Widely used across a range of industries and applications, both plasma and laser cutting allow for great versatility and accuracy.
Laser cutting, as its name implies, makes use of a high-powered laser to cut materials. This is typically done through the use of optics combined with computer numerical control (CNC) to direct the laser beam onto the material, which is either burned, melted, vaporized away, or blown away by a jet of gas. This leaves an edge with a high-quality surface finish.
Plasma cutting, on the other hand, makes use of an accelerated jet of hot plasma to cut through electrically conductive materials, such as aluminum, brass, copper, steel, and stainless steel. This process allows for high speeds, low costs, and precise cuts in wide-ranging applications.
Laser cutting offers a range of advantages over mechanical cutting techniques. First off, the laser process allows for easier workholding as well as reduced workpiece contamination, as there is no cutting edge that can become contaminated and consequently contaminate the material.
Laser cutting can be used for materials that would be too thick or hard for mechanical techniques, and can be employed for parts with unique or complex non-circular geometries. The process is also very versatile and cost-efficient, and can be used to cut a wide variety of materials.
Laser cutting is used across many different industries and applications, including:
Military and defense
Original equipment manufacturing
Plasma cutting is ideal for cutting both thin and thick materials. And since plasma cutters produce a high-heat, localized “cone” for cutting, the process is especially well-suited for cutting sheet metal in curved or angled shapes.
Plasma cutting is also unique in that brings about minimal warping — allowing for clean, even cuts without distortion — and does not create a wide heat-affected zone (HAZ) that can burn or melt cardboard, metal, or wood. Commonly worked materials include aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel.