Here is a quick run-through of the most common FAQs regarding laser cutting.
What is a laser?
The word ‘laser’ stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
This is a device that emits trillions of photons, or light particles, into a coherent line of concentrated light beam.
Using a crystal, photons travel up and down the beam of light. This concentrated light then becomes a source of heat, providing an exothermic reaction, and thus engraving or cutting a material.
The ‘laser beam’ is focused to a point which heats the material to melting point. An ‘assist gas’ then blows away the molten material and cools the surrounding material to leave a crisp and accurate finish. All of this happens very quickly.
How many types of lasers are there?
There are three types of lasers commonly used in the manufacturing industry, however this is diversifying quickly. These are:
- CO2 Lasers
- Fibre Lasers
- Nd Lasers
- Nd-YAG Lasers
Each of these laser types is suited to a different function and material specification.
If you would like to learn more, here is a short guide to the laser cutting technology we use at Yorkshire Profiles.
Fibre lasers have taken the industry by storm in recent years. Rather than using mirrors to reflect the beam to the cut location, they use fibre optic cables to guide the beam from source to material.
How efficient is it?
Laser cutting is an extremely effective manufacturing process.
One of the most attractive reasons for businesses to use this kind of technology is because it can achieve effective results that cannot be replicated by hand.
Laser technology allows materials, such as steel, to be cut with the smoothest possible finish. Our Amada-F1 machine, for example, can use a 7.5’’ or a 10″ lens that can achieve remarkable accuracy and precision on sheet metals up to 25mm thick.
It is also an incredibly fast process – meaning that our costs are always kept low.
With regards to time, at Yorkshire Profiles we keep our machinery running 24 hours 7 days a week.
Consequently, we have an incredibly fast turnaround for our clients.
What are the advantages?
- Accuracy – Our laser cutter can treat a number of materials of varying thicknesses. And with a linear drive system, we can produce parts that are accurate to 0.1mm in tolerance. We can also produce positional tolerances on up to 0.02mm.
- Speed – Our machines works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With all the settings saved for our range of materials there is little setup – meaning that our clients can receive an incredibly fast product turnaround. Our automation setup allows us to process 9-tons of material overnight without user intervention.
- Cost – This speed and high-performance ensures all our products remain competitively priced. The lack of physical contact during the laser cutting process (the ability to run the machine unmanned) means that our customers don’t have to pay for additional manpower – another factor which keeps our prices low.
- Smooth finish – Unlike manual cutting, the heat and high-performance of laser cutting ensures that all products have an incredibly smooth finish. This makes our service in high-demand amongst the aerospace, automotive, and agricultural industries.
What are the limitations?
Depending on the size and type of the material, there could be limitations regarding the cutting capabilities.
Materials we cannot process include:
For more information, here is an in-depth summary regarding which materials can and cannot be cut using laser technology.
Which is better: laser or plasma cutters?
Laser and plasma cutting technology offer two very different processes.
Plasma cutters are very powerful and can provide a high quality cut edge if it is high spec. Plasma cutters often produce a substantial amount of noise and can emit hazardous fumes during the cutting process. Additionally, Plasma cutting puts a larger amount of heat into the material and this spreads further from the cut edge than with lasers.
On the other hand, laser technology has several key advantages. There is often less distortion and damage to the material from heat, laser cutting is often faster especially on thin materials whilst maintaining a higher level of accuracy.
With this in mind, the decision regarding whether to use laser or plasma technology will depend on the material itself and its size.
Which materials can be processed?
The most common materials we cut include:
- Mild steel
- Stainless steel
- Zintec and galvanised steels
- Hardox, Weldox and Xar400
- Brass, Copper and Titanium
Can a material be too thick to cut?
We can treat a variety of materials – but it is most effective when working within a range of thicknesses.
Here is a brief introduction to the thickness limitations of some materials:
- Mild steel – 25mm
- Stainless steel – 20mm
- Aluminium – 15mm
What’s the smallest sized hole you can cut?
Thanks to our linear drive system, we can produce parts that are the width of the laser beam (less than 1mm). However, the quality of the hole greatly depends on the material used. Up to 6mm the smallest hole can generally be around 1-2mm, however above this thickness the best rule of thumb is that the thickness of the material is the smallest diameter hole which can be produced.
Whilst it is sometimes possible to produce small holes in thick materials, there can be no guarantee of their quality.
Could my business benefit?
There are a wide range of businesses that could benefit from our laser cutting services. Our current range of clients come from the following industries:
- Automotive Manufacturing
- Entertainment and Events
- IT and Communications
- Food Manufacturing and Catering
- Machine Manufacturing
- Military Defense
- Oil, Gas, and Offshore
- Shipyard Construction and Subsea
How do I get a quote?
At Yorkshire Profiles, there is no project too big or too small.
If you would like a quote regarding a potential business opportunity, please contact one of our team today on 01904 737 095. If you have drawings available please email them over to us making sure to include the following details:
- What material is used? Include: Grade, Surface Finish (if any) and thickness
- How many?
- Are you after a price just for cutting? Or for folding, fully fabricating etc.
Do you have a minimum order value?
Yes. We need to have a minimum order charge to ensure fairness to all of our clients. A small one off washer consumes a certain amount of human resources and the cost of processing such a part we have decided needs to be £50.
We work with a wide range of clients – from startups, to SMEs, and some of the biggest and most established organisations in the UK and we continually monitor feedback and our competitors to ensure this charge is fair to all.
How quickly can you laser cut?
The speed of jobs are dependent on the scale of the project and the urgency of the task.
At Yorkshire Profiles, we use our machines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There have been many occasions where we have achieved a same day or 24 hour turn-around.
Can you laser cut using CAD?
We use can Computer Aided Design (CAD) for our projects. This ensures that our clients only receive the highest quality service, whilst also maintaining complete accuracy and precision. However, if your CAD drawings are incorrect when you issue them to us, we cannot accept liability for the final parts being incorrect.
Can you laser cut from a drawing?
In order to do this, we will require a fully-dimensioned drawing.
What’s the difference between cutting and engraving?
The main technical difference between laser cutting and laser engraving is related to the laser focal length.
The engraving process involves a shorter focal length – allowing the laser to permeate the material surface layer without severing the product.
Laser cutter machines, however, have a longer focal length and have the power to cut directly through a material.
What’s the difference between made to measure and bespoke?
The term ‘bespoke’ refers to any process which involves manufacturing or modifying a product to a unique specification.
Made to measure, on the other hand, could be a replica of any size or specification – but it has been created to the exact demand on the customer.
Are there any informative manuals available?
There are a variety of manuals available online. Here is a list of some of our favourites:
- How to Use A Laser Cutter – a short guide from instructables.com
- Guide to Laser Cutting – an excellent online resource from makeworks.co.uk
- Set Up Guide for Laser Cutting and Engraving – a great introduction to the principles and benefits of laser cutting
If, however, you would like to purchase a book to read, the following publications may be of use: