3 Reasons You need Laser Cutting
Modern manufacturing processes involve innovative tools for better product development. In this respect, laser cutting, is crucial for metal fabrication. Laser cutting has many advantages over other metal fabrication methods due to the benefits and extra precision that it renders. Engineers and designers alike prefer laser cutting due to the long list of upsides that it provides. It makes the fabrication process cost-effective and it shortens lead times. For these reasons, Laser cutting has become the go-to metal fabrication process for many design engineers.
What is laser cutting?
So what is laser cutting? It is the process of cutting material with a light beam. For steel parts, Laser cutting is commonly used to cut material from very light gauges: up to cutting 1” thick steel. Laser cutting is also performed on Aluminum, Stainless, and Plastic materials, as well. Laser cutting has made great strides and has become virtually a mandatory process, widely used in modern manufacturing.
Why Laser Cutting
Most industries have found laser cutting to be the favored process in the metal fabrication and manufacturing processes.
Eliminate or reduce unnecessary operations (lower costs)
The Laser cutting process, because of its very nature is a pretty efficient manufacturing process. Once the material is placed upon a machine pallet, most laser cutting equipment today will move the material into the laser, cut the parts using the raw material in an efficient manner, then move the processed material back out of the laser for unloading. Most lasers will do this part of the process automatically. One or two operators are all that is required to perform this part of the task.
Additionally, some laser cutting operations are even more automated. They will automatically load the raw material onto the pallet, and automatically unload the cut parts from the pallet after processing as well. These systems are truly the most efficient, as they are able to run completely unmanned, and “lights out”. As most knowledgeable experts will tell you, taking the human element out of the manufacturing equation raises efficiency, lowers production costs, and improves quality. Not all lasers are fully automated, as outlined here. But the most efficient ones are. That being said, many lasers can help reduce the need for an unnecessary and time consuming operations that add cost to the product. Laser cutting checks all the boxes for reducing costs and raising quality of product over other machine based or manual alternatives.
Eliminate welding operations
Laser cutting allows the designer to cut complex shapes and designs easily. This ability often allows the designer to combine features into the laser cut part that reduce the requirement for welding operations. This can be a significant savings as welding is often a slow and time consuming process. Reducing welding operations can provide a significant savings to the client. Many products that formerly required welding can now be done simply with laser cutting, sometimes with the added operation of forming or bending the product. So many industries, including automotive, shipbuilding, and aerospace, use laser cutting instead of traditional more costly processes.
Reduce or eliminate Machining operations
Laser cutting has gained favor over machining operations as well. The accuracy of laser cutting often eliminates the need for secondary operations of machining. Normally, laser cut holes can hold tolerances of .005” to .01”, eliminating the need to re-machine these features. Laser cutting is much faster than machining, so this can be a significant cost reduction. Also laser cutting allows the designer to place location features into the part, such as tabs and slots or location holes that allow for more effective and efficient assembly of product later in the production process.
Additionally the laser and the material have no direct contact, so there is less possibility of product damage or scrap during the process. Machining comes with material Overall, laser technology is has significant cost-advantages when compared to machining.
Reduce or eliminate fixture making or tooling
Often, a laser cutting design can greatly reduce or simplify the need for fixturing. When designing fixturing, it is hard to beat laser cutting for the purpose of creating highly accurate fixtures in the shortest time possible. It is often the best option for creating shapes with extraordinary small or intricate features. Though expensive hard tooling may be opted for in extremely large volume quantities, laser cutting is often the choice for very large quantities, because of shorter set up times, minimal or no tooling requirements, and ease of adapting to a redesign or revision change. When it comes to large, medium and small quantities, there really is no competitor for a highly efficient and fully automated laser cutting system. Tooling and fixturing using mechanical methods cost you more than laser cutting. Additionally Laser cutting virtually eliminates the need for costly hard tooling for blanking purposes.
Ease of making revisions when needed (reduce cost and shorten lead-time)
Laser cutting, by its very nature allows it to be the most versatile method available to creating metal parts from sheet metal or plate. After all, you just need to have an accurate 2-D dxf file drawn to scale and you have what you need to make an accurate part.To make a revision or change to your part, you only need to make the change to the drawing you use for the dxf file. You change the drawing and cut the new revision. It is as simple as that. You may make revisions whenever you need to. The importance of this capability is not lost on design engineers who use laser cutting as the main process for new designs.
The bottom line is, in the manufacturing process, if you need to modify the design, laser cutting is the best choice. It reduces your costs, and you may be able to have parts or prototypes in your hands very quickly. It works on different materials, including metals such as steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and many plastics.
No hard tooling requirement
Earlier we discussed the benefit of using laser cutting over blanking parts using hard tooling. You may say goodbye to hard tooling with laser cutting without really giving up any efficiency. Highly efficient fully automated laser systems that run “lights out” and with no one in the factory can compete successfully with blanking operations. There is no need to build or repair or sharpen hard tooling.
There is often a lower material cost because of the more efficient yield of material with a laser. And don’t forget the significantly shorter lead-time. The high-efficiency laser has become a more budget-efficient alternative to hard tooling, including blanking presses, etc. with this innovative technology, you can manufacture products with reduced energy consumption. Laser cutting dominates the primary cutting tools and leads the businesses to the high production world.
The manufacturing process involves designing, modifications, and redesigns. With traditional tools, it becomes complicated to redesign a model, and changes come at a significant cost. With modern laser cutting, you may resign a product easily. The laser is the best tool for prototyping and redesigning your metal fabricated products. You may apply laser cutting for etching a part number into the material. For most metals, laser cutting is simply your best choice. The technology is extremely adaptable.
Laser cutting is much faster and quicker than building hard tooling. If you want a speedy turnaround, you should try laser cutting. If you have to deal with more intricate cuts, laser cutting surpasses its traditional competitors. There are other thermal cutting methods, including water jet, plasma or flame cutting, but laser cutting has clear benefits over these methods in most situations.
Flexibility (low cost, short lead time, improves quality)
Laser cutting comes with an extra level of flexibility. It offers multi variables processing with a combined process.
Different thickness of material needed? No problem. Different shape or size part needed? No problem. Try that with hard tooling, where changes can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take weeks rather than the minutes required to make changes to your design with a laser. Its flexible nature comes with an extraordinary level of precision. It can deal with parts that are difficult to handle through other cutting tools.
Low quantity-High mix parts or High Quantity parts
Laser cutting is suitable for both low quantity/ high mix product as sell as high quantity product. There are different uses and applications of laser cutting.
It is the top option for a variety of profiles and materials. It can cut different materials with dependable, repeatable precision.
Though the less efficient lasers were most often used for cutting medium or low volume parts, this is no longer the case. Parts of all quantities are cut on today’s modern laser equipment. Fully automated laser systems that load all material, cut your required parts with high precision then unload those cut parts are cost competitive with just about any other method you can think of. When you consider the value of short lead times, flexibility, fast cut times without the need for personnel tending the project, and the high quality of the product produced, you will find Laser cutting is the process you are looking for. Laser technology is vital for fast metal fabrication and redesigning. It caters to your needs with short lead times.
Precision is expected with laser cutting. Factors that help ensure high quality product are 1. Excellent training for employees who operate equipment. 2. Good maintenance of equipment. 3. Fully automated laser cutting systems. 4. Good records and systems in place.
In short, laser cutting has become an integral part of modern industrial and manufacturing. The only reason every company doesn’t own and operate they type of equipment we discuss in this article is that it is extremely expensive. A fully automated “lights out” laser cutting system with load/unload capability will cost in excess of $1,000,000.00. Add an automated parts picker and palletizing system for another cool $800,000.00. For most companies you will find you can gain 90% of the benefit of such a system by selecting a good metal fabricator with lots of experience.
Carlson manufacturing employs the very best and most efficient laser cutting systems available. Please let us know how we can help you. Contact us today!