The differences between laser cutting and plasma cutting are important when selecting the best solution for your application. Although one approach is not necessarily superior to the other, each offers certain capabilities and benefits that make one more suitable to an application.
What Is Laser Cutting?
Laser cutting has long been regarded as a safe, efficient, and reliable cutting process. Laser cutting machines make use of high-powered, computer-operated lasers. The core component is an optical fiber that is equipped with elements such as erbium, thulium, and dysprosium. When used with nitrogen, oxygen, or compressed air, the fiber lasers can slice through a wide variety of metals with a high degree of precision. Laser cutting machines are often multipurpose and used for a variety of jobs.
What is Plasma Cutting?
The plasma cutter is one of the most fine-tuned and versatile tools used to slice heavy and thick materials more easily. Plasma cutting is performed by forcing compressed air and inert gases like hydrogen and nitrogen through a fine nozzle at high speeds. The combining of the gasses, the high speeds, and the concentrated area of pressure create plasma, an electrically conductive ionized gas.
How to Choose Between Laser Cutting and Plasma Cutting
- Laser cutters can cut and engrave very thin metals without affecting the material.
- Laser cutters can be used for other purposes like trimming and engraving.
- Metals with reflective surfaces or that cannot be cut with flame-based machines are often cut with plasma.
- Plasma cutters can cut through thicker materials.
- Laser cutters are better for thinner, more intricate metals.
- Laser cutters are also used to cut through non-metals, ceramics, and glass.
Benefits of Laser Cutting
Laser cutting was developed as a safer and more reliable process to meet the demands of manufacturing and production. Laser cutting is a non-contact process. The laser beam doesn’t physically touch the material, but rather it uses heat to cut through the material.
Advantages Over Plasma Cutting:
- Higher precision
- Higher tolerance
- Better for intricate cutting
- Lower distortion
- Cuts a wider variety of materials
- Less cutting slag
Benefits of Plasma Cutting
Plasma cutting offers versatility across different types of metal. An electric arc is used to cut any conductive metal. They can typically complete a job in one-fourth the time of any other cutting tool.
- Advantages Over Laser Cutting:
- Less metal loss
- Higher quality finish
- Less maintenance
- Higher cut speed of medium thick plate