Cutting material to the correct shape is a vital part of the production process and there are a few ways of achieving the perfect cut for your job. Traditionally, cutting would be done using either a turret punch or a blanking press. A turret punch employs a range of small tools to punch out each part using a number of hole sizes combined with the use of line shaped blades for the outer edge of the shape. A blanking press will use a unique cutting tool for each required shape.
A laser cutting machine employs a laser to trace and cut the outline of the needed part with an assist gas to remove the molten metal from the cut. Each of these cutting processes will work well, but laser cutting is becoming increasing popular as it has clear advantages over the alternative methods.
Reduced energy consumption
A standard turret punch or blanking press will consume around 50kW of power in total, while for a 4kW laser system, the total power consumed may be only 10kW, the potential savings here are obvious. When energy savings are combined with operational cost savings they may well offset the purchase cost of your new equipment in a comparatively short time.
Traditional cutting methods require excess material to be left on either side of the cut. As much as ½ inch of material is often wasted in this way. With a laser cutting tool no border is needed, if parts share a single outline they can be cut with just one cut and nothing is wasted.
Improved edge quality
Punches and press cut material by shearing through it. They stretch the edge of the material until it breaks, usually this results in the part having a rounded top edge while the bottom of the part may have jagged ribbons that must be removed with an abrasive. A laser cutter will avoid these problems, producing a part where the top edge is square and where the bottom edge is smooth to the touch.
Lower tooling and maintenance costs
Turret punches and blanking presses both require expensive tooling that often needs to be specially purchased for each job, and then stored as the next part is cut. With a laser machine changing parts is as simple as changing a programme. Any new parts that are needed will usually be relatively inexpensive items, such as, nozzles and lenses. Physical tools will also deteriorate over time and will need to be replaced. A properly focused laser tool will not lose its cutting ability and is always sharp and ready for use.
These are just a few of the reasons that fabrication companies are switching to laser cutting machines for all their cutting requirements.