Although many of the machines that perform laser cutting are the height of modern technology, the practice actually began some 30 years ago. Since that time, the popularity of these amazing machines has grown so much that more than 3,000 of them are installed all over the world every single year.
Here at Midlake Products, we’re true believers in the power of laser cutting, and have invested in 3 in-house laser machines from Bystronic to help improve our production capabilities. Let’s take a look at how these machines allow us to be leaner, faster and ultimately smarter in our sheet metal fabrication projects.
There are a number of benefits from using laser machines in the custom hinge and metal fabrication process. These include the elimination of fabrication tooling, wider variety of final parts from the laser cut “flats”, higher precision, reduced cycle time and lower costs.
How Laser Cutting Works
Laser cutting works by vaporizing the material located in a very small area through an ultra-focused laser beam. The laser is nothing more than a high-energy beam made up of coherent light. So this beam is then focused by a lens on a small work piece.
As you can imagine, the heat from this laser is intense enough that it can easily melt, vaporize or even combust the material it’s focused on. Any molten material is released from the melting area through a process that involves a pressurized gas jet.
From this complicated process comes a better overall finished product. Laser cutting has a reputation for increased the quality of any project, including greater efficiency by shortening the overall process chain.
Plus, there’s virtually no material out there that a correctly calibrated laser can’t cut through. Lasers can obviously cut for an unlimited amount of time too, with no need for rest. So your process chain can involve limitless amounts of materials which lasers will cut through for any length of time.
Best of all, lasers are relatively affordable. The process that utilizes them tends to be more cost-effective than competitive ones (or those they generally replace). Maintenance costs are also negligible.
Laser Cutting Machines
There’s more to a laser cutting machine than just the highly-focused light it uses though. These machines are built with functionality and flexibility in mind, meaning they can contort and move into whatever position necessary to apply their laser as necessary.
A typical example would be laser machines employed in the process of contour cutting through thin sheets of material. This involves the laser, a guiding beam apparatus, the coordinate table, cutting head, system for supplying the machine with energy and some kind of control unit.
The cutting process obviously begins with the laser, once the sheet of metal has been loaded onto the machine. An optical quantum generator will produce the light beam. Typically, the diameter of the area this laser will occupy, when it makes contact with the metal, will be no greater than .22 mm. However, its power density will be greater than 100 million watts per square centimeter.
By having a coaxial assist gas available, the areas that become molten are quickly removed so the laser can continue working in that zone unimpeded. This gas blowing is also responsible for increasing the feed rate of the laser by as much as 40%.
Although some of this may seem like science fiction, the truth is that the science and technology behind laser cutting is only getting started. While the last 30 years have certainly produced promising results, the next 30 should find even more innovations to add. As it stands, though, any fabrication company that needs laser cutting should be relying on machines to do it.