Breaking Down the Basics: What Plasma Cutting Really Means

Plasma Cutting Definition

If you’re looking for a way to achieve precise cuts on metal, you may want to consider plasma cutting. This technique uses a high-definition plasma cutter to make cuts in metals. The tool uses ionized gas at very high temperatures (above 20,000 degrees Celsius) and high pressure to transfer electric arc power to the metal being cut. As the ionized gas passes through the constricted opening, it is forced out at high speed, thus forming plasma. When plasma hits the workpiece, the gas reverts to its old state and emits intense heat. This melts the metal. The high-pressure low gas removes molten material from the cut.

If you’re wondering about the plasma cutter’s meaning, the name comes from the fact that heat energy from plasma is used to melt the metal and cause the cut. This is unlike with other techniques which rely on physical contact with the metal to achieve cuts. This technique only works on electrically conductive materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, and copper. It does not work on materials that are poor conductors, such as glass, paper, or stone.

Benefits of Plasma Cutting

  • Achieve higher quality cuts

There are various factors that affect the quality of a cut. These include the zone affected by heat, top edge fillet, dross as well as the cut angle. The zone affected by heat and the volume of scum generated in the process are especially important when it comes to quality. This technique is superior to flame cutting in these respects. Because the gas blows molten material out of the cut, there is practically no scum left on the edge of the cut. In addition to this, the zone affected by heat is much smaller.

  • Reduced dross production

This technique makes use of ionized gas to melt, which creates a cut in metal. The gas also blows the molten metal out of the cut. This is unlike flame cutting which results in the production of scum or slag that remains on the surface of the metal. Plasma cutting results in the production of less dross. Even when dross is produced, it is easy to knock it off without the need for shoveling or sanding. This reduces the amount of finishing work required after making the cut. This translates to higher productivity.

  • Greater efficiency

There is no requirement for preheating or secondary processing when using this technique. This saves a great deal of time in the production process. In addition to this, this technique can achieve cuts much faster (8.5 times) than when using flame cutting methods. The method is therefore more efficient for production.

  • Cost efficient production

This technique offers greater cost efficiency in production than when using a flame to cut. In analyzing this, you must consider the operating costs per meter or per part. Production involves various costs, such as using consumables, gas, electricity, overhead costs as well as labor. The cost per meter in production are the costs of everything that went into cutting the material per hour divided by the total length in meters of the material cut within the hour. The cost per part is the total cut required to produce a single part multiplied by the operating cost per meter. A HD plasma cutter will cut faster and produce more parts in any given period than a flame cutter making it more cost-efficient.

  • Ease of use

Using a high-density plasma cutter is more straightforward than with machines that use flames. These machines are highly stable. They are also easy to operate. You won’t require as much time to learn or master how to use the machine. Many experienced technicians can hit the ground running much faster than with cutters using oxyfuel

  • Greater profit margins

Because production costs are lower with this technique, you can achieve greater profit margins. Using this technique will help to save money and increase productivity. The more parts you are able to produce per hour will mean an increase in your overall profit.

  • Greater safety

Safety is a great concern when it comes to making cuts in metals. Using a mixture of oxygen and fuel gases such as acetylene, propylene, propane or natural gas exposes workers to high risk of explosion. Plasma systems operate using compressed air. There is no requirement for the use of flammable gases. The risk of explosions is lower. There is also reduced odor and noise.

Cons

No technique is perfect. There are various drawbacks to using this technology. These include:

  • The generation of harmful gases

  • Slag produced during the process must be ground and this will increase the labor costs associated with the process.

  • It is not suitable for cutting thin sheets of metal due to the heat produced

  • The cost of consumables is relatively high because they are consumed relatively quickly.

If you’re interested in plasma cutting, contact us, FM Sheet Metal Inc. You can rely on our skilled technicians and state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve high precision cuts cost effectively.

How to Choose the Best Laser Templates for Your Projects

The use of lasers for engraving has revolutionized the process. You can now achieve just about any type of design in a wider range of materials. This technique has made it possible to create personalized and unique gifts, artwork, decorations, and more using various types of materials. However, this doesn’t mean that every project is successful. Great results start with great laser-cutting templates. In this blog, we discuss the importance of these tools and how to choose the best ones for your project.

What are Laser Templates?

Before you dive into engraving materials, you will need to provide the machine with a guide. A laser template is a digital file that contains the design that will be transferred to the material. The digital file is used to feed this information to the engraver. The machine uses this guide to cut or engrave the desired design into the material. These digital files contain information such as lines, patterns, shapes, images, and texts. They also include information about the resolution, speed, and power required for the project. These guides influence the end result. They are, therefore, the heart of any project.

Benefits of Choosing the Right Laser Cutting Templates

  • You will save time and money

Choosing the right guide right from the beginning ensures you avoid mistakes in the actual engraving or cutting process. You will achieve better results with fewer attempts. This reduces wasted materials as well as unnecessary corrections, thus cutting down on the time and money needed to achieve the desired results.

  • Achieve higher quality results

Choosing the right guides ensures greater precision during cutting or engraving. The right guide will outline the optimum resolution and speed for achieving your desired design on the chosen material. You can avoid imperfections such as blurs, burns, or lack of uniformity.

  • Achieve any style

You can let the creative juices flow and achieve just about any design. You can create a guide to create a unique design that appeals to your unique requirements and preferences and set the parameters required to achieve it.

How to choose the Right Laser Cutting Templates

There are various factors you should consider in order to choose the best file for your project. Below are some important steps to take in making your choice.

  • Begin with your goal in mind

It is crucial that you define your goal for the project right from the start. What do you intend to do? Are you seeking to achieve a delicate engraving or cutouts? Defining your goal will help you narrow down your choices and help you choose the one that meets your requirements.

  • Select the material

What material will you use for your project? This technique allows you to work with a wide variety of materials, including wood, leather, metal, plastic, and glass. The type of material you choose will influence the design guide you use. It will influence factors such as the settings for speed, laser power, resolution, contrast, and color, as well as the safety precautions you should take for the project.

  • Define your design

The design you will be cutting or engraving should be defined early, too. Factors such as complexity, style, and detail will influence your choices. Therefore, you should have your design laid out prior to making your selection.

  • Choose the template

Now that you know exactly what your project will involve, you can find the right template. You will have two options. You can either download an existing file from an online store or database or create or edit a file using an online tool or software you have installed in your computer. Both of these options have their benefits and drawbacks. Your choice will depend on your needs, budget, skill level as well as your preferences.

How to Choose the Best Laser Templates for Your Projects

Tips for Designing Laser Motifs

Laser engraving templates include various elements such as the specifications for speed and resolution as well as the motif. Motifs are the visual elements that will guide the machine to achieve the design. These can fall into various categories depending on your design. They include animals, symbols, pants, and logos, amongst many more. The motifs you chose ought to match your design and the material you’ll be engraving. In order to choose or design the best motifs, you should:

  • Search for inspiration from various sources, including online galleries, photos, books, and more. Search for designs that match the outcome you are looking to achieve.

  • Create or edit designs to suit the outcome you want to achieve. You can create designs using any medium you find best. Design software can help you edit existing motifs.

  • Test the motifs before you transfer the design to the final material. Running tests on sample pieces will allow you to see how the final product will look and determine if you are satisfied with the outcome. You can make any necessary changes prior to printing onto the final material.

If you’re interested in laser engraving or cutting, get in touch with us, FM Sheet Metal Inc. We’ll walk with you through every step from design to completion.

Everything You Need to Know About Laser Cutting Aluminum

From etching and engraving to carving and cutting, many manufacturers will tell you that if you want to achieve high precision results, you should opt for laser cutting. Laser cutting has revolutionized production and processing of metals allowing for higher precision, faster processing and cleaner finishes. When it comes to cutting aluminum sheets however, there are many factors that should be considered. At FM Sheet Metal Inc. we are experienced to laser cut aluminum. Below, we share some insights into the characteristics of this metal and the best approach to processing it.

Properties and Challenges of Cutting Aluminum

When it comes to laser cutting, the properties of the material being cut have a big impact on what can be achieved. Aluminum is considered a soft metal. It is softer than many of the metals widely used in the market. This delicate nature of aluminum makes it challenging to cut using a laser. Materials that have a more solid and stable molecular structure are much easier to cut than materials that are softer. The malleable molecular structure of aluminum means that the laser is not as effective at piercing through to create a clean cut.

Another property of aluminum that makes processing difficult is its reflectivity. Aluminum is categorized as a reflective metal. It reflects infrared light including laser beams. This makes it difficult for the beam to penetrate the metal and achieve a cut. Manufactures often coat the metal with other non-reflective materials in order to reduce its reflectivity.

A third property of this metal that presents a challenge when it comes to cutting with a laser is its conductivity. This metal is heat-conductive metal. This means that it absorbs heat quickly. Heat is necessary to achieve precise cuts. This makes it harder to achieve high precision cuts on this metal.

Everything You Need to Know About Laser Cutting Aluminum

 

Benefits of Laser Cutting for Aluminum

Even though processing aluminum can be challenging, it is not impossible. In fact, processing this metal with a laser presents numerous benefits.

  • Greater precision – you can achieve smoother and more precise cuts using this method of processing. With the right adjustments you can eliminate issues and achieve precise cuts.

  • Faster processing – this method speeds up processing of the metal. Faster cutting provides for smoother edges and cleaner finishes.To laser cut aluminum it will require less finishing.

  • Greater efficiency – this technology offers a no-contact way to process this metal. This reduces issues regarding wear and tear of tools and equipment and thus saves time and money. It also reduces waste of materials.

Safety Precautions

Processing this metal can present various risks to workers. It is vital that you take the appropriate safety precautions to prevent injury and to avoid damaging your equipment. Some precautions to consider include:

  • Avoid leaving the cutter to operate unattended

  • Ensure that a fire extinguisher is maintained within the area of operations

  • Keep the area clear of debris, clutter and any flammable materials

  • Ensure that the interior of the equipment is free of debris and is cleaned

  • Never look at the laser beam directly

How to Cut Aluminum Sheets with Laser

The maximum laser cutting aluminum thickness will depend on the density and softness of the metal as well as the wattage of the laser. Both the fiber and the CO2 laser can be used to process the metal with proper precautions and technique.

It is important to pay attention to the speed and focus of the laser beam. Higher speed and a more focused beam are preferred for achieving more precise cuts. You may also want to add a metal cutting head to protect yourself against the reflection of sparks during the processing. Higher wattage lasers are preferred for cutting this material. These provide for a cleaner cut.

It is also essential to use the right pressure. In this case, higher pressure is preferred. Gas assist features may also be required especially when cutting thicker materials. This is to ensure that residual materials that have not been vaporized are blown out of the cut area.

Many modern machines come with features to protect the lasers and provide additional assistance when cutting tricky materials. These features include back reflection features that detect if there is too much radiation being reflected triggering the laser to shut down before the equipment is damaged. This in combination with the safety precautions outlined above will help to reduce the risks associated with processing aluminum.

Aluminum Laser Cutting Service

FM Sheet Metal Inc. provides a wide range of sheet metal fabrication services. Our aluminum cutting service is designed to help clients achieve greater precision while saving on materials and time. Our experienced and skilled staff will help you overcome the challenges of processing aluminum so you can produce high quality parts. Get in touch with us now to discuss your project. We’d be glad to assist you.