The invention of CNC machines has made the cutting process more efficient compared to manual cutting methods. The manufacturers or the businesses that require cutting processes are highly inclined toward these two most famous computer-controlled processes known as Laser Cutting and Plasma Cutting. There are advantages and disadvantages that both these cutting methods have when we compare the thickness of the material, type of material, the precision of the cut, cost, etc. Let us understand both these methods in detail and then compare it to know which suits your business requirement the best.
What is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting is a cutting technology controlled by computer numerical control (CNC) to slice materials by the amplified laser light. It has a high precision rate as it is controlled by a CNC machine and not manually.
The cut is made on the metal by focusing the laser light on a small point using the optics. When the laser light enters the optical lens, it will become smaller and hotter. The temperature at the focused point increases which melts and cuts the workpiece leaving the edge smooth and of a high-quality finish.
What is Plasma Cutting?
The plasma cutting involves cutting through electrically conductive materials by using an accelerated jet of hot plasma. It can melt any hard material. It has been in use for decades and is still one of the best cutting methods.
The one thing about plasma cutting is that it works only for electrically conductive materials like stainless steel, steel, brass, aluminum, and copper. Plasma is extremely hot during the process as it uses ionized gas and not naked flame. The temperature is usually determined by the plasma torch. It also uses a CNC machine to control the whole cutting process, leaving smooth finish cuts.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Laser Cutting
Here are some advantages of the laser cutting machine when compared to some general cutting methods:
- The cuts are so precise and smooth that they can be directly used for cutting without grinding.
- The laser cutting machine is faster than other cutting processes like plasma cutting.
- The cutting quality of laser machines is much higher and it leaves behind minimum deformation, low surface roughness, and minimal oblique cutting edge.
- Apart from metal, it can also be used to cut wood, plastic, rubber, PVC, textile, leather, etc.
However, the laser cutting has a couple of disadvantages as well:
- The laser cutting machine is a little expensive as the initial investment and the maintenance are costly.
- Laser cutters have lower efficiency when it comes to thick plates which means it is more suitable for thin plates.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Plasma Cutting
Here are some points where plasma cutting has an edge over laser cutting.
- It is highly suitable for thick plates. It can achieve high cutting speed when compared to laser and flame cutting.
- The initial investment is lower compared to lasers. Moreover, the maintenance cost is also low.
There are a few disadvantages of the plasma cutting machine which make it less favorable than the laser cutting machines.
- The plasma cutter has poor perpendicularity and it will leave a large oblique cutting edge.
- It produces slag at the bottom of the cutting process during the cutting. To maintain the quality of the cut, this slag must be removed by grinding which adds up the labor cost.
- During the cutting process, it releases harmful dust and arc light.
- It consumes more cutting nozzles which cost a lot of money.
Laser Cutting Vs Plasma Cutting: Comparison
- The laser cutting machine makes lesser damage to its workpiece when compared to the plasma cutting machine. The plasma cutter requires frequent changes of consumables like nozzles and torches. The damaged consumable can cause damage to the cutting plate and affect the quality of the cut as well. So while using the plasma cutting machine, ensure to use good quality consumables like amada laser parts, trumpf laser parts, prima consumables, etc.
- The laser has more focused light whereas the plasma has a slightly larger cutting point. So small cuts are more clearer and precise in laser than in plasma.
- The speed of the laser cutting is more than that of the plasma cutting machine.
- The laser cutting machine leaves behind smooth and good quality cuts. Also, it produces less heat during the cutting. Thus, there are lesser chances of thermal deformation of the workpiece, saving the material from any kind of damage. Also, the edge is perfect which avoids any kind of secondary process. The only thing you need to be careful of is the thickness of the plate as plates of higher thickness do not perform well with laser cutters.
- The accuracy of the plasma cutter is less but the maintenance and environmental requirements for cutting are less compared to laser. So for products that do not require high precision, plasma is the most cost-effective choice as the maintenance cost is low. Good quality consumables like amada parts, trumpf consumables are easily available online. Also, the skill requirement is low and it is easy to operate for the operators.
Every business has its own requirements. Some businesses require the use of non-conducting materials, then for them, laser cutters are the best. On the other hand, some businesses have thick sheets to cut, then for them, plasma cutting is preferable. If the type of material is not the issue then budget might be an issue because just buying the machine is not enough.
To enjoy getting the best output from the machine, it is important to maintain the machine. You can easily find the amada parts, trumpf and prima parts online. For that, all you need to do is Google “amada laser parts” or “trumpf laser parts” and you will have a list of the suppliers.
We hope these comparisons will help you choose the cutter that fits best your needs.