Laser Cutting Applications in Precision Machining
Laser cutting in precision machining is a high-tech machine that is used to precise-cut both metal and non-metal materials. It has gained tremendous popularity in both consumer electronics and industrial sectors. The hi-tech industry is increasingly replacing or complementing conventional cutting technology with laser cutting; while manufacturers gaining competitive advantages by implementing laser cutting machinery.
In this blog, we take a quick look at laser cutting applications in precision sheet metal fabrication.
Laser Cutting Basics
A laser cutter is made up of a laser resonator which produces the high-power beam and a mechanical system that moves the laser over the material in a computer-controlled pattern. In its simple form, a focused lens is used to concentrate all of the energy onto a precise point to remove the material (by melting, burning, and vaporizing away the material). An assist gas, such as oxygen or nitrogen, is then directed through a nozzle to expel the molten material, leaving an edge with a high-quality surface finish. This beam is normally focused and intensified by a lens to a very small spot of about 0.001 inches (0.025 mm) to create a very intense laser beam. The position of the laser beam is precisely controlled by a computer program - also known as CNC code - driving the X and Y axes of the CNC machine. The CNC computer adjusts the power of the laser beam to ensure that the laser power is optimized for a certain cutting speed.
In comparison, the traditional way in a precision machining shop to cut sheet metal is with a stamping or punch press. It is a slower process which requires a separate tool for each type of cut. A laser cutter uses a computer-guided beam and can precision cut virtually any shape. The laser cutting process is able to offer superior cut-edge quality with no rough edges.
Laser Cutting Advantages
Advantages of laser cutting over traditional mechanical cutting include:
Laser system handles profiles from the simplest of components to shapes of high complexity. With computer added peripherals a laser cutting system also allows one to create intricate designs and highly detailed cuts in sheet metal materials.
With its laser-focused precision, the process is capable of holding close tolerance, often to within 0.001 inches (0.025 mm). Newer laser cutters have approached a positioning accuracy of 10 micrometers (0.01mm).
Free of contamination:
The laser creates a high-power beam to cut through the material. During the process, there is no part of the laser system in contact with the material.
Traditional stamping or punch press leaves rough edges or burrs that workers must grind smooth afterward but a laser cutter leaves a smooth edge that needs no further work. It prevents or reduces the chance of warping the material that is being cut. This saves time and labor costs, making this technology a cut above traditional CNC stamping machines.
Efficiency and rapid turn-around: Laser cutting allows one to cut complex shapes without the need for tooling or fixture and at a similar or faster speed than other cutting methods. With zero tooling and fixture costs, laser cutting is a highly attractive and economical means of sheet metal fabrication.