5 Myths of Laser Cutting

Posted on Friday, May 29, 2015

If you don’t use laser cutting as part of your manufacturing, it’s likely the possibility just never occurred to you, perhaps due to one of these five myths we’d now like to correct.

Myth #1: Laser cutting is new

The facts: Laser cutting was first introduced in the 1960s and became widely adopted in the early 1980s. Today laser cutting is a well-established mature technology used for millions of applications throughout industry.

Myth #2: Lasers are complicated

The facts: Actually laser cutting is simpler than most mechanical cutting techniques. You don’t have to cut a die, for example, and you don’t have to change tooling when you go from job to job. Lasers are programmable so all we need to cut a pattern is your drawing or CAD file. We can even change the depth of the cut simply by changing the power of the laser (again, under program control). That’s something that’s harder to do, or to do as precisely, with mechanical cutting.

Myth #3: Lasers burn the materials being cut

The facts: It all depends what you mean by burn. Lasers will char the end surfaces of cut pieces of wood, but not the other surfaces. Furthermore, the charring is not enough to burn away the edges — so the result is a clean sharp edge of exactly the dimensions specified. The laser’s heat affected zone (HAZ) is very small, which is one of the reasons why lasers are excellent for cutting softer materials like plastics. No burning occurs with other materials, like metals or plastics. When cutting plastics or composites the laser will seal the edge.

Myth #4: Lasers can’t cut through transparent materials

The facts: Lasers are excellent at cutting through all transparent materials, including glass, plastic, polysilicates, borosylicates, and quartz.

Myth #5: Lasers can cut through any thickness

The facts: When people think of industrial laser cutting, they may think of James Bond — so they might not think laser cutting is a good fit for their applications. Laser cutting is, in fact, suitable for cutting through a wide range of materials and a wide — but not infinite — range of thicknesses. Here are some example max thicknesses:

  • Stainless steel: Up to a one-eigth inch
  • Plastics: three-sixteenths to one-quarter inch
  • Wood: half to three-quarter inch
  • Ceramic: Up to one-eigth inch

Whenever more than one technique is available to serve a particular manufacturing purpose, it often pays to investigate all the alternatives before deciding to go with one of them. Laser cutting may be a better, and more accessible, option than you might think. The best way to find out is to send us a sample of the material to be cut along with your drawing or a CAD file. We’ll be happy to evaluate your application at no charge and give you the real facts you need to decide.

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