The use of laser technology has become synonymous with precision, and for good reason. Laser cutting, for example, is accurate and versatile, able to produce nearly any shape in a variety of metals. Its range of unique attributes surpasses waterjet cutting, die cutting, and other thermal methods, proving transformative in industrial manufacturing.
How does the technology work?
Laser cutting is mainly a thermal process, in which the energy from a thin, focused laser is used to cut, melt or burn material. Controlled through computer coding, the cuts are completed to design specification by directing pressure and an amplified beam of light via a nozzle.
Below we’ve explained the four most notable hallmarks of laser cutting and how it can be a benefit to your unique metal fabrication project.
Accuracy is one of the primary advantages of laser cutting. Badger Sheet Metal Works’ (BSMW) lasers routinely hold ~ +/-.005” tolerances on metal material up to 7g sheet. Most die-cutting tools, by contrast, have tolerances from 0.020″ to 0.040”.
The laser cutting process is almost entirely automated, with programming completed through the use of CNC CAD/CAM technology. This ensures the same cuts can be performed as many times as necessary, with the part matching the blueprint in every instance. And with the laser effectively melting, vaporizing or burning everything in its path, the process also creates clean edges and a smooth finish.
Laser cutting is often used in the packaging, mining, pollution control, and product filling industries in which tight tolerances and strict quality standards are of the utmost importance.
Laser cutting delivers exceptional speed compared to waterjet cutters and other thermal cutting methods like plasma or flame cutting. Typical speeds for a laser cutter are up to 10 meters per minute, exponentially faster than the range of traditional technologies, which varies from .25 to 2 meters per minute. Fast cutting speeds also minimize heat diffusion into the surrounding material, greatly reducing the potential for thermal damage to other components.
Beyond its speed, laser cutting accelerates the metal fabrication process in other ways:
- Multiple parts can be programmed and cut at once.
- Hard tools aren’t needed, shortening setup time.
- Cutting heads don’t need to be exchanged.
- No additional cleanup is required, eliminating secondary operations.
- Equipment setup and repurposing is expedient, making it easy to adapt to changing project demands.
Puzzle Cutting for Locating Weldment Parts Quickly & Easily
The precision of laser cutters makes them suitable to complete puzzle cuts, a technique used to skip the need for measuring parts when aligning them for a weld. Lasers cut small notches into the sections so they interlock when set together, not unlike the pieces of a puzzle. Once set, a fabricator can tack weld the pieces into place.
Part Etching for Fabrication Location, Part Identification
Laser etching is the process of permanently scratching detailed markings onto parts in a way that is both highly-precise and cost effective.
The versatile marking method can be used on almost any material, making laser etching an ideal solution for a variety of industries that use permanent marks to identify and trace parts through numbers, serialization, barcodes and other industry-specific markings.
Unlike ink or labels that degrade or dissolve in harsh environments, laser etchings remain undiminshed throughout a part’s entire lifecycle. They can even resist non-abrasive treatments like heat treating and powder coating.
Businesses request identifiable and traceable parts for a variety of reasons, such as safety, inventory control, loss prevention, and potential product recalls.
The laser etching services at BSMW ensure customers’ parts can be easily identified and conform to any applicable standards. BSMW can add part identification by etching PNs, vendor #s, and/or any other requirements.
Part etching also assists the BSMW team with fabrication location.
BSMW uses lasers to complete highly-accurate cuts on stainless steel, aluminum and mild steel.
Some customers also leverage the metal fabricator’s capabilities for small production runs or to produce samples prior to investing in hard tooling. The laser can keep costs down compared to tooling-up for a small production run and ensure a part will work as envisioned.
Contact BSMW today to learn more about the company’s laser capabilities or to request a production quote.