Laser cutting involves the use of a laser beam to cut materials like wood, plastic, metal, rubber, etc. This technology has become an important part of a manufacturing process. This method comes with its own share of advantages and disadvantages.
Material cutting is one of the major steps involved in a manufacturing process. This step must be performed accurately and efficiently so that the subsequent steps of the manufacturing process can be carried out properly. Current manufacturing units use lasers to perform this task.
Laser cutting machines are integrated with a computer-controlled programming system which determines where and how the cut has to be made on the material. Even though laser beams have great utility, they also have some limitations.
Advantages of Laser Cutting
~ Holding the work-piece in right position is easier in case of laser cutting as compared to mechanical cutting.
~ Cuts obtained with the laser are extremely precise and do not require a lot of time. Rather, the entire process of cutting the material is quite easy and accomplished in less time than that required by conventional cutting machines.
~ As the cut is made by the help of a laser beam, there is no direct contact of the work-piece with any cutting instrument, thereby eliminating the risk of material contamination.
~ In conventional processes the heat generated while cutting generally turns the material out of shape. In laser cutting, as the area subjected to heat is very small, it reduces the chances of warping of the material.
~ Laser cutting machines use less energy for cutting metal sheets as compared to plasma cutting technology.
~ Laser cutting technology can be used to cut a number of materials like ceramic, wood, rubber, plastic, and certain metals.
~ Laser cutting is extremely versatile and can be used to cut or engrave simple to complex designs on a workpiece.
~ Manufacturing units with space constraints benefit a lot by installing laser cutting machines because one or two laser cutters are capable of performing the job of several other machines used for cutting.
~ Laser cutting is controlled by the help of computer programs, thereby saving substantial amount of manpower.
~ As the laser cutting machine does not require human involvement except for repairs and test runs, the incidence of accidents and injuries is also reduced.
~ Efficiency of the machine is very high, and replicas obtained of the required design are exact copies of each other.
Disadvantages of Laser Cutting
~ Generally, laser cutting involves high power consumption in comparison with other technologies used for cutting. Consumption of power and efficiency depends on the type of laser used for cutting and the type of cut that has to be made.
~ Cutting plastic with the help of these machines may cost a lot of money because plastic emits fumes when subjected to heat. Due to this, the entire setup has to be made in a well-ventilated room which can be quite expensive. Also, fumes released during the process can be toxic and may prove to be fatal.
~ Rate of production is not consistent when laser cutting is used. It highly depends on thickness of the work-piece, type of material, and type of laser used.
~ Carelessness in adjusting laser distance and temperature may lead to burning of some materials. Certain metals tend to discolor if the intensity of the laser beam is not as per requirement.
~ Human involvement is only needed in case of test runs and repairs. During these tasks, if by mistake, a worker comes in contact with the laser beam, he may suffer from serious burns.
Conventional cutting methods are also good and inexpensive, but despite the disadvantages associated with laser cutting process, the use of this technology has gained a lot of popularity. This is because the quality of finish obtained after laser cutting a material is far better than that obtained by other methods.