Laser cutting offers a number of advantages over other processes, such as reduced contamination and easier workholding. Precision can also see improvements with lasers as the beam does not wear down during the cutting process, while materials are also less prone to warping with laser cutting. Lasers allow for the cutting of materials that may be difficult to cut using other methods.
Laser processes also provide consistently high levels of precision and accuracy with little room for human error, creating less wastage, lower energy use and subsequently lower costs.
Laser cutting can be used to etch complex designs on smaller parts while still leaving metal free of burrs and with a clean cut. There is also less workpiece contamination with laser cutting than with other processes.
While there are plenty of advantages, the process is also synonymous with high power consumption. Furthermore, laser cutting of plastics creates toxic fumes which need to be ventilated – in itself an expensive task.
Effective laser cutting is also dependant on the thickness of the workpiece, the material being cut and the type of laser being used. Without proper care the materials to be cut can be burnt while some metals can discolour unless the correct laser intensity is used. While plasma cutting still allows for the cutting of thicker sheets than laser cutting, advances in laser technology mean that the gap is closing, although the machinery costs can still be prohibitive.
Finally, while being an automated process, test runs and repairs require human involvement which leads to a risk of serious burns should an operator come into contact with the laser.
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