Conventional Metal Cutting vs Laser Cutting

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Metal cutting techniques have changed a lot over the last century. Gone are the days of painstakingly cutting massive metal slabs by hand and filing and sanding them to pinpoint accuracy. Today, companies utilize metal cutting methods such as laser cutting and conventional mechanical cutting that use state-of-the-art technology to provide precision cuts to exact dimensional tolerances.

What are the Different Types of Conventional Metal Cutting?

The 21st century has welcomed many new technologies that make completing complex tasks more accessible and efficient. The world of metal cutting and machining is no exception. With the advent of laser cutting methods in the latter part of the 20th century and the fine-tuning of said technology within the first two decades of the 21st century, metal and mechanical cutting services provide accurate, proven results to meet your application needs. Conventional metal cutting methods include:
  • Sawing
  • Shearing
  • Grinding
  • Milling

What are the Limitations of Conventional Metal Cutting?

Conventional mechanical cutting uses power-driven equipment to cut and shape various materials to meet application design parameters. Traditional metal cutting often requires multiple machines to complete a project since each machine provides a specific function. Conventional metal cutting equipment also requires direct contact with the workpiece, which lowers its tolerance capabilities. One main benefit of traditional metal cutting equipment is a lower operating cost than laser cutting.

What is Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is a metal cutting method that utilizes an ultra-focused laser beam to cut material to extremely high tolerances. Laser cutting machines are computer controlled and can be programmed to run without an operator for multiple hours, allowing complex projects to be completed around the clock.

How Does Laser Cutting Work?

The stimulation of materials creates the machine’s laser cutting beam through electrical discharges or lamps inside a closed container. The cutting laser is amplified through the reflection of a partial mirror until its energy is enough to escape as a stream of coherent monochromatic light. This light is focused on the work area by mirrors or fiber optics that direct the beam through a lens that intensifies it.

What are the Advantages of Laser Cutting?

Laser cutting is better suited to making intricate cuts for electronics, medical, aerospace, and automotive applications than plasma cutting processes while producing a thin cutting seam within the workpiece. Additional laser-cutting benefits include:
  • High precision
  • Material nesting efficiency
  • No material contamination
  • Tight tolerance cutting
  • Faster production times
  • Cuts various material types

What are the Disadvantages of Laser Cutting?

For specific applications, laser cutting does offer a few disadvantages. Material thickness can come into play if the material exceeds 25.4 mm. However, for materials less than 25.4 mm, laser cutting provides quicker, more precise cuts for a range of materials. Energy consumption is often regarded as a drawback. Laser cutters require more energy to power than conventional equipment, but the comparison is negligible since the processing time for laser cutters is far less than for standard equipment.

What are the Advantages of Laser Machining Over Conventional Machining?

Laser cutting provides significant advantages over conventional metal cutting services in several ways. When it comes to cut quality, laser cutting is the clear winner. Laser’s precision tolerances are highly accurate, providing accurate cuts to .005” positional. Laser cutting also can be used to identify parts, etching part numbers, bend lines or weld locations along with directional clocking features before part is cut to shape introduces material usage efficiency by nesting parts close together with minimal part spacing with software, delivering proven results for a range of industries.

The IMS Difference

What separates IMS from other steel suppliers? With an abundance of metal options and customer service that is second to none, IMS has you covered with the following metal stock advantages:
  • Knowledgeable staff on hand to enhance your metal buying experience
  • Next-day delivery of processed material via our trucks
  • Same-day pick-up in Will-Call
  • No minimum purchase
  • Unprecedented customer service
  • Support of Just-in-Time manufacturing processes
  • Salespeople that act as an extension of your purchasing department (we will get any metal products you need)
  • Material management (stocking and delivery on a scheduled basis)
  • Credit lines with good terms
  • Seven stores are open six days a week (check each location for specific times)
  • Shop by metal alloy

IMS – Your Preferred Source for Laser Metal Cutting Services

Looking for a world-class metal supply and distribution company that also provides in-house Hi-Def Plasma, Tube Laser, Flatbed Laser, and Waterjet Cutting Services under the same roof as materials? IMS is your trusted supplier with decades of expertise. We stock products in the sizes and styles you need. Stop by one of our California or Arizona locations or request a quote today.
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