How to laser cut sheet metal?

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Laser cutting is the preferred method for precision machining of sheet metal due to its consistency. Laser cutting machines use significant amounts of electricity, and the lasers used can vary in thickness. Industrial laser cutting machines come in three types, and different types of lasers are used for cutting and engraving. Factors such as metal type can affect the efficiency of laser cutting, and reactive cutting and pulse lasers can be used for thicker sheet metal and precise holes.

When it comes to cutting sheet metal, laser cutting is the preferred machining method for producing precision machined parts because it creates more precise and consistent lines than mechanical cutting. The process of laser cutting flat sheet material uses a machine that sends a laser beam through the material it cuts using heat. Once the subject of science fiction stories, laser processing is becoming more mainstream in industrial applications as laser cutting machines become more affordable.

Even as sheet metal laser cutting machines are becoming more affordable, they still use significant amounts of electricity to produce lasers hot enough to melt sheet metal such as steel. Laser cutting machines can use anywhere from 1,000 watts to over 8,000 watts of power to produce a laser. The laser beams used in industrial laser cutting can vary in thickness. Usually, the thinner the laser, the more heat it can produce, so very thin lasers are typically used for laser cutting sheet metal.

Most industrial laser cutting machines come in three types: moving material, flying optics, and hybrid configuration. The moving material configuration is popular in sheet metal laser cutting because the flat sheet material moves while the laser remains stationary at a fixed distance from the sheet. Flying optics laser cutting machines work the opposite way, with a moving laser and stationary sheet metal. The hybrid setup for sheet metal laser cutting machines allows for both sheet metal and laser movement.

Different types of lasers can be used for laser cutting and engraving of sheet metal. The lasers used in cutting sheet metal such as steel or aluminum are the same types of lasers also used in welding, called carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers, neodymium (Nd) lasers, or yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd-YAG) neodymium lasers. ). Typically, Nd and Nd-YAG lasers are used for drilling and engraving, while CO2 lasers are more commonly used for cutting sheet metal and other materials.

In sheet metal laser cutting, there are several factors that influence the type of laser used in different applications. The type of metal can greatly affect the thickness and intensity of the laser beam used because some metals such as aluminum can conduct heat away from the laser, making laser cutting less efficient. For thicker sheet metal, laser cutting machines sometimes use a method called reactive cutting to cut hard or thick metal efficiently. Pulse lasers can also drill precise holes in sheet metal.

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