The two major cutting processes used by manufacturers are water jet and laser cutting. Depending on the desired result and the material used, either a water jet cutter or a machine laser in San Antonio may be the most appropriate choice. To make an informed decision, a fabricator should know the differences between the cutting processes and they should learn about Laser Precision.
Laser cutters use a CO2 or other gas laser for energy. The gas is transmitted via a mirror-guided beam which is directed at the material. The laser source is housed inside the machine, and the beam has an output of between 1500 and 2600 watts. Applications, materials, safety and precision, are vital factors to consider when using a laser cutter for a project.
Laser Cutter Safety and Precision
Precision isn’t an issue with a laser cutter, and the cutting slit’s minimum size can be set as low as .006″ depending on the laser speed. A thinner work piece may suffer from diminished quality if distance cannot be maintained, and thermal stress can cause minor deformation and other structural changes. Although goggles aren’t a necessity, laser cutters do produce dust and smoke, and some materials may give off toxic fumes. The overall danger is quite low, as is the extent of post-project cleanup.
Water Jet Cutters
Unlike a laser cutter, a water jet cutter uses a highly pressurized stream of water to perform cutting tasks. To increase the cutting ability, abrasives such as aluminum oxide are often used. Unlike laser cutters, the cutting source isn’t located inside the machine.
Water Jet Applications and Materials
A water jet can cut almost any material including composites. These cutters can do some three-dimensional material cutting, and they can be used in limited-access applications. Water jets can perform structuring, ablation and cutting materials, especially thick metals, ceramics and stone.
Water Jet Safety and Precision
Water jet cutters are not as precise as laser cutters, with the minimum cut size set at just .02″. However, because of the high force used, small, thin parts must be handled with care. Although thermal stress is not a factor, the material surface may appear rough. The process is very noisy, and it requires a substantial amount of cleanup and waste disposal.