Laser cutting is a highly accurate and effective method for cutting mild steel and stainless steel plate. It produces exceptional cut quality and allows for the creation of intricate shapes and small holes.
How Does a Laser Cutter Work?
A laser beam is a stream of high-intensity light of single wavelength, which is generated by a laser resonator within the machine. Many laser cutters today use carbon dioxide in combination with high-pressure oxygen or nitrogen to blow the molten metal out of the kerf.
After generation, the laser beam is reflected within the machine by mirrors that concentrate and direct the light to a lens. The lens focuses the beam through an aperture in the cutter head, directing an intense beam onto the metal surface. The focal point of the laser beam can be adjusted by raising or lowering the cutting head.
The intense laser beam causes rapid heating, melting and partial vaporization of the metal as it cuts through the material. Cut quality is greatly affected by focal length. CNC laser cutters can be used to provide excellent control of the focal point and highly accurate cutting. Operating on computerized control, the laser cutting head moves over the plate, precisely cutting out the desired shape as it goes.
How Does Laser Cutting Compare With Other Cutting Processes?
Laser over provides a number of operational advantages when compared to mechanical cutting processes. Some of these include easier workholding, reduced cut contamination and increased precision. Additionally, the laser beam doesn’t wear during the process. A mechanical cutter also has a larger heat-affected zone during cutting, which may lead to warping of the plate.
Compared to a plasma cutter, laser cutting is more precise and uses less energy, particularly when cutting sheet metal. However, the laser cutter has a performance limitation with thicker materials and plasma is usually preferred for cutting thick steel plate.