Full Guide to Laser Cutting

Full Guide to Laser Cutting

Laser cutting is a digitally controlled subtractive manufacturing technique. It uses a highly accurate laser beam to vaporize portions of a workpiece, creating a clean, cut edge. Due to its versatility and speed, laser cutting is popular throughout many industries, including aerospace, military and defense, contract manufacturing, construction, and much more. At Evans Tool & Die, we offer precision laser cutting services compatible with a wide range of materials including carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and bronze.

How Does Laser Cutting Work?

Laser cutting uses heat to thermally separate, engrave, or mark a material. The process involves high-power laser optics and a computer-controlled operating system. Using CNC (computer numerical control), the laser beam precisely cuts through material according to instructions from a design file. The cutting process involves several steps:

  1. Idea Development. Before any cutting can begin, you must first develop a design idea. Once you’ve created an idea, you can use software programs to create a graphic of the desired component. The information is then sent to the laser.
  2. Laser Cutting Process. With the design plan finalized, the cutting process can begin. The laser cutter will generate a high-powered laser beam and direct it onto the workpiece using the laser head. Depending on the strength of the laser beam and the material’s properties, the workpiece will either be melted, vaporized, or burned.
  3. Motion Control. A programming system or unique motion control system controls the laser’s movements precisely as it carries out the desired design pattern.
  4. Finishing. While some fabrication methods require secondary machining processes to further refine the workpiece, laser cutting typically does not. Since this process creates high-quality cuts without any burns or scorch marks, no further cleaning, finishing, or treating is generally required.

Laser Cutting vs. Plasma Cutting: What’s the Difference?

While both laser cutting and plasma cutting are subtractive manufacturing processes, they rely on different technologies and are suitable for different types of applications.

  • Plasma Cutting. This technique uses an electric arc and ionized gas to generate a plasma jet that cuts through metal and other conductive materials. Either nitrogen or oxygen is passed through an electric current to create the plasma arc. This then heats the workpiece, melting it to create a narrow cut.
  • Laser Cutting. With laser cutting, the laser is transmitted through a series of mirrors and focused on the workpiece’s surface using a focusing lens. This creates a hot spot on the workpiece, causing it to melt or vaporize. A high-pressure gas is then used to remove any material from the cut.

While these techniques might sound similar, plasma cutting is a much less accurate process than laser cutting. Depending on the type of metal being worked with, significant deformation of the workpiece can occur. Plasma cutting creates a larger kerf than laser cutting, which makes it less accurate and more limited in the types of components it can produce. While laser cutting is suitable for an incredibly diverse number of substrates, plasma cutting is limited to use with only electrically conductive materials.

In addition, laser cutting is a faster process — especially when working with thin sheets of metal. It also results in a more clean surface finish and can even be used to create fine details like engravings that plasma cutting cannot produce.

The Benefits of Laser Cutting

When it comes to creating precision components, laser cutting offers many benefits. This fabrication method is a particularly popular choice for creating intricate designs and shapes in a diverse range of materials. Some of the biggest benefits of laser cutting include:

  1. High Precision. Lasers cut through materials accurately and can create even very fine details.
  2. Speed. Laser cutters work quickly and are ideal for high-production runs.
  3. Flexibility. Unlike many other fabrication methods, laser cutting is suitable for many types of materials, including metal, wood, plastic, ceramic, and textiles.
  4. Consistency. As a CNC fabrication method, laser cutters are highly precise and deliver consistent results.
  5. Surface Finish. Laser cutting creates smooth cuts without burrs. Unlike plasma cutting, laser-cut components do not require grinding or other polishing techniques to improve the surface finish.
  6. Cost Efficiency. Without the need for secondary operations, laser cutting is a highly cost-effective manufacturing technique. It’s also a quick process that doesn’t require hands-on labor, further reducing costs.

Opting for laser cutting can help you achieve greater precision than with traditional cutting methods. For applications requiring complex shapes at high speeds, laser cutting offers the ideal solution.

Our Laser Cutting Capabilities

At Evans Tool & Die, we offer an extensive range of laser cutting capabilities using our state-of-the-art AMADA 6KW fiber laser and 110T press brake. The materials we work with range from bronze and aluminum to stainless and carbon steel. Our skilled technicians achieve tight tolerances and produce components that adhere to even the most rigorous industry standards.

Laser cutting services from Evans Tool & Die offer improved cost efficiency by creating more parts per sheet of material. We handle both small- and high-volume production runs, with fast turnaround times and expertly crafted components that are ready for immediate assembly. In addition to laser cutting, we also offer a diverse range of additional metal manufacturing capabilities, including:

  • Metal Fabrication Services
  • 2 CNC Machining Centers
  • CNC and Manual Lathes
  • Drill Presses

Opting for laser cutting can help you achieve greater precision than with traditional cutting methods. For applications requiring complex shapes at high speeds, laser cutting offers the ideal solution.

Laser Cutting Services by Evans Tool & Die

As laser cutting specialists, Evans Tool & Die can help you obtain the accurate laser-cut components you need. We are ISO 9001:2015 certified and offer everything your project needs, from design and engineering services to assembly and packaging. Our team has over 70 years of experience meeting the needs of diverse industries and can help you localize your supply chain for more seamless logistics. If you have any questions about our laser cutting services, reach out to our team at any time. To get your project started, request a quote today.