Plasma Cutting

The Difference Between Laser & Plasma Cutting

Laser and plasma cutting are currently the two most popular metal cutting methods in the industrial sector. These cutting methods are used in the manufacture of a variety of products such as kitchen fittings, lamps, automobiles, machinery and general engineering. We have spoken to come customers who make exclusive use of plasma-cutting for all their heavy duty cutting requirements but don’t necessarily know much about laser cutting, alternatively, we also have customers who make exclusive use of laser cutting technology but don’t know much about plasma cutting. As a result we have created this short guide detailing the difference between the two.

Laser Cutting:

Laser cutters create patterns and designs by cutting into various materials. A powerful laser beam is the source that can melt, burn, or vaporise the material. Laser cutting is essentially a fabrication process that uses a thin, focused, laser beam to cut and etch materials into custom designs, patterns, and shapes. This non-contact, thermal-based fabrication process is ideal for several materials, including wood, glass, paper, metal, plastic, and gemstone. It’s also capable of producing intricate parts without needing a custom-designed tool.

Plasma Cutting:

The temperature of a plasma arc is substantial. It is used to melt and evaporate the metals surface while the momentum of the high speed plasma simultaneously removes the excess molten metal. In this way a slit is formed and the material is cut as required.

Comparison:

1. Material Damage:

High quality laser cutting does not damage the work-piece while plasma cutting will result in some damage to the edges of the work-piece depending on the task at hand. Any problems with a plasma cutting machines setup can cause defects on the sheet.

2. Cutting Accuracy: A laser beams energy is focused on one small spot to penetrate then cut the material, the result is a narrow cutting seam in the work-piece while a plasma cutting seam is larger and not recommended for more intricate cutting jobs.

3. Cutting Speed: High quality laser cutting machines are substantially faster than plasma cutting.

4. Accuracy: Laser cutting machines are able to accurately cut to within 0.05 mm with a repeat positioning accuracy of 0.02 mm. And plasma cutting is lower than laser cutting machine cutting accuracy.

5. Running Cost: Although the initial price of plasma cutting equipment is lower than laser cutting, the running costs are much higher, particularly the power consumption. When compared with other cutting methods, the running cost of a fiber laser should be amongst the lowest.

Below is a video showing a 3kw Fiber Laser cutting machine cutting 20mm carbon steel:

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