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Laser Cutting Technology: Why Choose It?

Laser Cutting Technology: Why Choose It?

Since people realised the precision and efficiency of laser cutting in the early 1960s, industrialists are looking for ways to implement this cutting-edge technology to their respective industries. That’s why, from clinical to aerospace use, laser cutting is ruling over metal integrity without raising any questionable eyebrows in case of profit. Article by FMB Trading & Engineering.

Laser cutting is usually the first step of the process before it continues down the line to undergo metal bending, metal rolling, and other types of metal fabrication in stainless steel, mild steel and aluminium.

But What Is This Laser Cutting That Everyone Is Talking About?

Laser cutting is a process to cut or engrave any material precisely, using a high-powered beam. Mostly, the entire process is based on computer-controlled parameters, directed by Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) Machine from a vector CAD file.

The laser cutting technology is used for many industrial purposes, specifically, to cut metal plates, such as aluminium, stainless steel and mild steel. On these types of steel, laser cutting process is very precise compared to any other metal sheet cutting process. Besides, laser cutting process has a very small heat afterzone and also a small kerf width. That’s why it’s possible to delicate shapes and tiny holes for production.

How Laser Cutting Technology Works

Laser is a fancy acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, which is the main participant in this process, is a beam of heavily intensified light. This beam of light is formed by a single wavelength or single colour.

The laser machines use amplification and stimulation technique to transform electric energy into high density beam of light. The stimulation process happens as the electrons are excited via an external source, mostly an electric arc or a flash lamp.

The amplification process occurs within the optical resonator in the cavity, which is set between two mirrors. One of them is partially transmissive and the other one is reflective. The glasses allow beam’s energy to get back in the lasing medium and there it stimulates even more emissions. But if a photon isn’t aligned with machine’s resonator, the reflective and transmissive mirror do not redirect it. This ensures amplification of properly oriented photons only, thus creating a coherent beam.

The colour or the wavelength of the laser that cuts through the metals depends on which type of laser is being used in the laser cutting process. But mostly, carbon dioxide (CO2) gets to cut the metals which is a highly intensified beam of Infra-red part of the light spectrum.

This type of beam travels through the Laser resonator before going through metal sheet to give them shapes. But before the beam falls over the metal plates, the focused light beam undergoes the bore of a nozzle, just before it hits a surface.

But focusing the light beam is not so easy. The laser has to go through a specialised lens or any type of curved surface. This focusing part of the laser happens inside the laser-cutting tip. The focusing is crucial to this cutting process because if the beam is not focused concisely, the shape will not be as expected. The operators cross check the focus density and width many times before hitting the metal with it.

By focusing this huge beam into a single point-like area, the heat density is increased. Then the high-temperature beam, focused on a single point can cut through even the strongest of metals. This works like the magnifying glass. When the solar rays fall on the magnifying glass, the curved surface gathers them into a single point, which consequently produces extreme heat in a small area and that’s why the dry leaf under the magnifying glass burns out.

The laser cutting process work on the same principle. It gathers lights into a small area that starts rapid heating, partial or complete meltdown and even vaporization of the material completely. This heat from laser beam is so extreme that it can start a typical Oxy fuel burning process when the laser beam is cutting mild steel.

And when the laser beam hits aluminium and stainless steel surface, it simply melts down the metal. Then the pressurised nitrogen blows away molten aluminium or steel to finish the industrial-grade clear and precise cutting.

On the CNC laser cutters, cutting tip/head is moved on the metal surface to create the desired shape. For maintaining accurate distance between the plate and the nozzle end, usually a capacitive height control system is adopted.

Maintaining this distance in this case is crucial because the distance determines where the focal area is relative to the surface of the metal plate. The precision of cutting can be diverted by lowering or raising the focal point from the surface.

Types of Laser In Laser Cutting Technology

Basically, there are three different types of lasers used in laser cutting process. Most common one is CO2 laser, which is suited for engraving, boring, and cutting. Then there is Neodymium (Nd) and the Neodymium Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet or Nd:YAG for short. Nd and Nd:YAG is identical in style but have few dissimilarities in application. Where Nd is used for boring that required high energy but low repetition, Nd:YAG is used for both engraving and boring with high power.

All three types can be used for welding purpose.

Besides, laser cutting technology comes in two different formats. Gantry and the Galvanometer system. Where in Gantry system, position of laser is perpendicular to the surface and the machine directs the beam over the surface, in galvanometer system, the laser beams are repositioned by using mirrored angles.

This is the reason why gantry is comparatively slower and manufacturers usually adapt this format for prototyping. But galvanometer system is way faster. In this format, the machine can pierce through 100 feet of steel in a minute. That’s why Galvanometer system is more commonly used for full-on production work.

Designing For Laser Cutting

For automatic cutting, laser machines require CAD Vector files. These files are prepared in soft wares like InkScape, Adobe Illustrator, AutoCad, etc. These CAD (Computer Aided Design) files are exported as .eps, .pdf, .dff, and .aj formats.

Why Use Laser Cutting Technology Over Any Other Process?

Laser cutting technology can be useful for both mass production and start-up order. Here’s why industrialist and entrepreneurs believe in laser cutting more than anything:

Cost Efficiency

The cost efficiency of Laser cutting is something that is much rare in other metal curving technologies. In mass production, Laser cutting technology is very efficient in cutting a good chunk of manual engineering jobs, which helps you keep minimal production cost.

Time Saver

By sparing some really costly and time consuming engineering job for the laser machine, you can balance your production cost as well as save some precious time.

Precise Cutting

With laser cutting, you get even more precision in shaping your metals. The cutting technology is more efficient than plasma cutting, which is a compliment on its own. From getting exact replica of your design to smooth and clear finish, laser cutting does that for you with maximum precision.

Energy Efficiency

Apart from cutting a slack from the production cost, this cutting edge technology is also efficient in saving energy consumption while shaping the metals. While a traditional metal cutting machine will require around 40-50KW of power, with laser cutting, you can get it done with 10KW. That’s a lot of saving if it is being used for full-on production.

Reduced Contamination of Workpiece

Compared to other traditional metal cutting techniques, laser cutting technology is far more efficient in utilising the most of your workpiece without wasting it while engraving, or cutting rounded edges.

Easy and Delicate Boring

Not only does it gives precise and clear-cut edges, but also, laser cutting technology is embraced when piercing through metal bodies with very small diameter. Even with such small width, you get precise holes. That’s why it’s best suited for delicate works in the factory.

Cuts Almost Anything In Almost Any Shape

If you can design it, laser cutting technology can make that happen and that’s why industrialists are depending on laser machines for making prototypes for their product.

Conclusion

It’s no mystery why manufacturers constantly choose laser cutting for their prototype and their final production over any other traditional metal engraving process. With its precise cutting, smooth edge, cost and energy efficiency as well as many other profitable advantages, it seems like the use of laser cutting in different sectors and industries is not likely to decrease in next decade or so. And it is indeed a wise decision to shift from traditional expensive metal cutting technologies to this efficient process of shaping ideas.

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Global Laser Cutting Market To Hit US$5.7 Billion By 2022

Global Laser Cutting Market To Hit US$5.7 Billion By 2022

The global laser cutting market has a projected CAGR of 9.3 percent from 2016 to 2023 and will grow to reach US$5.7 billion by 2022. This can be attributed to heightened production demands from various industries and the shift towards automation. With regards to the automotive, consumer electronics and defense industries, their growth has resulted in an increased demand for machines that drive manufacturing processes and these has in turn spurred the growth of the laser cutting industry.

Currently, alternatives to laser cutting such as offer similar features and are able to offer some benefits that laser cutting cannot provide. However, the market competition posed by these alternatives are expected to dwindle with time due to the constant technological improvements that laser technologies are experiencing.

Based on technology, the laser cutting market can be segmented into solid state lasers, gas lasers and semiconductor lasers. Solid state laser was the highest revenue contributor and comprised about 40 percent of the total market share in 2015. However, gas laser is expected to witness rapid growth till 2023.

Although the US contributes significantly to the growth of the industry, Asia-Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing region moving forward. This can be attributed to an increase in the number of manufacturing facilities and the growing purchasing power of consumers in developing nations.

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Insights On Why Plasma Is A Potential Viable Alternative To Laser Technologies

Insights On Why Plasma Is A Potential Viable Alternative To Laser Technologies

Laser is renowned for delivering excellent fine feature and hole cutting thanks to its narrow kerf – roughly 0.2 mm to 0.4 mm (008″–.015″) on mild steel with oxygen and even narrower when using nitrogen to cut mild steel up to 25 mm (1″) in thickness. Fibre laser also produces excellent cut angularity and can cut to very tight tolerances, in the range of 0.007″ (0.2 mm).

HYPERTHERM’S invention of high definition class cutting, along with continued advances in torch and consumable technology and the introduction of XD technology in 2008 are responsible for markedly improving the cut capabilities of plasma over the past two decades. And now a new class of plasma cutting, called X-Definition, is further enhancing plasma’s ability to tackle high precision applications. When installed on a high quality cutting machine and equipped with linear ways and elliptical racks, Hypertherm’s new XPR300 plasma system, featuring X-Definition cutting, is capable of maintaining ISO 9013 Class 1 and 2 tolerances and ISO 9013 Range 2 and 3 cut quality.

Furthermore, an XPR300 plasma system can deliver an edge surface finish that is generally smoother than fibre laser in the thicker ranges and has extremely consistent edge quality over the full life of a consumable set.

As plasma kerfs can range from 1.5 mm (0.05″) thickness on very thin metal and up to about 5 mm (0.225″) on 25 mm (1″) thick material at 300 amps, a laser system can actually be the best option if extremely fine feature cutting or small holes (with a less than 1:1 thickness to diameter ratio) are required. But, if high quality perimeter cuts are called for, and tolerances in the range of 0.020″ are acceptable, the higher cut speeds associated with plasma, especially when cutting material thicker than 10 mm (3/8″), could make plasma a better option. At this thickness, for example, a 170-amp plasma X-Definition process would deliver high quality cuts at speeds two times faster than a 4kW fibre laser using oxygen.

In addition, Hypertherm’s invention of the True Hole process for mild steel in 2008 and further refined with the launch of the XPR300 provides users with the ability to easily fabricate bolt ready holes down to a diameter-to-thickness ratio of 1:1.

Another application which may favour plasma is bevel cutting. Especially with the advent of True Bevel technology, it has become much more feasible to cost-effectively bevel cut right on the cutting machine and eliminate secondary operations. And, because cutting bevel angles increases the effective thickness of the plate being cut, plasma can have a significant advantage.

In addition, it is important to consider the initial investment cost associated with an X-Definition plasma system as compared to laser. A complete XPR300 plasma system mounted on a high quality cutting machine and capable of cutting 25 mm (1″) at speeds of more than 1,900 mm/min (75 ipm) would likely cost somewhere between US$175,000 and US$225,000. A comparable laser system can easily cost three to four times more depending on the power level.

Beyond this, plasma is a much more forgiving process when it comes to cutting so called “dirty” steel such as plate with oxidation and other imperfections. It really makes no difference to the plasma arc. This is not true, however, with fibre laser. Lastly, while plasma does require personal safety devices for noise and glare protection, fibre laser systems require the construction of a safety enclosure around the entire system to protect from the potential harm of the fibre laser beam.

Article contributed by Hypertherm.

EuroBLECH 2018: Bystronic Displays “World Class Manufacturing” Innovations

EuroBLECH 2018: Bystronic Displays “World Class Manufacturing” Innovations

In time for EuroBLECH 2018, Bystronic is systematically driving forward the vision of “World Class Manufacturing”. This is based on a comprehensive range of new products and services with which Bystronic is gearing its users’ process landscape towards networked production. “We accompany our customers step by step on the path to the smart factory,” explained Bystronic CEO Alex Waser.

With “World Class Manufacturing”, Bystronic has described the matching supporting programme as one that features innovative solutions that go far beyond the conventional idea of a machine tool. It’s about fusing the individual processes relating to laser cutting and bending into a network of intelligent components, said Mr. Waser. Users can thus achieve a higher degree of flexibility and transparency in their production environment. Both are important prerequisites in order to manufacture products faster, more cost-effectively, and more intelligently than ever before.

In future, thanks to new software solutions, users will be able to create quotes more rapidly, plan their production processes in an efficient manner, and make the best possible use of their resources. Live monitoring systems represent an additional building block. They provide users with real-time information about the running processing steps from their production environment. All this will result in the optimisation of costs and processes. And this in turn, is the prerequisite for growth and sustainable competitive success.

With flexible system solutions, Bystronic is expanding the rules of the game in the field of sheet metal processing. Until now, there was always a trade-off between fast and versatile. In future, users will be able to produce small series or individual mass-produced products at conditions similar to a standardised high-volume series.  As commented by Mr. Waser, “With the new generation of our cutting and bending systems, users can adapt their processes much more easily and thus respond more quickly to their customers’ requirements.”

The integrated automation of production steps is another key success factor. To achieve this, Bystronic uses modular solutions for the material handling in the field of laser cutting. Automation systems that grow with the customers’ requirements and with increasing laser output. In the field of bending, the company is driving forward the development of flexible automation modules that enable fast transitions between automated and manual manufacturing.

Service remains another key issue for Bystronic. Within the networked production environment, network steps are interdependent. This makes process reliability and the preventive maintenance of all integrated systems more critical than ever before. New service solutions help users increase the efficiency and process quality of their production.

Learn more by visiting Bystronic at EuroBLECH 2018 from October 23 to 26, 2018 in Hanover, Germany. Hall 12, Booth B66.

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Bystronic Strong In Vietnam

Bystronic Strong in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Sheet metal processing companies in Southeast Asia are growing with Bystronic technology. In response, the company is expanding its local infrastructure in Vietnam for all aspects relating to consulting, sales, and customer services for latest technologies in the fields of laser cutting, bending, and automation.

The sheet metal processing industry in Southeast Asia is developing rapidly. Here too, an increasing number of users are relying on technologies such as the fibre laser, automation, and suitable bending solutions.

In order to provide its customers with even better support for their manufacturing processes, the company is strengthening its sales and service structures in the Southeast Asia market region. Recently, it enhanced its local presence here with the opening of an additional subsidiary in Vietnam.

Bystronic Vietnam held the official opening ceremony for the new subsidiary in Ho Chi Minh City in April 2018. In addition to sales and service areas, the new subsidiary is complemented with a demonstration centre, where it provides its customers with advice during live demonstrations in the fields of laser cutting, bending, and software.

Thus, the company now offers its customers in Vietnam two local points of contact for the consulting, sales, and service relating to the latest metal processing technologies at its business locations in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

Innovating The Cut

Innovating The Cut

Oliver Hergt, editor corporate communications, Bystronic shares with APMEN some highlights from the fields of laser cutting, bending, and software during the Bystronic event in Tianjin had a focus on customers’ increasing requirements for higher productivity.

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