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How to Select the Best Cutting Technology for an Application

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Many fabrication shops have a variety of metal cutting equipment at the disposal of operators. However, this abundance of options often makes it a daunting task for inexperienced fabricators to select the most appropriate metal cutting technology for a given task. This article discusses some of the factors that you should consider in order to make a quick decision about which machine you should use.

Metal Thickness

As a general rule, opt for a plasma cutter or a laser cutter when you want to cut very thin materials. These cutting techniques offer very good results since the cutting beams will easily penetrate the thin metal. Thicker metals should be cut using oxy-fuel or water-jet cutters. These machines have the power to penetrate the thick metal quickly and efficiently. Some plasma cutters can also do a good job when cutting thick metals. Confirm that their power rating can handle the requirements of cutting that thick metal sheet.

Edge Quality

You should also think about the edge quality requirements of your application if you want to select the best cutting technology. For example, applications where edge quality isn't an issue can utilise oxy-fuel, laser or plasma cutters. This is because these technologies produce a heat-affected zone that can often be discoloured. Water-jets provide the best edge quality for sensitive applications.

Secondary Processing Needed

It is also helpful to consider the sensitivity of the post-cut processing to which the metal sheet will be subjected before you select a cutting method. If the secondary operation requires perfect edges or holes, opt to cut that metal with a water-jet cutter. If such perfections isn't required, use an oxy-fuel cutter due to its cost-effectiveness.

Production Rate

Are you interested in cutting a large volume of parts within the shortest time possible? Then go for a plasma or laser cutter. These can cut numerous parts within a short duration. Avoid using a water-jet cutter when productivity is a key concern.

Multiple Tool Use

Do your parts require to be cut at several points? An oxy-fuel cutter will do a better job when several torches need to be used on the same part at the same time. Multiple laser or plasma cutters will be slower due to the reduction in the power at each cutting point when several points are cutting simultaneously.

At the end of the day, the skills that you have in using each of those cutting technologies may tilt the balance in favour of one cutting method over the others. The factors above assume that you are equally competent in the use of the different options. Consult more experienced fabricators, or metal service experts in case you have other concerns about your preferred metal cutting method.