutting virtually any thickness of metal. There are disadvantages to plasma, most notable being the high heat required and the rougher cuts in many cases, but the biggest drawback to this method is its reduced accuracy. This problem has been made up for in recent years with the growing use of fiber lasers

The cross-over in limitations of thickness between these two processes is expected to change to a higher degree to favor fiber lasers in the future. Laser power availability continues to increase, which will allow for cutting of ever-growing thicknesses.

Laser vs. CO2

In the past few years, a revolution of sorts has taken place in the laser cutting industry with the introduction of fiber lasers. A primary reason for this is the reliability of the process in cutting metals faster, the ease of cutting reflective metals like brass and copper, the absence of maintenance needs, and the lower operating cost.

CO2 has been capable of cutting smoother edges in head to head tests, especially with thicker metals. Still, this advantage has diminished over time with the introduction of fiber lasers and the resulting popularity of this method.

Which Method is Right For You?

In the past few years, laser cutting methods have established a well-earned reputation as a fast, reliable, and economical way to cut metals. This is true even when compared to other cutting techniques. As a result, when most shops consider the purchase of a cutting tool, they often choose lasers as the most desirable choice.

Is Fiber Laser Cutting the Most Economical Method for Use on Your Project?

Higher production costs have forced many shops to carefully examine their cutting methods to make themselves more competitive or even excel in their market. Fortunately, laser cutting technology has paved the way for these methods not only when costs are considered but cut quality and economic reality have forced their hands. This kind of comparison was not possible in years past since the choices of methods used were so limited. Recently, however, with the growing availability of laser cutting equipment and greater efficiency in terms of lowering costs, the shift toward change is coming faster and with much less resistance on the part of users.

Laser cutting makes sense in terms of not only better parts made with greater accuracy, but the economic reality has set in with makers who are being forced to consider alternative ways to do business and maintain the vitality of their business in the long run. Laser cutting makes good business sense for now as well as in the future.

Sheet Metal Forming is a process of cutting sheet metals in such a way to modify its arrangements, view stamping simulation. Laser cutting method has been recognized for being a fast, dependable, and inexpensive way of cutting metals

The most common method of Sheet Metal Fabrication is punching, EDM, plasma, water jet and laser. But among all of them, laser is playing one of the most significant roles in the industry.