To cut sheet metal using a laser, a focused laser beam is directed at the material, which is then either melted, burned, vaporized, or blown away by a jet of gas. This cutting method leaves a sleek edge with a high quality and smooth finish.
Compared to mechanical cutting methods, a laser is easier to work with and there is a reduced possibility of contamination. Laser cutting is also more precise than mechanically cutting since the laser cannot wear down. Furthermore, since lasers use localized heat, there is less chance of warping.
Compared to plasma cutting, a laser uses less energy and has higher precision than the plasma cutter. The disadvantage is that plasma is better at cutting through metals of greater thickness, while lasers are limited in that area.
The laser cutter is controlled by a computer that lets the laser light run over the metal at an amazing speed. Nothing is to complicated. The Laser has usually an accuracy of > 0.0125 inches (0.32 mm).
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A plasma cutter uses a hot jet of plasma to cut through electrically conductive materials such as steel, aluminum, brass, and copper at high speeds and with high precision. It works by creating an electrical channel of ionized gas (plasma) from the cutter through the workpiece in order to form a complete electrical circuit. As each cut is made, bright bursts of light erupt from the contact point of the plasma jet.
Some plasma cutters use CNC cutting tables, while some have the cutter built into the table itself, allowing a computer to control the torch head to produce sharp, clean cuts. Modern plasma torches are becoming less expensive as technology advances, and are now well within a more affordable price range.
Manufacturers are now engineering newer models with smaller nozzles and thinner plasma arcs, allowing precision levels to rival those of laser cutters. Compared to laser cutting, a plasma cutter is better at cutting through thicker metals.
Water jet shearing involves an industrialized tool that is capable of cutting a wide variety of metals using a highly pressurized jet of water. Sometimes a water jet would have a mixture of water and an abrasive substance such as garnet or aluminum oxide. The metal cutter is connected to a high-pressure water pump that ejects water at high speeds from the nozzle. This cuts the material into the desired shape by spraying it with the jet of high-velocity water.
Water jet shearing normally is used during the fabrication of machine parts and in various industries such as mining and air and space travel. The benefits of using a water jet include the ability to cut through the metal without altering the inherent structure (no heat means no melting). Water jets are also capable of cutting designs in intricate shapes, making them very versatile tools for artists and handymen alike.
The biggest advantage of the Water Cutting technique is that it not only can cut metal but also other materials such as stone, leather or even acryl glass.
Shearing is performed on a shear machine that is operated manually or by hydraulic or electric power. Typically, shearing machines include a table with support arms and guides to maneuver the sheet in the right direction.
With shearing, a piece of sheet metal is separated into portions by applying a great enough force to cause the material to break off. The effect is commonly achieved by applying a shearing force. Shearing causes the material to change as cuts are made, an effect known as burring. The burr is a small imperfection created by the force of the shear coming down onto the metal, which depends on the sharpness of the tools and the clearance between the upper and lower tools.
Shearing produces a straight line cut to separate pieces of stock sheet metal, but angled cuts can also be made. Manufacturers use shearing to cut a sheet parallel to an existing cut in preparation of other processes.