Originally, the laser cutting machine was designed by Western Electric Research Center for punching holes into diamond dies. It’s a thermal cutting technique that uses radiation from the laser beam to heat the part and cut it.
This technology is unrivaled in terms of speed and precision. It’ll come as no surprise that, metaphorically, it’s known as the Swiss Army Knife. This degree of precision makes the laser very useful for parts with complex contours, while also creating little waste. It’s used on thin materials, with thicknesses of up to 25 mm, be it plastic, ceramic cloth or metal. It can cut quickly and in any direction.
There are two types of laser cutting machine, the CO2 oneand the fiber one, suitable for thicknesses of less than 5 mm, but which is gradually gaining ground on its predecessor.
In terms of fiber laser cutting machines, it’s key to highlight the scalability of diode laser generation systems, whereas CO2 laser machines are difficult to scale at higher power. Fiber optic machines are able to efficiently transmit very high powers without degenerating, while CO2 machines use mirrors that can burn at high powers. This means that fiber laser cutting machines can use much higher powers. Currently, in many cases, fiber machines are able to cut thicknesses similar to CO2 ones.
Fiber laser is more energy efficient than CO2, with up to 70% less electricity consumption, and it also suffers less from wear and tear.
Although the initial investment required was high, this has also changed a lot in recent years. There are manufacturers of fiber laser generators that are almost "plug & play" (easy to install), which means that many manufacturers who work with other technologies have begun to sell fiber laser at low cost.
Customers who purchase this technology find that it’s quickly amortized because it’s unparalleled in efficiency. Its high cutting speeds, short processing times and precise results make laser cutting one of the processes with the lowest production costs. Equally, it doesn’t lead to additional costs due to material wear or tool replacement and is low-maintenance.
More economical than the previous one in terms of the initial investment, water jet cutting was devised by a professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, Norman Franz, who discovered the cutting power of high-pressure water jet.
This technology is more versatile than the previous one as it can be used on a vast number of materials because it is applied cold. It’s a cutting method that causes no thermal damage to the pieces, so it can be used in industries with high demands such as aeronautics or the military, from stone to construction materials, including metals, rubber, plastic and even food. However, its use is not recommended with absorbent materials, such as wood, or on materials where the penetration of moisture can cause corrosion.
It’s a sustainable and ecological cutting process suitable for heat-sensitive materials. It’s a cutting technique used in sectors where the material mustn’t be modified in any way, such as in the aeronautical or naval sector, among others.