Laser cutting has become a premier method of industrial and commercial machining, and is now on the top list of methods used for very small-volume, precision manufacturing up to high-volume production. Virtually every industry has been impacted by laser cutting, from hobbyist crafts to mission-critical aerospace and defense applications. Modern laser-cutting machines can now achieve micron-level cutting precision of thick sheets of high-strength stainless steel down to extremely thin foils and fabrics made of a wide variety of materials.
Laser Services is home to more than 20 low-power, medium-power, and high-power CO2, YAG, and diode/fiber lasers, and employs [##] highly skilled and experienced laser-machining professionals to optimize the operation of every machine. These professionals can leverage any of Laser Services’ micropositioning tables and rotary axes, and can even tool or modify new or existing equipment to fulfill a wide range of precision laser-cutting jobs.
Laser cutting, or laser-beam machining, uses the thermal energy of a directed laser beam to vaporize, thermal-stress crack, melt, or burn a material away from a targeted area. Paired with modern CNC machine technologies, laser cutters can be used for highly precise micromachining, as well as high-volume and large-format cutting. As laser cutting is a non-contact form of machining, unlike milling, sawing, waterjet cutting, etc., no material is scraped, deposited, or ejected toward the part or work surface, which enables laser cutters to maintain extremely consistent and fast-cutting operations with little downtime or tool change.
The laser-cutting beam is also very narrow, leading to kerf widths as small as thousandths of an inch, depending on the material, laser power, and laser optics. Moreover, laser cutting can also cut a material to very fine surface finishes in the range of just over a hundred microinches, at a minimum. For some materials, the thermal-cutting effect of a laser can be considered a flame-polished edge. The highly precise and no-vibration cutting that lasers provide also can reduce the post-processing needed to refine a part, which can be especially time-consuming when attempting to polish small dimensional areas of intricate parts after CNC milling.
Though the speed of a laser-cutting machine depends on the material, material thickness, laser type, laser frequency, and laser power, some laser-cutting jobs can often be processed at greater speeds than CNC mills, especially when sheet thicknesses require the CNC mill to perform multiple passes to complete a cut. As laser cutting is zero-contact without any additional forces placed on the workpiece, fixturing effort can be reduced significantly, and more consistent parts can be produced. Lastly, laser cutting produces a very small, heat-affected zone (HAZ) that may also be far lower in temperature than traditional cutting technologies that rely on shearing or grinding friction to cut.
Unlike many other machine-cutting technologies, laser cutting imposes almost no forces and stresses on the work material. This means that even very delicate and thin materials, such as leather, silk, and even thin precious-metal foils, can be cut with precise and intricate designs. For many materials, the small, heat-affected zone (HAZ) and thermal stresses imparted on the material enable cutting patterns that would otherwise be impossible with other methods.
However, there is a thickness limit that can be laser cut, which depends on the material. Also, certain highly reflective and translucent materials may be difficult or infeasible to laser cut. There are different types of lasers, namely UV, IR, and Far IR, in which the frequency of light used in the laser processes materials differently.
If you are interested in learning if your material is able to be processed by a laser, check out the materials list or contact a Laser Services laser-cutting specialist to find out or call +1 978-692-618.Standard Max Laser Cut Thicknesses by Material
|Material||Max Cuttable Thickness|
|Stainless Steel||0.375" (3/8th inch)|
|Plastics||0.75" (3/4 inch)|
|Wood||0.75" (3/4 inch)|
|Ceramic||0.125" (1/8th inch)|
There are many laser-processing shops that will only laser cut a limited range of thin materials on small orders. Sometimes these shops have only a limited size and tolerances that aren’t a good fit for many industrial, aerospace and defense, or medical-device applications. This is often a result of the focus of certain businesses targeting only hobbyists or small promotion materials, and there is a limit to the expertise of their staff and laser capabilities.
Laser Services, on the other hand, is a fully equipped, industrial laser-services center with some of the most skilled laser-machine technicians in the country. Laser Services’ staff are experienced and capable of laser cutting to the demands of high reliability and repeatable aerospace standards and high-precision, micromachined medical devices. Moreover, Laser Services provides high-quality and fast turnaround services for a wide range of industries and applications, including laser cutting highly sensitive materials for precision imaging of public works structures and the laser cutting of high-volume and high-precision prosthesis components.
What many laser job shops don’t have, are an expert team and access to state-of-the art, computer-aided drafting and computer-aided modeling (CAD/CAM) software for highly accurate design and laser-cutting machine control. Laser Services leverages these tools alongside micro-positioning tables, multiple-beam systems, and statistical processing controls that enable extremely repeatable and exact laser cuts from part to part and job to job. Also, Laser Services is willing to go above and beyond for their customers, and has even customized special laser systems, fabricated new laser cutting-machines, and developed advanced analysis tools to ensure part quality.
As laser cutting introduces virtually no mechanical force on a part and no processing material that could remain on a part or damage it, fixturing and setting up a laser-cutting job can be done very rapidly. Depending on the material and the job, laser cutting may also cut and finish a part in a single step, removing the need for time-consuming and costly post-processing.
To further augment the fast delivery of parts, Laser Services also offers secondary processing, finishing, and mechanical-assembly services. Laser Services also keeps ample stock of many common laser-cut materials, and is capable of processing an entire job in just one facility from material acquisition, laser cutting, post-processing, and finishing, to assembly.