Laser cutting machines can offer precision and accuracy unmatched by other methods. The machine uses high intensity light in conjunction with a high pressure gas to vaporize the material being cut. It can be used on a variety of metals and thicknesses.
“It cuts much more accurately than manual methods, and also more accurately than other conventional fabrication methods like plasma cutting,” says Terry Woodward of American Fabricators (AFI), a Kloeckner Metals fabrication shop.
There are several types of laser cutting machines. At AFI, there are five conventional CO2 lasers. These work by pumping a current through a gas mixture.
“It is good, steady workhorse type equipment, proven in the industry for years,” Woodward says.
There is also one newer fiber laser at AFI. Unlike the CO2 lasers, this is a solid state laser. It is a newer technology, with lower maintenance and operating costs than the conventional CO2 lasers. It also cuts much faster in certain gauge ranges, for example the 12 to 20 gauge range.
Laser cutters create parts that serve in a variety of industries, including transportation, electrical panel, water heater, and appliance. The quality of a laser cut can be seen in the smoothness and precision of the cut. The edge conditions will differentiate a quality laser cut from a poor quality one.
“You don’t want any sharp edges or burs,” Woodward says. “You want smooth transitions, smooth turns, no jagged edges, and just the accuracy of it overall compared to the customer drawings is crucial. You wind up with a much better product.”